Throughout a horse’s life there are several important health checks that must be made on a regular basis to ensure their health is in tip top condition, including annual vaccinations, chiropractor assessments and dental checks. Dentistry is an incredibly vital part of equine veterinary medicine, and professionals in this field will tell you the importance of a comfortable, healthy mouth in your horse as it will greatly affect his behaviour and responsiveness, especially when ridden, not to mention his physical condition.
Horse’s teeth grow and change continually as the horse matures, and it is for this reason that a horse’s age can be determined by his teeth. In the wild, horses would keep their teeth flattened by chewing on tough material that would wear down any sharp edges or hooks. Despite great nutrition, including the roughage such as hay, domestic horses do not eat nearly enough material to correctly wear down the teeth, and can still encounter dental problems much the same as humans.
Sharp edges, irregular surfaces and misshapen teeth can cut into the gums or the side of the mouth, causing a great deal of pain and the first signs of any dental issues will be most likely be mistaken as bad behaviour. Horses that have loose teeth, wolf teeth, sharp edges, hooks and ridges may exhibit head tossing, drooling, foaming at the bit, or carrying the head to one side as they try to compensate for the discomfort in their mouth.
If the horse is struggling to eat you may also notice some quidding, where the food will fall from his mouth during and after eating, but if the dental problems have been continuing for quite some time the most obvious signs you will see will be in poor condition and weight loss. Your horse will be unable to get the full benefit from even the highest quality feed therefore the coat will become dull and lackluster, and there can be considerable muscle wastage in prolonged cases.
Horses that are showing any signs of pain, especially when bridled and ridden, need to be checked out by a qualified equine dentist of your veterinarian immediately to check the horse’s teeth for any abnormalities. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure, so the best course of action is to schedule regular dental checkups for your horse just as you would get his back checked. Horses that have their teeth examined and rasped on a regular basis are far less likely to require major extractions and surgery in the future, so get your equine companion checked out sooner rather than later.