Equine Dental Care 101

Equine Dental Care 101

Young horses should have a dental exam twice a year, and mature horses should be examined annually, unless the veterinarian recommends more frequent evaluations.

Photo: Kevin Thompson/The Horse

One of the many responsibilities of horse ownership is providing your horse with proper dental care. Cleet Griffin, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, clinical associate professor of Equine Field Services at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said regular dental check-ups will protect your horse’s overall health, comfort, and well-being.

“Important dental procedures for horses include an oral examination and floating, the process of smoothing sharp enamel points on the teeth,” Griffin said. “Horses between 1 and 5 years old should have a dental exam twice a year, and mature horses should be examined once a year,” unless the animal’s veterinarian recommends more frequent evaluations.

Regular dental check-ups are the best way to protect your horse’s health, but sometimes oral health concerns, such as broken teeth or periodontal disease, can arise between appointments. In this case, more frequent exams and treatments might be necessary.

Griffin said some signs of dental disease in horses include slobbering more than usual, having difficulty chewing hay, and a foul odor coming from the mouth. If your horse is showing these signs, contact your veterinarian.

Additionally, other threats to your horse’s dental health can arise, such as cribbing, the act of biting down on a fixed object and gulping in air.

“Cribbing can cause excessive wear of the incisor teeth,” Griffin said. “However, it doesn’t generally interfere with eating and chewing. It can be destructive to stall panels, fence rails, and buckets where the horse bites down, though.”

Griffin added that it’s unclear why some horses begin to crib, but the general consensus is that the behavior could be a horse’s attempt to pacify stress resulting from boredom, inadequate roughage intake, or confinement.

As a horse owner, it is your responsibility to take care of your horse’s teeth so they can live a long, healthy life. Be sure to give your horse a reason to smile by scheduling its next dental check-up today.

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