Ferrets are carnivorous mammals commonly found in the wild. They belong to the weasel family Mustelidae and inhabit forests and grasslands spread throughout Europe. However, these mammals have been populating homes lately, as they are fastly becoming popular in the United States as pets. These furry little animals can be trained to do tricks like dogs, making them great human companions. Apart from their slightly similar appearance with cats, their dentition is somehow similar. Ferrets do not have a set of continuously growing teeth; instead, they have the same set of heterodont teeth as cats and dogs do, and they, too, develop baby teeth. Ferret teeth are sharp, which can deliver a nasty bite, but for ferret pets to keep a clean and proper dental health, owners must understand everything about ferret teeth.
Ferrets are becoming more and more popular as pets, yet there are states where owning a ferret is illegal. Ferrets bite whenever they feel threatened. Their sharp and long fangs or canine teeth can easily be seen, especially when they hiss. However, ferrets do not only bite for self-defense. Sometimes, they nip on people to get their attention. Their bite can carry germs or even rabies, too; that’s why pet ferrets should always have their dental well-being checked and cared for.
What Kind of Teeth Do Ferrets Have?
Ferrets have a complete heterodont dentition like those of dogs and cats. It includes incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. As carnivores that often feed on small mammals such as mice, rodents, and chicks, it is not surprising that ferrets have such sharp canine teeth. A ferret’s teeth are sharp enough to tear its mammal prey apart, which also deliver unpleasant bites. Its fangs or canines can pierce through the flesh of any prey or adversary.
However, their teeth may be sharp enough to cut meat but are not strong enough to bite through bones. Ferrets have a brachydont dentition which means the crowns of their teeth are short but are founded on well-developed roots that possess a tapered pulp canal.
How Many Teeth Do Ferrets Have?
Like dogs, cats, and primates, ferrets are diphyodont, which means they grow only two sets of teeth in one lifetime. When teething, ferrets develop between 28 to 30 deciduous teeth, which has a dental formula of 2(Incisors 3-4/3; Canines 1/1; Molars3/3) = 28 to 30. At 7-9 weeks of age, the ferrets will start losing their milk teeth which permanent ones will replace.
The permanent teeth replacement will complete in 9 months, giving the ferret a new dental formula. Adult ferrets have a total of 34 permanent teeth, with a dental formula: 2(Incisors 3/3; Canines 1/1; Premolars 3/3; Molars 1/2) = 34. However, ferrets can be vulnerable to dental issues, sometimes leading to broken or missing teeth.
Like kittens and puppies, young ferrets undergo a stage called teething, where their first set of deciduous or milk teeth start to erupt. The young ferret will usually have sore gums during the process, which will complete after nine months. This process involves the eruption of baby teeth and their replacement with permanent teeth.
What Do Ferrets Use Their Teeth For?
Ferrets have four types of teeth inside their mouth, which is typical for carnivores and omnivores. These furry weasels use their incisors or front teeth to gather and grasp food, while they use their canines to puncture through flesh. As they often eat mammals in the wild and thawed mice or chicks in captivity, their canines are extremely useful in cutting their prey. Their premolars have enlarged, sharpened edges that are used to shred and cut their food into smaller pieces. The molars often have the same structure and are used in grinding and crushing the ferret’s meal.
Do Ferrets Bite?
Like puppies and cats, ferrets can be playful but also bite. Ferrets love discovering things, and they can sometimes use their sharp teeth to play or nip people. Ferrets can bite for several reasons, including fear, aggression, or teething.
Because of their sore gums, ferrets undergoing the teething stage tend to chew and bite more often. When ferrets are in pain or suffering from diseases, they can also develop behavioral problems such as aggression, leading them to bite. Ferrets who don’t love socializing with others can also bite when they are handled. To avoid such behavior from pet ferrets, they should be trained to socialize starting from a young age.
Ferrets can also bite when they feel threatened, when they are afraid of something, or when they are playing. Ferrets normally play-bite with their owners, so this isn’t a worrying behavior. When a finger or a hand smells of food, ferrets can also nip or nibble.
Are Ferret Bites Dangerous?
Ferrets do not contain venom, and their bites are not unbearably painful either, so they do not cause deep wounds or serious illnesses. However, ferrets can carry germs and rabies, especially unvaccinated ones, which can cause infections. Ferrets should be vaccinated against rabies, and if bitten, the wound should be immediately cleaned with soap and water. Since ferret bites may carry infections, medical attention is also crucial.
Do Ferrets Get Dental Problems?
Ferrets are susceptible to dental problems too, and often, they suffer from oral pain silently. Proper dental hygiene and regular oral examinations are required to keep ferrets healthy. Ferrets can live up to 10 years or more if taken care of well, and that includes healthy teeth.
Common dental problems in ferrets include bad breath, red and irritated gums, tartar build-up, irregularly placed teeth, mouth sores, and broken teeth. Ferrets depend on their teeth primarily when feeding, so dental sores and diseases may get in the way of eating. Once they complete their permanent dentition, this second set of teeth will never grow back again once broken.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Olga Pysarenko/Shutterstock.com
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