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All About Ferret Cavities

Do ferrets get cavities?

By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Posted: August 4, 2012, 4 a.m. EDT

ferret licking its lips
Courtesy Shirley Halliday
Ferrets need dental care to prevent tartar buildup and gum disease.

Q: My ferret’s teeth appear to have cavities at the top all the way to the back on both sides. What do you recommend?

A: Ferrets are not known to get cavities. Cavities are a term used mainly for human teeth. The word cavity describes a lesion that has eaten through the protective enamel layer of the tooth and has destroyed some, or all, of the tooth.

Cavities are not easily seen with the naked eye. This is why your dentist has to take dental radiographs of your teeth and also pokes at your teeth with probes to determine the health of your teeth. It is more likely what you are seeing is dental tartar, which is common in ferrets.

Almost all older ferrets have dental tartar on their teeth to varying degrees. In many cases, the tartar is difficult to see and appears to have no effect on the ferret’s overall health. In some cases, the tartar is so severe that the ferret may not want to eat.

Severe dental tartar not only causes damage to the tooth and might cause the tooth to fall out, but it can also affect the soft tissue around the tooth, which can cause swollen and bleeding gums. It can be very painful. If not treated, severe tartar can lead to loss of a tooth, disease and disfigurement of the gums, and eventual loss of bone in the jaw. Infection in the jawbones can also occur. The good news is that dental tartar in ferrets is easy to diagnose and treat, even in severe stages.

To know what is going on, take your ferret to the veterinarian. Your ferret’s vet can quickly tell you if what you are seeing is dental tartar. If dental tarter is causing this problem, your veterinarian may recommend a “dental treatment.” That usually involves scaling of the teeth to remove the tarter and evaluating the gums for secondary disease.

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