Regular dental care for horses is critical to support overall health and avoid potential problems.
Uneven wear or sharp points on a horse’s teeth may lead to weight loss and poor performance. Annual dental checkups can help identify and correct any issues that may have developed over time.
Horses? teeth erupt continuously throughout their life, making regular dental care a necessity. Horses evolved to continuously graze up to 16 to18 hours per day on grasses and other forage, wearing teeth down through a grinding action.
Today, many horses spend only a few hours each day eating with the result being uneven dental wear. Uneven wear can result in sharp point and ridges that make it difficult for the horse to properly grind feed and may cause sores or cuts in the mouth.
When a horse is not able to fully chew and grind grain and other feed, improperly chewed food may not be digested completely. Symptoms of dental problems may include dropping grain while chewing, excessive drooling, chewing with the head tilted, discomfort or resistance while wearing a bit, head tossing, facial swellings, weight loss and a decrease in performance. Making an appointment with a veterinarian experienced in dental care to evaluate your horse can help avoid these issues.
Veterinarians first examine the teeth with the aid of a light and speculum to determine if there are diseased teeth or teeth with sharp points that prevent normal chewing.
The dental exam also gives the veterinarian the opportunity to check for other problems, such as excessively worn teeth, loose or broken teeth and infected gums. Horse?s teeth grow at varying rates, so consult with your veterinarian to schedule a dental exam at least once a year.
Veterinarians may employ a variety of therapeutic procedures to correct a horse’s dental problems, but the most common of these is floating. Floating is performed by the veterinarian with the use of a large file, or float, to smooth or contour the teeth into a normal grinding surface.
Sedation often helps facilitate examinations and floating by calming the horse, in order to allow the veterinarian to place a speculum in the horse’s mouth for the exam and treatment. Specific medications, such as detomidine, also provide an analgesic effect that reduces pain for the horse.
Not only do these benefits create a significantly less traumatic experience for the horse, they also help decrease the chance of injury to the owner or veterinarian during a procedure.
Dental exams can be scheduled to coincide with spring and fall vaccinations as part of an overall wellness regimen. Talk to your veterinarian to determine an overall wellness care plan for your horse.