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Common equine dental problems

Wednesday 5th November, 2014

Dental health is often at the forefront of our minds thanks to endless media campaigns advertising products that promise to strengthen and repair our teeth. In addition to regular brushing, we must visit the dentist twice a year to check that all is well in our oral health and our equine companions are no exception. Much like humans, horses have two sets of teeth, the first are temporary ones that give way to the permanent set at around five years of age and these must be checked at least once a year, or sooner if symptoms arise.

What causes dental problems?

In the wild, horses constantly graze on a variety of tough, fibrous plant matter that gradually wear down teeth as they come together and equine teeth continue to grow therefore require constant grinding in order to keep them in check. Domestic horses on the other hand are confined to an enclosed area with restricted grazing and many are fed processed hard feeds that do not provide the dental work out needed to keep equine teeth at the correct length.

Just the same as humans, horses might prefer to eat only on one side of their mouth which can lead to rough, uneven surfaces that if left will cause malocclusion. Abnormalities such as hooks, ramps, waves, sharp edges and loose teeth can become extremely painful for the horse, and they are often discovered as owners start to investigate unwanted behaviour in their equines such as headshaking, pulling on the bit and rearing. Dental complaints are extremely common causes of behavioural issues with a sudden onset, as bits can rub on ulcerated areas or bang against problem wolf teeth which cause the horse to resist bridling or misbehave when ridden in response to the pain felt.

What will happen to my horse during a check-up?

Most dental checks and any necessary treatment can be undertaken in your own stable, and frequently horses will tolerate examinations and minor treatments without any sedation. Teeth rasping is the primary solution to most equine dental issues such as sharp edges, hooks, ramps and points, and this is done with a large metal file. If more intensive work such as extraction is required to resolve the issues then sedation or in severe cases, anaesthesia, will be necessary to get your equine back in tip top condition.

What should I look out for?

If your horse exhibits signs such as headshaking, drooling, or losing food when he eats, then it is vital that you get him seen by an Equine dentist as soon as possible. Commonly, horses with long term dental health complications suffer with poor body condition and weight loss despite a good quality diet and regular vaccination and worming, simply because they are not getting the nutrients that they need through eating difficulties. As mentioned previously, many horses also present problems for owners when handled or ridden due to sensitivity and pain in the mouth area, so if your horse exhibits any of the above symptoms then contact your local Equine Dentist of Veterinarian today.

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