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Horses and Dental Health
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Horses and Dental Health

Over the last few years, I have taken in many starved and neglected horses, most with severe weight issues. The last seven horses I have taken in have had little to no dental hygiene ever done to them. It amazes me that simple maintenance like this is so overlooked by most horse owners. To be honest this is as important as that $20 bag of feed you send through their system. What good is feed and hay if it is coming out the same way it went in? Un-chewed and almost whole hay seen in many horses I see. Even though they may hold weight fine and on the outside seem otherwise healthy. Dental issues can be extremely uncomfortable for your equine friend.

Many people I talk to say they have never had floats or dental work done on their horses and say they just don’t think they need it. I can assure you that if you could see what I see on a day to day basis doing private rescue, you would get your beloved horse done on schedule. Almost every horse over the age of ten that I take in, is in need of immediate dental care in order to eat properly. Honestly I look in their mouth to age them when I first get them in but after that my next call is my dentist to get a good look around. It is also a better way to get an accurate age on your horse if you do not know his history.

Please do your research on your dentist as well. A cheap price usually means poor work. I hate to say that, but it is true. I do not like sedating my horses unless absolutely necessary, but how could anyone thoroughly do a dental on your horse unless they are sedated, still, and cooperative for a little while? It is less stress and a quicker procedure if your horse is sedated so that our dentist can accurately look in his mouth and figure out the best plan of action for that particular horse. Just like every human has a different mouth, every horse wears his teeth different. Therefore need a different approach. I will tell you that even though most of my horses have a few days after their dental where they are not able to eat hay or grass well, after that there is a night and day difference in the way they eat, and what comes out the other end.

Your horses stool should be uniform pieces that are minced so small that you can barely see the individual pieces. You should not be able to make out pieces of hay, or grass in their manure. If you are able to see pieces in it, this means your horse is lacking the ability to grind his food properly. This in turn does not allow him to get the full nutritional benefits from what he is eating.  A $20 bag of feed or $10 dollar bale of hay is a waste of money if your horse is only using half of what he consumes, possibly less. A horse needs to have their grinding molars essentially leveled off so that they have a good grinding surface to work with. Because over time of sand, grinding and sometimes the way your horses smile is made genetically, it can create many problems without roper dental. Problems like cupping, points, broken teeth, and impactions. Cupping is when the center of the teeth have a cup like appearance and each side has made a point, essentially limiting your horse to about 30% grinding surface. This can also lead to ulcers on the tongue and inside of cheeks. Fractured and broken teeth can occur because of the pressure exerted to grind food.  This also can cause damming of food and impactions when hay and particles cannot be moved through.  There are many issues that can arise from lack of proper dental care.

Dental hygiene is just as important to your horse as it is to you. Remember our horses cannot tell us when they are in pain. Have your horses teeth checked on a regular basis to ensure optimum health and happiness.

Here is a link to Loren's Facebook album. She came to me very thin, not putting on weight and unable to chew hay. She was only 11-13 years old and already had a fractured tooth due to lack of dental care. She had to have so much done to her teeth initially that she was unable to eat hay for 2 week after her dental. I had to supplement her with roughage she was able to eat without chewing. There are pictures of her getting her teeth done and the tooth that was pulled.

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  1. Qhqueen
    When I first got Leo he was a fatty. During his prepurchase exam we checked everything, teeth included. He needed extensive work done as well. We didn't have to pull any but he had a mouthful of peaks and valleys, and they were SHARP! It took us almost 3 hours for the visit that day, we gave him lots of breaks. The people I bought him from didn't think he needed a dental float because he kept weight on, but that was because they supplemented him with additional grain. It would have been so much cheaper for them to have his teeth done in the long run because they went through a bag of feed within days just for him.
  2. JustPeachey
    I live in an area where there is only one Equine Dentist. He was AMAZING. He did it by hand, and was extremely gentle with my apprehensive Mustang, and just an incredible horseman overall. While floating my horses' teeth, he asked if we'd taken him to the vet to be floated. We said, of course! (Thinking we were being responsible horse owners...) And he said that it was very obvious that the vet had used a electric Dremel type tool to file the teeth down, which gets too hot and can ruin the enamel and permanently damage the teeth. He had to do much more correcting the bad work than if we'd just not had the horse floated! Unfortunately, he had a really bad accident, and has extensive hand injuries and can no longer float. None of the vets around here do it by hand anymore, so I feel really stuck. I'm not sure if bad floating is better than no floating. :( Also, great article!
  3. Eve Sherrill York
    Eve Sherrill York
    You would think that people who have animals of any kind would have the heart to care for them as they should be. So many don't. Do they really think that animals don't feel pain and have these problems? Seems rather silly to me.

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