Is Equine Dental Health Really All That Important?
Your horse’s mouth is constantly changing as teeth erupt and wear. Without proper maintenance, oral abnormalities like sharp edges, abnormal tooth eruptions, or irregular tooth wear can lead to pain, problems with chewing and digesting feed, behavior issues, and more. If a horse’s teeth do not function well, it will be unable to eat properly, and its overall health may be at risk.
If you aren’t having a dental exam performed by your vet at least every year, your horse’s teeth are probably not getting enough attention. Many horse owners are not aware of how important routine dental exams are for their overall health and wellness.
Dental disease and abnormalities can and do affect nearly every part of your horse’s body and behavior. Zoetis Equine Health conducted a survey of 4500 horse owners in 2020. They discovered that 73% of those horse owners surveyed had horses with signs of dental pain, and 22% of the survey participants had not had a dental exam for their horse in more than one year.
Some common signs of dental distress for you to watch for between dental exams are:
- Loss of appetite, weight loss, or a general loss of body condition
- Difficulty or slowness in eating or a reluctance to drink cold water
- Your horse holding its head to one side as if it is in pain
- Dropping grain or hay from its mouth
- Your horse may “quid” – this is when a horse forms its food into a ball in its mouth and then drops the food after it has been partially chewed
- Signs of uncrushed, unchewed grain in your horse’s manure
- Excessive drooling
- Blood-tinged mucus in the mouth
- Bad breath
- Nasal discharge from one nostril
- Swelling of the face or jaw
- Evading the bit
- Head-shaking, lolling tongue, or opening its mouth when being ridden or driven with a bit
- Resistance to bridling
- Being withdrawn or avoiding social interaction with other horses or people
- Having an intense stare or aggressive behavior
- Poor performance, such as a decline in athletic ability
The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAE) strongly recommends annual oral and dental exams as part of your horse’s routine care. Depending on your horse’s age, level of performance, and overall condition, more frequent exams throughout the year may be needed. Because this is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all situation, we make this part of our conversation at every routine wellness exam I do for your horse!
Routine dental exams are fairly quick, lasting approximately 10 to 30 minutes. The exam is painless and fear-free for your horse because its sedated. Using a full-mouth speculum, I assess the internal and external structure of your horse’s teeth, palates, and gums. Depending on what that exam reveals, I may also take x-rays and/or float your horse’s teeth.
Dells Equine Vet pricing for routine dental exams and floats ranges from $195 to $300 which includes the on-farm service call fee. It’s been my experience that it’s much easier to invest in an exam that will allow us to treat and resolve any issues early on. Skimping on this very important aspect of your horse’s routine veterinary care can often have a very expensive and painful outcome.
Clients often ask what else they can do to preserve their horse’s dental health. I encourage people to spread out their horse’s feedings if possible. This tends to lower stress levels and keeps their guts moving. Horses are built to graze all day, and this helps with proper chewing and tooth wear which preserves your horse’s dental health.
The bottom line is this: your horse needs a dental exam as part of their routine wellness care.
Call the Dells Equine Veterinary Service office today to schedule an appointment. 608-844-9833 ext #3