Extension and Ag Research News


| Share

Horses Need Dental Care, Too

Horses, like humans, need regular dental care.

Proper dental care is important to maintain optimal horse health.

Although some horses with dental problems show obvious signs of discomfort, many horses show no noticeable signs, cautions Carrie Hammer, NDSU assistant professor in Equine Studies and NDSU Extension Service equine specialist.

“Usually, by the time the average horse owner notices signs of a dental problem, the abnormalities are quite severe,” Hammer says. “When left untreated, dental problems can develop into significant health issues that can be difficult to remedy.”

According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), the following signs may suggest a dental problem and warrant a veterinary examination:

  • Loss of feed from the mouth while eating or difficulty chewing
  • Loss of body weight or difficulty maintaining body weight
  • Large or undigested feed particles in manure
  • Head tilting or tossing, fighting the bit or resistance to bridling
  • Poor riding performance, such as failing to turn, stop or properly give to the bit
  • Foul odor from mouth or nostrils
  • Nasal discharge or swelling of the face, jaw or gum tissue

The AAEP recommends yearly dental examinations for all mature horses and twice yearly exams for horses 2 to 5 years of age. Young horses shed and replace baby teeth until age 5 and are at an increased risk for developing dental abnormalities during that time. Senior horses (those 20 years and older) also are at an increased risk for developing dental disorders due to advancing age and may require more frequent examinations.

The knowledge about equine dentistry has increased enormously during the past years. Traditionally, routine maintenance of a horse’s mouth has been referred to as “floating,” or filing down the sharp enamel points from the teeth. Now veterinarians recognize that many dental conditions require more extensive methods than simply filing sharp points. Veterinarians now perform occlusal equilibrium, a process of smoothing sharp points, correcting how the upper and lower teeth meet, and correcting any other dental abnormalities.

“Scheduling an annual dental exam is one of the easiest things a horse owner can do to ensure quality health care for their horse,” Hammer says. “A dental exam may seem like an unnecessary cost to some; however, the cost of treating health issues resulting from unresolved dental abnormalities is huge in comparison.”

More information about proper dental care is available from your veterinarian and the AAEP Web site: http://www.aaep.org/dentistry_campaign.htm.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Carrie Hammer, (701) 231-5682, carrie.hammer@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.