Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ferret Tooth Care





Ew/ didn’t know

Do you brush your pet’s teeth


Is kibble enough to keep your pet’s teeth healthy


Does periodontal disease exist in animals


Should you have your pet’s teeth cleaned regularly?



     Last year I learned about National Pet Dental Care Month and was surprised by the fact that our pet’s teeth need a lot of the same dental care we do. I learned a lot at the Veterinarian Oral Health Council (VOHC). The VOHC site had a lot of nice information for cat and dog owners but no information on ferrets. While I was able to find several articles online written by veterinarian dentists they were full of medical jargon that a pet owner would find hard to understand.

Some facts that should be reviewed:

At the time of posting last year, there were only 75 board certified veterinarian dentists in the United States.

Most pet owners believe that specially designed chew toys and hard food is enough to keep his/her pet’s teeth healthy.

Ferret teeth grow from the tip up.

Kits will have 30 teeth at 3 months of age and will have replaced them by age 9 months.

Adult ferrets have 34 teeth.

     According to VOHC, we should be brushing our pet’s teeth weekly if not daily to help prevent tooth loss, decay, gingivitis (1), and periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease has been linked to other health conditions besides tooth loss. These are a few:

Tooth root abscesses

Heart disease (endocarditis (2) or periocaditis (3))

Infections that can cause weight loss, and lethargy.

     Ferrets older than six years of age periodontal disease is a common condition that can be reduced with twice a year cleanings known as dental prophylaxis (4) where the tartar build up is scrapped from the teeth and under the gum line. In most cases, periodontal disease in older ferrets could have been reduced or prevented with daily tooth brushing.

     I have two new ferrets, Manny and Marcuz, who unlike my previous ferrets get their teeth brushed regularly. This in its self is a chore as there are no well designed toothbrushes for ferrets. Most are too big for their tiny mouths.

     Ferrets love to chew, bite, and drag things that could be detrimental to their long canines also known as eyeteeth. Breaking one of those could have an impact on their health so I inspect their teeth everyday for any obvious wear that might need a visit to the vet.

     Brushing a ferret’s teeth needs to be done in a way that it is a pleasant experience for both the ferret and the owner. If you have never brushed your ferret’s teeth before you need to get him/her used to you playing with his/her mouth without needing to scruff him/her so he/she will open his/her mouth.

     I do this by playing bad hair day with Manny and Marcuz. I gently wrap my hand around the back of their neck and pulling it forward lifting the hair up so that it looks like someone has pulled them out of a hole backwards. This gives me a chance to feel their jaw and the rest of their head and I would be able to tell if something had changed. I do this everyday and it allows me to open their mouth without the need of scruffing.

     For some scruffing is the technique they prefer. This is done by grabbing the loose flap of skin just behind the neck very much like a cat and lifting the ferret up. Doing this makes them yawn and will give you a clear view of the inside of their mouth.

     Look for a buildup of plaque or tarter, inflamed or bleeding gums, loose, missing, or broken teeth and make sure there is nothing stuck between the teeth like a piece of food or any other foreign object.

     Being able to brush a ferret’s teeth takes some ingenuity and a lot of patience. You need a toothbrush. As I said the ones designed for pets are too big for ferrets and I don’t use the fingertip brush. Pet toothpaste, never use human toothpaste, poultry flavor is recommended for ferrets but any flavor of pet toothpaste will work and a few dental treats for cats.

     It has taken me many different tries to find something that works well as a toothbrush for ferrets. I pried the breath fresher out of Colgate® wisps but even those were a little big then I came across Plackers by Placontrol® these are designed to get into hard reach places and they are perfect for brushing ferret teeth.

     I put a little of the pet toothpaste on one and brush my ferret’s teeth. I start with the large back teeth and work forward to the teeth in between the canines. Afterwards I give each of them some loving and praise for being so good about letting me brush their teeth then I give them a feline Greenies® dental treat for cats.

     I have noticed the difference in Manny and Marcuz’s teeth compared to what James’ teeth looked like. I don’t brush every day but I do weekly brushing at the same time I clip nails, clean ears, and brush their coats. To them it is a mini spa day and they both know they will get their beloved greenies at the end of it.

(1) Gingivitis: An inflammation of the gums

(2) Endocarditis: An inflammation of the inner layer of the heart usually involves the heart valves.

(3) Periocarditis: An inflammation of the two layer membrane that surrounds the heart.

(4) Dental prophylaxis: Cleaning, scaling, and polishing of teeth done under aesthetics by a veterinarian or veterinary dentist.

     So, do you brush your pet’s teeth? Are you going to start? Why or Why not? Leave me a comment.

Have a Chittering good day,



Mariodacat said...

Your artical today and also the one about being a responsible pet owwner, are excellent and apply to ferrets, dogs and cats alike. I had to have all my toothies pulled before I was 4 because of stomotitis. iI became allergic to my own tooth decay. I was sent to an animal dentist when my own vet rrealized there might be a bigger problem. My peeps had just adopted me too, so this started long before I came into their life. Muy toothie story is in my blog if you are ever interesting in reading it. It's so important to take care of your pet's teeth before these problems happen.

Kymberlee said...

I've found that if your ferret likes the pet toothpaste enough, you can put it on a child's toothbrush and they'll chew on the toothbrush. Between the enzymes in the pet toothpaste and the added abrasiveness of chewing on the bristles this does a pretty good job.