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Straight from the Horse's Mouth

Adopt a Pet Pet Care Pets Pet Health Animals Horses Posted Aug 6, 2020
August marks Pet Dental Health Month. Are your pet’s teeth pearly white? Horses included...
Many people are unaware of how to properly monitor their horse’s dental hygiene to prevent oral disease and pain. Equine Technician Joe Williams from Old Mill Vet Equine Service, frequently treats our RSPCA horses. He says, “Scarily some people are under the impression that horses and donkeys only need dental work done once they start to lose weight!”
Common signs of poor dental health in horses

As horses have evolved, they have become accustomed to hiding any signs of illness because in the wild, if a horse becomes sick, they are rejected from the herd. This is why it is important for owners to be aware and actively vigilant of the subtle warning signs that indicate poor dental health in horses.

Some common signs of poor dental health in horses include:

  • Reluctance to eat
  • Puffy cheeks
  • Quidding (accumulation of grass in the cheeks)
  • Bad breath
  • Nasal discharge

smiling horse dental care rspca queensland

How often should a horse’s teeth be checked?

As they say, prevention is always better than treatment! Horses need to have regular dental check and it is recommended that owners book a minimum of one dentist appointment for their horse every 12 months with an Equine Dental Vet. They are regulated by a governing body and are bound by legislation to ensure animal welfare and ethical practices.

horse with mouth ulcer

Sharp teeth can lead to painful injuries and ulcers. A dental vet will file down the teeth (this is called floating)

Equine Dentistry

So what’s involved when you get your horse’s teeth checked? Joe from Old Mill Vet Equine Service explains what occurs in a standard dental procedure for horses:

  • Once a horse is deemed healthy enough for a dental procedure, a light to moderate sedative is administered to allow a thorough examination to take place.
  • A gag is then fitted, and the mouth is hosed to remove food debris, followed by a powerful light source to allow for proper visualisation of the oral cavity.
  • Your vet may manually palpate the mouth to check for any imbalances of the dental arcade (the shape made by the rows of teeth), and then assesses each molar with dental probes and mirrors to ensure there are no fractures.
  • After examination, the teeth are then 'floated'- this involves filing or wearing down the teeth to remove any sharp points and to correct any imbalances.
  • Finally, the dental work is reassessed, and any accumulated plaque is removed.
  • The mouth is then flushed with water.

horse dentistry rspca queensland

Joe treating an RSPCA Inspectorate horse

Diet

A horse’s diet is a large contributing factor that influences their dental health. It is recommended that owners ensure their horses have easy access to good pasture throughout the day, as horses normally graze for up to eighteen hours per day. Some horses do need additional fibre from foods such as hay and chaff in their diet if they are not receiving enough from pasture alone. Older horses or horses impacted by dental pathology, often require a consultation with an Equine Dental Vet in order to be given the appropriate recommendation for their diet. Often Equine Dental Vets will recommend adding chaff and a senior pellet feed as a high component of these types of horse’s diet in order for them to meet their daily caloric intake.

horse treated by joe williams

Hygiene

Equine Dental Vets recommend that in order to maintain a horse’s oral hygiene to prevent disease and pain, owners should hose their horse's mouth with water to flush out accumulated feed from between teeth.  This process would help to prevent and/or treat periodontal disease. Dental vets may also advise using an oral rinse such as hexarinse, as an alternative to water, for the treatment of periodontal disease and gingivitis.

Horses can live for many decades, so make sure to ask your local Equine Dental Vet to visit your horse to ensure they stay in tip-top shape for the long-run!

Looking for dog dental health tips? Or perhaps your cat has smelly breath and you think their teeth may be in need of a vet check? Read our blog here to learn how you can keep your furry companion’s teeth in check too.

RSPCA QLD
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