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Horse Dentistry and the Why's

How good is your horse at hiding pain? Do they let you know when something is wrong? Some horses are very good at masking pain and will continue to work even when their mouth needs serious attention. When horses teeth wear down, or create sharp points, the horse will often begin to show signs of discomfort. Signs that a horse may need a dental include change in appetite, quidding which is when they expel balls of semi-chewed feed while eating, loss of weight, resistance to the bit and odd discharge from one nostril or mouth. Horses, being the stoic animals they are, often hide symptoms and may not show that they are in pain which is why it is important to have routine oral exams done. When your horse shows symptoms of dental distress their condition has likely progressed over a long period of time. Dental health can impact the entire body which is why it is extremely important to have your veterinarian do annual dental checks.

The equine dental is a key part of a thorough health program. It not only benefits the horse’s mouth but t digestion and potentially their behavior as well. Dental exams can give you an idea of your horse’s overall oral health which commonly effects other aspects of their health.

There are a few things to consider when deciding if and when your horse needs a dental: Age, behavior, feed and work load all affect the growth and health of horses teeth.

Young horses will have more activity in their mouth as they lose baby teeth and grow in adult ones. Similarly geriatric horses may lose teeth as well and may need to have their feed adjusted to meet their dental capacity. Next, feed is an important factor because horses that are on pasture and consume a high volume of grass and weeds may need dentals less often. Horses that are fed a large volume of grain, may need a dental more frequently as they use their jaws in a unique way to consume pelleted grain.

Horses in the wild eat a large arrangement of feed that varies in texture and strength. This variation helps the horse wear down their teeth. The soft diet of hay and grain we have transitioned domestic horses onto does not mimic their natural mastication and creates sharp points along their teeth. Feeding horses a domestic diet of hay and grain may have its faults on teeth, however it has allowed horse owners to ensure their horses are getting a balanced and nutritious diet. It is important to understand the way feed affects the horses mouth so that you can gauge how often your horse needs a dental.

Once it has been determined that your horse needs a dental float the next step is to find a specialist to do the procedure. It is essential to have a trained veterinarian perform dental checks and floats for a multitude of reasons. First, they have been trained in drug dosage and know how to correctly sedate the animal. Secondly, they have been trained and educated by other professionals which gives them a large pool of knowledge to utilize when they float the horse. Finally, they are trained in emergency procedures in case a horse has an adverse reaction to a medication or has a dental phenomenon. When it comes to your horse’s health and well-being it is best to seek help from a professional who can determine if your horse needs a dental or is showing signs of another condition.

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Written by Rachel Germundson

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