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Ferret Cries While Eating

Why do a ferret’s eyes get teary when he eats?

Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Posted: September 27, 2013, 5:30 p.m. EDT

ferret face
© Courtesy of Jamie Grabiec
Healthy ferrets do not cry while eating or have teary eyes.

Q: I have a male ferret that is about 4 years old. Whenever he eats his ferret food, his eyes get all teary and he starts to cry. He doesn’t make any noise, just cries. Why does he do this?
A: This is an interesting and perhaps painful problem. Ferrets should not cry when they eat. Your ferret needs a thorough examination by his veterinarian.

I would be most concerned about a dental problem. Because ferrets commonly have fractured canine teeth, I would be worried that there is an infection or damaged root in one of those teeth. Or, there could be an abscess in another tooth that is in the back of the mouth and not easy for you to see. However, that is only one of many possible causes.

Another very unusual cause (for a very unusual problem) could be that when your ferret eats his tear ducts become blocked for some reason. Rather than tears being drained from the corner of the eye into the ducts, the ducts are blocked and tears overflow. This gives the appearance that your ferret is crying. This is an easy problem to investigate. Your veterinarian can place a non-toxic dye into the corner of your ferret’s eye and then look for drainage of the dye-stained tears.
See your ferret’s veterinarian when your ferret is hungry. Make sure you bring in your ferret’s food and have your ferret eat in front of the veterinarian so he or she can witness what you are seeing. If this is not possible (some ferrets won’t eat in strange places), record the behavior at home, with sound, and bring the recording to the appointment.

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Posted: September 27, 2013, 5:30 p.m. EDT

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Ferret Cries While Eating

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Reader Comments
In the Netherlands we see this all the time, its probably a middle ear infection. there are 2 types off middle ear infection. the first is the acute one, than the ferrets head is turned. the second one is the chronic one, the kibble is often bit in verry little peaces. I had have more than one ferret whit this problem. in the dutch ferret symposium we talked about the problem and the tears, and it probably has something to do whit a nerve that causes the tears. but the middle ear infection is verry dangerous and is verry painful for the ferret.
Dutch ferret and welfare foundation, International
Posted: 1/17/2014 7:13:42 AM
I have a shelter and I have to say that MOST of the ferrets in the shelter get watery eyes when they eat their soup. They crowd around the bowl and their eyes start watering as they eat. It doesn't necessarily mean they have a health issue as the young and old both do it. I think it's more prevalent than the author realizes. Is it a good idea to have your ferret checked out at the vet? Sure, but don't worry if no problems are found. I see it all the time.
Lisa, Silver Spring, MD
Posted: 10/1/2013 12:01:11 PM
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