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Bad Teeth in Horses

Horse dental care is a critical part of caring for your horse's overall health. In this post, out Rock Springs vets share some symptoms of teeth problems in horses and how you can properly care for your horse's teeth.

Causes of Bad Teeth in Horses

Bad teeth in horses are primarily caused by uneven wear due to the grinding motion of their teeth while chewing. This can result in sharp points or hooks forming on the molars, leading to pain, difficulty chewing, and weight loss if left untreated.

Bad teeth on horses can appear sharp, uneven, or worn down. This can lead to difficulty chewing, weight loss, and behavioral issues such as head tossing or resisting the bit.

What are the symptoms of tooth pain in horses?

The signs of tooth pain or infection in horses can include:

  • Loss of body condition
  • Nasal discharge or swelling of the face, jaw, or mouth tissues
  • Foul odor from mouth or nostrils, or traces of blood in the mouth
  • Loss of feed from mouth while eating, difficulty with chewing, or excessive salivation
  • Large or undigested feed particles in manure
  • Poor performance, such as tugging on the bridle, failing to turn or stop, even bucking
  • Head tilting or tossing, bit chewing, fighting the bit, or resisting bridling

You know your horse better than anyone. If they start showing signs or behaviors that seem out of character, it's time to schedule an appointment with our experienced vets at Mountainaire Animal Clinic.

How do vets diagnose tooth problems in horses?

Diagnosis of dental issues in horses primarily relies on a physical examination followed by an oral examination. Horses usually require a sedative for a thorough evaluation of the mouth Sometimes, general anesthesia may be necessary. Diagnostics your vet needs to take may include:

  • Bloodwork
  • Diagnostic imaging, including skull X-rays

Treating Dental Issues in Horses

Having your vet examine your horse's teeth annually is the best way to maintain the health of your horse's mouth. Your Rock Springs equine vet may perform a procedure commonly known as 'floating.' Floating is essentially the grinding down of the points or your horse's teeth.

Floating helps to remove the sharp points from the enamel of your horse's teeth, smoothing them out, correcting any malocclusions and helping to address other dental health issues. Floating is performed under sedation in order to limit the amount of anxiety and stress that is placed on your horse. This also allows your equine vet to achieve optimal results.

Age & Your Horses Teeth

Your horse's age will impact the level of dental care they may need. Once an overall examination has been completed, your vet will have a better understanding of your horse's needs. Some typical effects of age on the dental health of horses include:

  • Foals should be examined shortly after birth and often during the first year to diagnose and correct congenital dental issues.
  • Mature horses should get a thorough dental examination at least annually to maintain correct dental alignment and to diagnose dental problems.
  • Horses going into training for the first time need a comprehensive dental check-up before training begins to prevent training problems related to sharp teeth.
  • Horses aged 2 to 5 years may require more frequent dental exams because deciduous teeth are softer than permanent teeth and may develop sharp enamel points more quickly.
  • Horses 17 years old or older are at increased risk for developing periodontal disease. This painful disease must be diagnosed early for successful treatment. Beyond the age of 20, the tooth surfaces may be worn excessively and/or unevenly, and dental alignment correction may be impossible.

Are bad teeth in horses considered an emergency?

Bad teeth in horses can lead to difficulty eating, weight loss, and behavioral issues. While not always an emergency, it is important to address dental issues promptly to prevent further complications and maintain the horse's overall health and well-being.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding horses. For an accurate diagnosis of your horse's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect your horse to be suffering from dental issues? Contact Mountainaire Animal Clinic today. Our vets can devise a treatment plan.

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