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Ferret With Red Jaw Loses Appetite And Gets Lethargic

An older ferret who stops eating and has a red bottom jaw could be suffering from dental disease or other serious ailments.

Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Posted: December 8, 2014, 4 a.m. EST

ferret face
Ferrets do not normally develop a red jaw, so if this happens, it's time for a visit to the veterinarian.

Q: My ferret has a red bottom jaw and all kinds of gunk in his teeth. He also has a stuffy nose. He is not eating much and is not very active. Before this happened we switched his food brand from one ferret-specific diet to another. Also my ferret is fairly old and usually active. If you could please help me figure out what is wrong that would be great. 

A: It sounds as though your ferret is sick enough that he needs to visit with your veterinarian as soon as you can make an appointment. Red on the chin is not a typical ferret condition. 

When we see lesions like those shown in your photo, we start to be concerned with a dental infection that involves a tooth root, the gums, and associated soft tissue and bones of the jaw. This may or may not be related to a stuffy nose. In other animals, red on the chin might be associated with allergies or an autoimmune disease process but these are rarely seen in pet ferrets. 

Given the fact that your ferret is not eating and not active, your ferret is much sicker than would be expected if this was just an allergy. It is likely he is not eating because his jaw, his teeth or something in his oral cavity is painful. And given the fact that he is an older ferret, we have to worry about common diseases seen in older ferrets, such as insulinoma, heart disease and neoplasia. 

When you visit your veterinarian, it is likely he or she will recommend radiographs (X-rays) of the skull to check for dental disease of the tooth roots and to see if the mandible (jawbone) is affected. It may also be necessary to do a thorough oral cavity examination and that may be best done while your ferret is sedated or under anesthesia. 

Like this article? Please share it, and check out:
Why Ferret Dental Disease Is A Concern
Ferret Dental Problems
Skin Tumor In Ferrets

Is It A Ferret Medical Emergency?

See all veterinary Q&A about ferret health 
See all Q&A for ferret behavior
See all small animal pet health

Posted: December 8, 2014, 4 a.m. EST

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