Q: How can I determine how old my ferret is at home, without going to a vet to check?
A: As for aging a ferret… . Your vet will determine your ferret’s age just by looking at their upper canines. (They may have to scruff them to see, but don’t be alarmed.)
- A ferret under 1 should have totally white teeth, with little to no signs of yellowing.
- At 1.5 to 2.5 years, the tips of their sharp teeth are starting to get stained with yellow plaque. The tooth enamel may be starting to wear away, making the tooth appear translucent.
- At 3 – 4 The yellowing and enamel wear becomes more pronounced, making nearly the whole tooth appear yellow stained.
- By 6 years old, a ferret (especially one on a high-grain kibble diet) will have pretty bad teeth. The periodontal disease, or yellowing of the tooth, will extend all the way to the gum line, and most teeth will look yellow, brown, or rotten. You may notice chipped teeth from years of wear, or missing teeth altogether, as the gum structure degrades and they fall out.
Your ferrets are born with ‘milk teeth’ and later get their grownup teeth, so vets determine by tooth enamel how many adult teeth have come in, and approximately how old the ferret is. When a ferret reaches maturity (at around age 7 months,) they can begin to age ferrets by how white their teeth are. As ferrets get older, the tips of their teeth start to yellow with age, and wear away.
The older the ferret, the more the opacity (or yellowing) there is close to the gum line. In very old ferrets, the canines can be completely yellowed. Additionally, in the long run (and sometimes the short run if the ferret is on a bad quality food) they also get calcium deposits on their tooth enamel that give away their possible age.
Diet Effect on Ferret Age
A ferret who is eating a source of sugar and/or perhaps not enough protein may *look* like he is 6 or even 7 years old, but after his teeth are cleaned, it can easily reveal nice white teeth underneath, and a a lot younger age – bad foods can rot their teeth and sugar is a definite ‘no-no’.
Aging a ferret isn’t an exact science, but a good ferret veterinarian can easily give you an idea of their age by looking at their teeth. Because diet plays an central role in the appearance of their tooth enamel, those animals who eat uncooked meat regularly will have much younger looking teeth when compared to all those who eat kibble, caused by the regular cleansing chewing the meat provides.
Ferret nutrition requires a high protein, high fat diet with low to no sugars. Remember, your ferret is a carnivore and meat, particularly whole prey is precisely what his genetic makeup needs. If you feed a poor quality diet with wheat or corn, his well being will suffer.
Adrenal Disease in Ferrets
Ferrets have bad health issues as they get older, and oftentimes require surgeries to remove cancerous tumors, and also these can cost up in the thousands. Commonly when they hit 4 years old, they get some kind of typical ferret infection for example adrenal gland disease, lymphoma, insulinoma or cardiomyopathy to name a few.
Ferrets as young as 2 years old can suffer from Adrenal disease, so it’s wise o plan ahead and understand what signs and symptoms you are looking for. Ferrets require two vaccinations yearly, distemper and rabies. They have to be on heartworm preventative, at least in the hot months, because it only takes a couple heartworms to kill a ferret.
I would highly advise buying the book, ‘Ferrets for Dummies’, by Kim Schilling, as it’s an excellent source of insight into ferret health and aging!