Alberta Court Upholds Farrier's Right to Float Horse Teeth

The technicalities of defining veterinary medicine were tested in February in the Alberta, Canada, Court of Appeal when three appeal court justices ruled that a farrier was not guilty of illegally practicing veterinary medicine when he floated horses' teeth as a service to horse owners.

According to reports in The Western Producer, an agricultural news publication for Western Canada, farrier Louis Pequin was found innocent in a previous trial, the verdict of which was appealed to the higher court by the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association. The higher court upheld the previous judgment. Notation was made that the province's veterinary practice act does not specifically define floating horses' teeth as veterinary medicine.

Pequin has been floating teeth since 1985, according to reports. The judge noted that until recent years, veterinarians had encouraged farriers in Alberta to provide routine dental care to horses, as long as medical and surgical procedures were not involved. Pequin claimed to practice under those guidelines.

Care of the horse's mouth and jaws is an expanding area of equine veterinary medicine in the United States, Canada, and other countries. Both routine and surgical services are offered by an increasing number of equine veterinary practices in North America. So-called "performance dentistry" includes factors relating to the horse's use of his mouth while being ridden or driven, and the correction of mouth-related problems that might hinder optimum performance.

An area of conflict between veterinarian and non-veterinarian dental care ("lay" dentistry) is the need for sedatives, which are given to a large number of horses for behavior control and to relax the mastication (chewing) muscles, according to Bayard Rucker, DVM, an equine veterinarian in Virginia who devotes most of his practice to dentistry. He also noted that the increased use of motorized equine dental tools hastens procedures, lessening the time that horses need to be sedated.

Rucker is active in educating veterinarians about dentistry and will instruct a course at the upcoming Northeast Veterinary Conference in August 2004. He recently developed a sophisticated computer-generated model of the equine skull, jaws, and teeth called "Digital Equus" to educate horse owners and veterinarians on the importance of a horse's oral health to his overall health and performance.

Approximately 350 individuals around the world, some of whom are veterinarians, are members of the International Association of Equine Dentistry, which offers a voluntary certification testing program with three levels of expertise (Basic Certification, Certified Advanced, and Certified Examiner). The 2004 IAED Annual Conference is scheduled for Sept. 24-26 in Fort Worth, Texas.

About the Author

Fran Jurga

Fran Jurga is the publisher of Hoofcare & Lameness, The Journal of Equine Foot Science, based in Gloucester, Mass., and Hoofcare Online, an electronic newsletter accessible at www.hoofcare.com. Her work also includes promoting lameness-related research and information for practical use by farriers, veterinarians, and horse owners. Jurga authored Understanding The Equine Foot, published by Eclipse Press and available at www.exclusivelyequine.com or by calling 800/582-5604.

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