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When does my horse need to see the dentist?
A vet or qualified equine dentist should be called in regularly to thoroughly examine and carry out any necessary work on your horse’s teeth. Horses aged 2-5 years should have their teeth checked prior to commencing work or at six monthly intervals. After the age of five years (when the horse has a full set of permanent teeth) all horses should have at least one annual dental check, more often if the horse is being fed significant amounts of concentrates as chew patterns and therefore tooth wear is different when eating concentrates. Remember that horses need a very highly fibrous diet for many reasons; correct tooth wear is only one of them.
The horse’s diet, mainly tough fibrous and often abrasive material, requires a lot of chewing and grinding. In normal situations the teeth of the horse are well equipped to cope with this diet. The top surface area of the teeth contains folds that help the horse to chew fibrous material. The teeth continuously erupt throughout the life of the horse in order to cope with what they evolved to eat. By five years old the horse has a full set of very large teeth. The roots of the molars (back) teeth are so large that they are often seen as bumps in the jaw line of the horse (usually the bottom jaw line and sometimes the upper jaw line with certain breeds). These bumps disappear as the teeth begin to wear inside the mouth and the teeth begin erupting on a continual basis.
Well-cared for domestic horses generally live for a lot longer than free living (wild and feral) horses. This means that their teeth have to last them for a lot longer too.
The teeth can develop sharp edges and uneven wear. If the horse’s ability to grind down food sufficiently is compromised for any reason, the enzymes and microbes of the gastrointestinal tract have a hard time continuing the digestive process and one of the results is a drop in condition. Often it is poor condition of the teeth that leads to starvation and premature death in free living horses.
Teeth problems can also cause behavioural problems as the horse attempts to alleviate any pain. Horses need regular dental care if they are to get the maximum benefit from their feed and perform well.
Potential problems include:
Some of the signs of dental problems include:
However some horses show hardly any if no outward signs even though they are experiencing extreme discomfort, so don’t wait for signs before doing anything. Schedule regular visits from your vet or qualified equine dentist.
For more information please see: http://www.equiculture.com.au/horse-care-and-welfare.html
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