Learn to Recognize Your Horse's Dental Problems
Horses with dental problems may show obvious signs, such as pain or irritation, or they may show no noticable signs at all. This is because some horses simply adapt to their discomfort. For this reason, regular dental examinations, at least annually, are essential to your horse's health.
It is important to catch dental problems early. If a horse starts behaving abnormally, dental problems should be considered as a potential cause. Waiting too long may increase the difficulty of remedying certain conditions or even make treatment impossible. According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), the following indicators of dental problems will help you know when to seek veterinary attention for your horse:
- Loss of feed from mouth while eating, difficulty with chewing, or excessive salivation.
- Loss of body condition.
- Large or undigested feed particles (long stems or whole grains) in manure.
- Head tilting or tossing, bit chewing, tongue lolling, fighting the bit or resisting bridling.
- Poor performance, such as lugging in the bridle, being stiff to one side, failing to turn or stop, even bucking.
- Foul odor from the mouth or nostrils, or traces of blood from the mouth.
- Nasal discharge or swelling of the face, jaw or mouth tissues.
Oral exams should be an essential part of an annual physical examination by a veterinarian. Every dental exam provides the oppurtunity to perform routine prevenative dental maintenance. Mature horses should get a thorough dental exam at least once a year, and horses 2-5 years old should be examined twice yearly. Foals need to be examined at their first wellness exam after birth to check for abnormal bite alignment. Early identification will allow appropriate care to minimize the impact of bite abnormalities that impact the quality of your horse's life.
For more information about proper dental care, the office has "Dental Care: The Importance of Maintaining the Health of Your Horse's Mouth," a brouchure provided by the AAEP in conjunction with Educational PArtner Bayer Healthcare-Animal Health Division. Additional information is available on the AAEP's website at www.aaep.org/horseowner.
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