Ferrets are playful creatures with unique qualities that make them a wonderful family pet. While they display quirky behaviors from time to time, some aren’t as common or healthy as others. One characteristic which should raise red flags for ferret owners is your furry pet grinding their teeth. Teeth grinding isn’t always serious, but should be monitored closely for additional symptoms.
In humans, teeth grinding is often a sign of stress and anxiety and happens at night while we sleep. For ferrets, teeth grinding happens while awake and for a variety of reasons, including stress and pain.
Unfortunately, teeth grinding can also be a sign of diminishing health in ferrets and is strongly linked to chronic stomach problems. Here are a few signs to watch out for and what to do when you notice teeth grinding.
Ferret Teeth Grinding While Eating
If you notice your ferret is only grinding his or her teeth while eating, it could be a direct reflection to the food you’ve chosen. Either the food is upsetting your ferret’s stomach because of the ingredients, or the food is difficult for your pet to chew.
Ferrets have a very tight bite, with each tooth fitting perfectly against the next. Their dental structure has been compared to a cats in shape and form. When a ferret tries to chew a mouthful of food which is unevenly spread throughout its mouth, it causes squeaking and grinding as their teeth rub together.
If your ferret is grinding their teeth because of an unproportioned bite, the size of the food might be the issue. Larger pellets make it difficult for a ferret to move the food around in their small mouth. Switching to smaller pellets creates a more convenient chew for a ferret.
It may also be that your ferret is simply taking too much food in at once, which isn’t a serious issue to raise alarm bells over.
Grinding while eating could also indicate digestion problems. Ferret’s are known to have immensely sensitive tummies, and when their stomachs are upset, they become anxious and display strange behavior, such as teeth grinding.
A few of the stomach problems your ferret could be experiencing include constipation, diarrhea, cramping, and nausea. Your vet can recommend a food which helps with stomach sensitivity, allergies, or portion control.
What Does The Teeth Grinding of a Ferret Sound Like?
Pet owners describe the ferret teeth grinding as loud and squeaky. It sounds very much the same as human’s grinding teeth, which can be alarming if you’ve never heard it before. If your ferret is grinding his or her teeth, you won’t miss it.
The sound is unmistakable, and when nervous pet owners ask about the grinding sound on ferret forums, the response from other owners is usually, “you’ll know it when you hear it”. So, if you’re not sure your ferret is grinding its teeth, it could be something else.
Don’t let the sound scare you, teeth grinding isn’t always a cause for concern, but it does have some negative implications from time to time. It’s normally when teeth grinding becomes a normal occurrence that you need to worry about your pet. You should still watch for any changes that arise following the first sign of grinding, but don’t panic or think the worst until you’ve gathered the facts.
Symptoms Which Coincide with Teeth Grinding
Aside from dietary issues, why might a ferret grind his or her teeth? There are several physical ailments which cause ferrets to grind, such as:
Ptyalism: Ptyalism is a disorder which causes ferrets to experience over-salivation. It’s often accompanied by weight loss and teeth grinding. It can make it difficult for your ferret to swallow, and therefore, he or she may experience a loss in appetite, or noticeable differences in the way he or she eats food.
Ptyalism is caused by nausea and other stomach conditions, which are a constant concern for ferret owners. Your ferret may experience diarrhea, or begin regurgitating food when trying to eat if ptyalism is present.
Ulcers: There is another major issue which cause ferrets to grind their teeth because of the stress and pain which accompanies them. If your ferret has an ulcer you’ll notice that his or her poop may begin to look darker, maybe even black in color.
Some ulcers form on the inside of the mouth, rather than the stomach lining. If this is the case, your pet may be eating less, or grinding its teeth at feeding time because it’s scared to eat due to the discomfort the ulcer is causing.
Insulinoma Disease: Sometimes ferrets have problems with their blood sugar level as they age. This is called insulinoma disease, which includes symptoms such as tumors in the pancreas, fatigue, and teeth grinding. Humans also experience insulinoma disease. This is most common in older ferrets and coincides with a gradual decline in energy and health over a period of 3-4 weeks.
Stress: Teeth grinding in ferrets is strongly linked to stress. This could be stress from experiencing pain, stress from worrying that the pain will return, or stress about any number of things. If you’ve just moved to a new location, have introduced a new baby or other pet to the household or have been working longer hours than usual, it could be making your ferret feel frazzled.
Any of the above symptoms may coincide with your ferret rubbing his or her muzzle. Rubbing its paws across its mouth and nose while grinding its teeth is a signal that your pet is uncomfortable.
Monitoring your pet for further symptoms is an important part of ferret care. Write down symptoms as you notice them to give your vet a timeline; this will help with diagnosis and treatment.
Diagnosing Teeth Grinding in Ferrets
If you notice your ferret grinding its teeth, rubbing its muzzle frequently, or any other related symptoms, speak to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Small creatures like ferrets should receive medical attention fast because they run the risk of deteriorating more quickly than larger animals.
Your vet may decide to run tests on your ferret, including blood or urine tests. This gives the vet an idea of what’s causing the grinding and whether it’s serious enough to require medication or other treatment.
To properly diagnose the teeth grinding, your vet may want to hear it, but unfortunately, ferrets don’t just grind on command. If you find an opportunity to catch a short video clip on a mobile phone or tablet, do so. This will let your vet see exactly what you’re talking about and he or she might be able to pinpoint the problem by watching other small unobserved behaviors on the video that you’ve missed.
The clip can be telling for your own peace of mind as well; if you wonder whether it was grinding you heard. Watching it back could be the deciding factor on whether you bring your ferret to a vet.
Treating Your Ferret
Treatment for teeth grinding will be decided based on the underlying cause for the behavior. Secondary symptoms are often a reflection on primary symptoms, which is why your vet will treat those first.
In cases where your ferret has been losing liquid through vomiting or diarrhea, the vet will provide ERT or electrolyte replacement therapy. For a ferret, this may be introduced intravenously rather than in the form of food or drink, especially if the vet is nervous it will come back up.
Once the dehydration is cared for, your vet will administer antibiotics if an infection is present, or a PPI or proton pump inhibitor if ulcers or stomach acid is the problem. PPI is an acid prohibitor which helps prevent buildup and reduce symptoms of pain caused by stomach acidity.
In very extreme cases of stomach distress, ferrets can require surgery. This is stressful for both pet and owner, and vets recommend keeping your pet calm and in a quiet space before and after surgery. This means keeping your ferret away from small children and other pets which might be loud and startle or cause anxiety for your furry companion.
If stress is the culprit for the teeth grinding, with no underlying physical reason for the stress, your vet will recommend more love, cuddles and attention, and some quiet time for your pet.
Ferrets love to explore, be rubbed under the chin, and have a cozy routine at home. When this is disrupted for big events or life changes, it’s difficult for your ferret to understand what’s going on. Reintroducing a new routine, including changes, such as a new member to the family, will improve your fuzzy pal’s disposition.
Ferrets are sensitive creatures and react to pain and discomfort with physical signs of distress. One of these signs is teeth grinding, which is why ferret owners should react seriously when they first notice the symptom is becoming a regular problem. If teeth grinding continues without medical attention, it could potentially lead to more problems, particularly if the grinding is in reflection of abdominal pain.
Keep tabs on any other unusual behavior. Sometimes teeth grinding isn’t a big deal, but in most cases, it’s linked to some kind of physical issue.