Health

Tooth Trouble

Give your horses' teeth the attention they deserve.

Have you ever paid much attention to your horse's teeth?

Dr. Jack Easley, D.V.M., and equine dentist, recommends that you do.

By evolutionary design, horses are grazing machines. Their long heads and necks allow for continuous grazing, increasing the height and complexity of the tooth shape. The forward teeth, or incisors, function as grass trimmers. The cheek teeth, including the molars and premolars, have wide, flat, grooved surfaces to easily grind feed into mash before it is swallowed.

Dr. Easley says the domestication of horses is one reason they require dental care.

"Typically, horses keep their heads on the ground and eat grass 16 hours a day, but we keep them in a stall with their heads up and feed them hay, oats and sweet feed. Stabled horses tend to have more problems with periodontal disease and abnormal wear."

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While there are equine dentists to keep your horse's teeth in line, Dr. Easley recommends that horse owners find an equine veterinarian for equine dental procedures because veterinarians can sedate horses, which non-vets can't do.

To find a qualified veterinarian contact the American Association of Equine Practitioners at (800) 438-2386.

Learn more about horse health, including dental needs, in America's Horse magazine, the official member publication of AQHA.

Symptoms of Tooth Problems

AAEP offers this list to help you identify symptoms of dental problems:

    • Loss of feed from the mouth while eating, difficulty chewing or excessive salivation
    • Weight loss or loss of body condition
    • Large or undigested feed particles (long stems or whole grain) in the manure
    • Head tilting or tossing, bit chewing, tongue lolling, fighting on the bit, or resisting bridling
    • Poor performance, such as lugging on the bridle, failing to turn or stop, even bucking
    • Foul odor from mouth or nostrils, or traces of blood in the mouth
    • Nasal discharge or swelling of the face, jaw or mouth tissues

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