One of the most important parts of responsible equine ownership is caring for their teeth to ensure they are strong, clean and healthy. This is because oral health can have a significant impact on the overall wellbeing of your animal. If left untreated, dental issues can cause problems with the function of the nervous system, muscular balance, cardiovascular health, imbalance of chemicals in the body, digestive system and the structural stability of the head, neck, and tongue. Most equine dental problems begin as mild and treatable occurrences, but can rapidly increase in severity if left untreated, which is why regular check-ups by an experienced and qualified equine dentist are vital.
One of the reasons that regularly scheduled check-ups are important is because many horses don’t display any clear symptoms of dental issues until they develop into major problems or begin to cause them pain. However, many responsible equine owners can tell when their horse just isn’t feeling right. If they are unable to establish what is wrong, then there is a good chance that dental problems may be to blame.
Some of the signs and symptoms of equine dental problems that you can look out for include:
Tilting the head when eating
Head tossing or shaking
Stiffness on one side
Napping, bucking or rearing
Unexplained weight loss
Grass packing in cheeks
Slow to eat
Dips feed or hay in drinking water
Nervousness or a dislike of being handled
In some cases, behavior changes can also be a sign of dental problems. These could be mouthing or chewing the bit, unexplained subtle lameness, resisting bridling or even rearing or bolting.
It is important to be aware that losing baby teeth isn’t just for humans. Foals will also lose their first teeth after a few years, with adult teeth coming in behind them at around five years of age. In some instances, there can be dental problems during this transitional period including impacted teeth and infections.
Horse’s adult teeth continue to grow for the duration of their lives. This means that they need to be worn down adequately to prevent serious dental issues from occurring. While this happens naturally in the wild, domestic horses will need to visit an experienced equine dentist for a procedure known as ‘floating’ which involves filing down the teeth manually. This procedure is usually required at least once every 12 months to ensure that your horse’s teeth are kept even and at a suitable length.
Horses may lose or require teeth to be removed for a number of reasons which can make it tricky for your animal to chew and eat their regular food. If your equine struggles to eat properly, is spraying or dropping food, or if you are worried that he isn’t getting the nutrition that he needs, then you should consult with your veterinarian about his diet. It may be necessary to switch to a different variety of food or way of feeding in order to keep your horse in optimum health.
Regular visits to a qualified and experienced equine dentist can help prevent painful and debilitating dental conditions and ensure the overall health and wellbeing of your horse.