Posted: August 1, 2012, 6 a.m. EDT
Ferret Chase/Courtesy Jamie Grabiec
Happy, healthy ferrets don't usually make a chewing motion when they're not eating.
Q: My ferret, a sable female that is approximately 4 years old, has chewing motions sometimes after she eats but sometimes for no reason. A friend at a local shelter said this might be a sign she is not feeling well. When I asked the veterinarian, he looked at me like that was crazy. I want to be sure my little girl is not in any pain or has an upset stomach or acid reflux. Any suggestions?
A: What you are describing is definitely not a normal reaction in ferrets. I agree with you that this is something worth investigating; even if nothing abnormal is found, at least you have the peace of mind that your ferret is in good health.
The chewing you describe could be a sign of digestive issues, as you suggest, or there could be a problem with the oral health of your ferret. Ferrets are prone to a number of oral cavity diseases that could cause the signs you are seeing.
Ferrets commonly have broken teeth and, although these do not seem painful, if the break is deep enough in the tooth, the nerve and other soft tissue can be affected and cause great discomfort. T
he dental tartar that is so common on ferret’s teeth can lead to serious gum disease termed gingivitis, which in turn leads to periodontal disease. This is common in pet ferrets, but it is unusual for us to see clinical signs. With severe disease, you may see a ferret exhibit the behavior you mention.
Finally, both abscesses and cancer are associated with the many glands found in and around the oral cavity, so a thorough examination of these areas is important.
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