Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Routine Dental Care Are Critical to a Horse's Health

An issue came up with a friend's horse showing signs of colic where the horse would stretch out seeming to pee but wouldn't, and appeared to periodically be in a little distress. His appetite was off but not gone. He was drinking small amounts of water, but in colder temperatures horses will typically drink less. Like many horse owners my friend, prior to calling the Vet because of the distance involved and farm call fee, called me to help him work through the possibilities of what could be wrong with the horse and if calling the Vet was necessary.

As I asked about the symptoms the horse was showing as well as what the horse got for his daily feed and when was the last time the horse was wormed. I asked when was the last time the horse had his teeth floated. The horse owner replied that he couldn't remember. I asked within the last year? within the last two years? To make a longer story shorter, the horse hadn't had a equine dental exam nor his teeth floated for at least five years.

Lack of equine dental care may not be the leading cause of colic, but bad teeth can impact on how well a horse chews his feed before it enters the gut and improperly chewed feed can increase the chances of impaction. And while alot of us never saw or maybe never heard of horses having their teeth floated when we were young, I think the fact that horses growing older and living longer today than they were twenty-thirty years ago, and that more horses are being kept to the end of their natural life increases the chances of you seeing a horse with teeth problems. This makes the floating the teeth which is the removing of the uneven or abnormal portions (hooks and points) of the teeth necessary so normal chewing and digestion can take place.

Horses kept in stalls and fed dry feed may be more likely to have teeth problems than horses on pasture for several reasons:

  • The Horse can pull more feed into his mouth from dried feed in a feeder than they can from the pasture
  • Stalled horses are more likely of getting bored and cribbing on rail fences or wood doors and frames
  • Pastured horses have to eat with their heads low slowing the chewing and this is more natural to the horse as opposed to eating out of a feeder off the ground.

It's a good education in horse care when your Vet or Equine dentist can sedate the horse, place a speculum in the horse's mouth and show you or let you feel the hooks, points of other uneven wear of your horse's teeth, or even the callous' and cuts that can be created on the inside of the mouth as well.

My Vet is Amy Starr, DVM, in the pictures, owner of Paw-n-Hooves Mobile Vet Clinic in El Paso, Texas. On a once every 14 to 18 month schedule, we have her do dental exams which almost always require floating the teeth with power float tool - think drill bit with an extended shank and rotary bit. Years ago I remember her floating teeth on 12 horses when she was close to 9 months pregnant and doing it all in the middle of a hot Texas summer.

While routine dental care is important for colic prevention, it can also help reduce other problems like difficulty in carrying a bit, head tossing, head shyness and other behavioral issues. These are clues that your horse may need a dental exam and some work done on his teeth as is when you start seeing the horse drop half chewed bolts of feed on the ground around. So for your horse's sake get a dental exam scheduled when you can. It's part of that fair life you're supposed to be providing him.


  1. Great post. This article is really very effective and informative. I think its must be helpful for horse dental health. Thanks for sharing your nice post about Routine Dental Care Are Critical to a Horse's Health .
    emergency dental clinic Manhattan NY
    Emergency dental services Manhattan NY
    24 hour emergency dental office Manhattan NY
    Emergency Dentist Manhattan NY
    24 hour emergency dentist Manhattan NY

  2. Dentist in Ciudad Juárez Contamos con más de 9 años. somos una empresa comprometida con su bienestar, nuestra meta es su salud bucal. Mexico or El Paso

    Dentist in Ciudad Juárez