Feeding the EOTRH Horse

Once healed, many horses that have had incisors removed due to EOTRH can consume relatively normal diets.

Photo: iStock

How to design a diet for horses suffering or recovering from this dental condition

Equine odontoclastic tooth resorption and hypercementosis, or EOTRH, can be a mouthful of trouble for horses, particularly those older than 15. Although first described in the veterinary literature in 2008, EOTRH has probably been around for some time. In the past decade, however, as emphasis on equine dental care increased, veterinarians collectively noticed this unique condition. 

The disease’s hallmark is resorption, or breakdown, of the incisor and canine teeth, including the tissue surrounding each tooth and the internal roots. Hypercementosis, or excessive production of cementum, which with enamel forms the tooth’s external surface, can occur simultaneously as the body attempts to stabilize the affected teeth. Other cells respond by creating extra cementum that eventually forces out the tooth and root. In severely affected horses, veterinarians surgically extract all diseased incisors to alleviate pain, infection from periodontal (affecting the gums and structures surrounding the teeth) disease, and ­inflammation.

Because anything affecting a horse’s teeth also ultimately affects his ability to consume food, we’ll discuss best practices for feeding EOTRH horses. For more background on this dental disease, see TheHorse.com/35688.

Dietary Links to EOTRH

Reseachers still don’t know what exactly causes hypercementosis in EOTRH-affected horses. However, factors associated with hypercementosis development in humans include functional stress and inflammation of the tooth root (Grier-Lowe et al., 2015). Age-induced strain on the periodontal ligaments, which anchor the teeth in their sockets, could potentially trigger EOTRH development, but not all horses that develop the disease are old. Other factors, including housing and behaviors such as cribbing, might also play a part.

In 2013 Ann Pearson, MS, DVM, and her colleagues at Reata Equine Veterinary Group, in Tucson, Arizona, pored over 12 years of clinic veterinary records looking for potential EOTRH risk factors. Some of the ones they identified include excessive dentistry needs, periodontal disease, pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID or equine Cushing’s disease), and equine metabolic syndrome (EMS). Surprisingly, age did not appear to be a factor.

Pearson also found that horses fed primarily alfalfa, which requires less chew time than a grass or mixed forage, with no access to pasture were more likely to develop EOTRH.

“The lack of chewing time and difference in elevation of the head will decrease the amount, time, and path of bathing the teeth and gums with saliva,” she says. Saliva helps remove food particles from the spaces between the teeth that can accumulate over time, leading to gum inflammation and eventually periodontal disease.

This article continues in the July 2017 issue of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. Learn more about feeding strategies for horses recovering from having a tooth removed to long-term feeding strategies for horses after recovery. Subscribe now and get an immediate download of this issue to continue reading.

About the Author

Kristen M. Janicki, MS, PAS

Kristen M. Janicki, a lifelong horsewoman, was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Sciences from the attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and later attended graduate school at the University of Kentucky, studying under Dr. Laurie Lawrence in the area of Equine Nutrition. Kristen began her current position as a performance horse nutritionist for Mars Horsecare, US, Inc., and Buckeye Nutrition, in 2010. Her job entails evaluating and improving the performance of the sport horse through proper nutrition.

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