A horse’s teeth are an extremely important part of their overall health and wellbeing, but they are often overlooked. Teeth are the very first step in feed processing and digestion. Throughout its lifetime, a horse’s teeth are continually growing and being worn down through the action of grinding while eating. While the wearing down of teeth is a normal process, it also causes sharp points to form on the edges of the teeth. These sharp points can cause ulcers and sores in your horse’s mouth, making eating and performing difficult and painful.
If your horse displays any of the following problems, you should ask your veterinarian to perform an oral examination.
- Quidding (chewing and dropping food from the mouth)
- Slow eating
- Weight loss
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Increased production of saliva
- Headshaking, behavioural or trouble with taking the bit
- Discharge from one nostril
- Change in facial symmetry
Talk to your veterinarian about any health concerns or changes in your horse’s eating or exercising habits.
It is recommended that an experienced and qualified veterinarian carry out dental work on your horse. For a thorough oral examination and placement of a mouth speculum, the horse must be calm and quiet. The horse will likely require sedation, which by law, must be done by a licensed veterinarian. The frequency of dental check-ups and care varies with each horse, its age, and medical history. As prevention is always better than cure, you should discuss your horse’s requirements with your veterinarian.
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column by DR. KATIE HENNESSY
BIO: Dr. Katie Hennessy graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008 with a degree in large animal health and equine medicine. She completed an advanced internship at The Equine Medical Center of Ocala and is currently the owner and practicing veterinarian at Polk Equine. Her expertise ranges from small and exotic creatures to large animals, specializing in equine medicine.