Teeth are one of the most overlooked aspects of pet care of any animal, and horses are no exception. Nevertheless, taking proper care of your equine’s teeth is something that should be a priority for any responsible owner. One of the main reasons for this is that any oral health problems that do develop can have a significant impact on the overall wellbeing of your horse. Left untreated, dental problems can result in issues with his muscular balance, his nervous system, his cardiovascular health, his digestive system and even the structural stability of his head and neck. To keep your horse in the best possible health, regular visits to an experienced equine dentist are essential.
Like humans, equine dental checks are principally performed with the purpose of preventing problems from occurring rather than treating them. As such, some of the key benefits of taking your horse for regular dental checks include:
Ensure that your horse continues to eat with maximum efficiency.
Diagnose and begin treatment of any occurring dental problems promptly and before they can cause significant damage to the health of your equine.
Keeping your horse free from unnecessary pain and suffering.
Preventing the likelihood of tooth loss.
Avoiding bitting problems, especially during the initial stage of introducing the bit to your equine.
Ensuring your horse is working to its optimum ability.
Ideally, all horses should have their teeth examined by their equine dentist at least every 12 months. This is also an ideal time for your horse to have her teeth floated.
Like us, our equines will have two sets of teeth during their lifetime. However, unlike us, their second set erupts extremely slowly – usually at a rate of around 1/8th of an inch every year. To prevent your horse’s teeth growing too long, she will need to wear them down. She will do this through grinding, which occurs naturally when she eats. Whilst this will contribute towards keeping her teeth healthy and a sensible length, many owners still require their horse to undergo a procedure known as ‘floating their teeth’.
Floating is important because the rate of erosion caused by the grinding may not be consistent across all teeth. This can lead to the formation of sharp, painful hooks that can prevent your equine from closing her mouth properly. Floating is the name given to the process of getting these hooks filed so that they are smooth. This can be done manually, or by using an electric file that speeds up the process. Anesthetic is given so that your horse shouldn’t experience any discomfort.
Precisely how often you will need to get your equine’s teeth floated will vary, but most adults will only need the procedure performed around once per year. Younger horses, under the age of 5, may need to have their teeth floated more frequently. Your equine dentist will be able to advise you when you should arrange this procedure for your horse.
One of the most challenging aspects of owning any animal is identifying when they require medical attention. The verbal communication barrier means that you are almost solely reliant on spotting unusual symptoms and uncharacteristic behavior. Nevertheless, there are some signs of dental problems in horses that are more common than others. These include:
Tilting the head when not eating
Excessive saliva production
Unexplained weight loss
Grass packing in cheeks
Slow to eat
Dipping her hay or feed into the water before eating
Dislike of being touched around the face or neck
If your equine is exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, it is important that you arrange to get her checked by your equine veterinary dentist as soon as possible.
One of the best ways to keep your horse’s teeth in tip-top condition is to entrust her dental care to a professional. To schedule an appointment for our experienced equine dentists to come and assess your horse, please contact Snodgrass Veterinary Medical Center in Bowling Green, KY (270) 207-9250.