Entries in University of Munich (1)

Friday
Dec022011

DENTAL CARE FOR YOUR HORSE

Skull of a young horse shows how far the long cheek teeth extend into the jaw.

Skull of a young horse shows how far the long cheek teeth extend into the jaw.
(Photo : Wayne Dale - Equine Dentist)

The Importance of Regular Dental Care for your Horse.
From the Horse's Mouth!

Regular dental checks and floating of your horses teeth is recommended, at least annually, to ensure that your horse is not uncomfortable when eating or being ridden and ensuring maximum digestibility of your feed and general good health.

Gauteng based Equine Dentist, Wayne Dale, gives us some background on horses' teeth and illustrates a few problems that can arise :

Ensuring that your horse's teeth are in a good condition should be an important part of any horse owner's routine. A set of bad teeth can impair the performance, comfort and well being of a horse immensely.

In the wild, horses would roam about for most of the day, whilst grazing rougher grasses, leaves of trees, bushes and assorted vegetation using their jaws extensively. While masticating or chewing they would continually look around for any danger because they are animals of flight.

Domesticated horses' teeth wear differently to wild horses because they are fed softer grasses, cereals, grain, pellets, etc and are kept in stables. They are fed in bins either raised off the floor or on the floor and hay nets hanging from a wall, with no need to look around whilst chewing.

Horses have hypsodont teeth (these teeth have high or deep crowns and short roots, and continue erupting throughout life). They thus need opposing wear to keep them in check. As a result of domestication, eating softer foods, and the way that they eat, horses do not have their teeth worn down naturally and can develop focal overgrowths, hooks and ramps.

Unmaintained teeth develop malocclusions (abnormal and uneven wear), shortening the horses' life, and affecting the comfort while chewing.

Uneven tooth wear may cause development of sharp edges, reducing chewing, and thus digestive efficiency, interfering with jaw motion, and in extreme cases, cutting the tongue or cheeks. This makes being ridden very painful and can lead to disobediences and inadequate performance.

Sharp enamel points develop on the outside of upper cheek teeth (buccal edges) and inside of lower cheek teeth (lingual).

"Hooks" can occur on the front (anterior) of the first upper cheek teeth #106 and #206.

"Ramps" occur at the back (posterior) of the last lower molars #311 and #411.

Some notable dental problems :

  • Step mouth - when one cheek tooth grows longer than others on the jaw. This happens when there is no opposing wear from an either missing or broken opposing tooth, located on the opposite jaw.
  • Wave mouth - at least two of the cheek teeth are higher than others. When viewed from the side the grinding surfaces produce a wave-like pattern rather than a straight line. This can lead to periodontal disease and excessive wear of some of the teeth, eventually leading to discomfort or trouble with mastication.
  • Shear mouth - the grinding surfaces of the cheek teeth are severely sloped on each individual tooth. The inner side of the teeth are much higher or lower than the outer side. This results in an angle of 60 - 75 degrees, as opposed to the normal 15 degree angle seen on most horses. Chewing motion is severely affected.

Other problems :

  • Abscesses
  • Loose teeth
  • Infected teeth
  • Cracked teeth
  • Retained deciduous teeth
  • Plaque build up
  • Wolf teeth (should be removed)
  • Retained caps (should be removed)

Symptoms of dental problems could include :

  • Dull coat, weight loss and loss of condition
  • Quidding (dropping feed from the mouth) or chewing with open mouth
  • Turning head from side to side while chewing
  • Excessive salivation while eating, blood in saliva
  • Foul smell from mouth or nose
  • Draining of abscess from the jaw
  • Discharge from the nostril
  • Undigested feed in manure
  • Colic
  • Facial swelling

The following problems, during riding, could possibly be due to teeth issues :

  • Head tossing
  • Difficulty cantering or performing flying changes
  • Tilting head or difficulty bending
  • Refusal to collect
  • Bucking
  • Difficulty in getting the horse "on the bit"
  • Gaping the mouth

In a recent study done by Kelleyerin Clabaugh, DVM, at the University of Munich, all the horses in the study were able to chew feed more thoroughly after flotation. It is recommended that owners have a veterinary dental practitioner provide routine dental care before a horse begins displaying signs of discomfort or difficulty chewing. The resulting increased digestibility means greater conversion of feed to energy and - ideally - reduced feed bills.

For all horses over the age of five, veterinarians suggest an annual oral examination to identify enamel points prior to horses developing further dental disease, while younger horses should have their teeth checked every six months. As dental care is important not just for maintaining weight and comfort but also for ensuring a horse is able to perform at his best, the "right" time to float a horse's teeth might be sooner than you think.

As they say: "prevention is better than cure".

www.horse-dentist.co.za

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