• bay of islands veterinary service, kaikohe, kawakawa, kerikeri, paihia, waipapa, horse, equine
  • bay of islands veterinary service, kaikohe, kawakawa, kerikeri, paihia, waipapa, horse, equine
  • bay of islands veterinary service, kaikohe, kawakawa, kerikeri, paihia, waipapa, horse, equine
  • bay of islands veterinary service, kaikohe, kawakawa, kerikeri, paihia, waipapa, horse, equine
  • bay of islands veterinary service, northland, new zealand, foal, horse care, grooming
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Lifestyle animal care, Bay of Islands Vets, Kaikohe, Kerikeri, Kawakawa, Paihia and Waipapa

Lifestyle

Info & Advice

HORSE CARE

 

 

Equine Dentistry

Horse tooth care is a commonly overlooked part of routine health care. Every horse should have its’ teeth checked at least once a year. Your horse may have sharp enamel points and ulcerated cheeks and not give you any indication of a problem.
You may be suspicious of a problem if the horse tosses its head or displays other evasive behaviours when ridden. Tooth problems can result in a thin horse or even colic. If your horse drops a lot of feed when eating you can be sure it has a problem.

Horse teeth

An adult horse can have up to 44 teeth in its mouth. They have twelve incisor teeth; six top and bottom. They can have up to four canine teeth; most males have four, mares have none or just small ones. Some horses have very small wolf teeth just in front of their upper and rarely the lower cheek teeth; these are often removed. Horses should have 24 cheek teeth, six upper and six lower on each side.



Bay of Islands Veterinary Services - Horse Dentistry

Tooth eruption

Horses, just like other species, have deciduous teeth that are replaced with adult teeth as they mature. This process occurs between the ages of 2 to 5 years and can at times cause discomfort for the horse. This is also the time when most horses are broken in and begin their basic training. Tooth problems can interfere with training and can be the cause of a number of problems with ridden horses.
IMAGE: Severe cuts to the cheeks from the bit pushing the cheek against the teeth. (Photo: Oliver Liyou, Equine Veterinary Dental Services)

Teeth problems

Sharp enamel points
Because of the angle of the horses teeth and the constant grinding motion of chewing all horses will develop sharp enamel points along the edges of their cheek teeth. These sharp points commonly cause painful ulcers on the sides of the tongue and insides of the cheeks. These can make chewing uncomfortable and can be painful when tack such as a bridle or head collar contacts the outsides of the cheeks.

Bay of Islands Veterinary Services - Horse Dentistry

LEFT IMAGE: Ulceration of cheeks from sharp enamel points. (Photo: Oliver Liyou)

Bay of Islands Veterinary Services - Horse DentistryBay of Islands Veterinary Services - Horse Dentistry

 

LEFT IMAGE: Before: Sharp enamel points on cheek teeth (Photo: Oliver Liyou)

RIGHT IMAGE: After: Sharp enamel points removed by floating (Photo: Oliver Liyou)

Overgrowths

Bay of Islands Veterinary Services - Horse DentistryIt is common for horses to develop sharp hooks or ramps on the front edge of the front cheek teeth. When pressure is applied with a bit the cheeks are pulled back against these points which can be painful and result in resistance and head tossing. If hooks or ramps have developed at the front of the mouth, chances are there will be similar overgrowths on the very back teeth; these can damage the tissues at the back of the mouth. Hooks and ramps on teeth interfere with chewing action and make flexion at the poll uncomfortable. These overgrowths can be reduced and rounded greatly improving chewing action and the horses comfort when ridden.
IMAGE: Severe hook causing ulceration of the cheek. Note the wolf tooth just in front of it. (Photo: Oliver Liyou)

Bay of Islands Veterinary Services - Horse Dentistry
If the cheek teeth are not erupting at the same rate throughout the mouth overgrowths will develop in one or more teeth along the line of cheek teeth; usually due to a damaged or missing tooth. This will interfere with the proper chewing action and can lead to weight loss and possibly colic. It will also make it uncomfortable for the horse to flex at the poll when ridden. Overgrowths must be reduced gradually as removing too much at once can expose the tooth pulp and kill the tooth.
IMAGE: A geriatric mouth with overgrowth of teeth. (Photo: Oliver Liyou)

 

Wolf teeth

Wolf teeth are very small cheek teeth that sit in front of the first regular cheek tooth. Not all horses have them and some are so small they may be lost before they are ever noticed. They should have erupted by six years of age if they are going to. They are usually in the upper jaw but it is possible to have them in the lower jaw. They may be a source of discomfort to the horse when ridden with a bit as the cheek is pulled back against them. In most cases it is advisable to remove them especially if the horse does show any resistance to the bit. They are just small teeth, it doesn’t take long to remove them and the horse should be fine to ride within a week.

Bay of Islands Veterinary Services - Horse DentistryBay of Islands Veterinary Services - Horse Dentistry
 
IMAGE LEFT: (Photo: Oliver Liyou)
IMAGE RIGHT: A wolf tooth in front of the first cheek tooth. (Photo: Oliver Liyou)

Weight Loss

The most common causes of underweight horses are inadequate feeding, parasitism and tooth problems. Tooth problems are often the biggest cause in older horses but can also occur in young horses.

Age related problems

Bay of Islands Veterinary Services - Horse DentistryThe teeth erupt fastest in young horses and slow from 9 years of age. Problems should be addressed while the horse is still young and rapid eruption allows for rapid correction of problems; left unchecked they can lead to permanent problems with the horses teeth and will ultimately shorten its’ life span. Unfortunately there are limits to what we can do to help old horses with bad teeth as they have very little reserve crown left to erupt. They may even need teeth extracting as loose teeth are a source of pain and possible bone infection. It is far better to maintain your horses’ teeth throughout life; you will save a fortune on buying gum nuts when it gets older.

IMAGE: Geriatric mouth with massive overgrowths at the front and back of the mouth. (Photo: Oliver Liyou)

 


Routine dental examination

Bay of Islands Veterinary Services - Horse DentistryI recommend every horse should be seen at least once a year. Horses under five years should be seen every six months. I may recommend more frequent visits if your horse has a bad problem.

A routine dental generally takes about a half hour, it will be longer if there are wolf teeth needing extracting or other issues that need correcting. I routinely sedate all horses unless they are very relaxed; with the rare exception it is impossible to properly examine and treat the back teeth in a horses mouth without sedation. Old horses particularly need a lot of sedation with extra pain relief as old loosening teeth can be uncomfortable when floated (rasped). I use a local anaesthetic nerve block for wolf teeth extraction.

IMAGE: Local anaesthetic block before wolf tooth extraction (Photo: Oliver Liyou)

You can book a horse dental any time by calling our Waipapa branch. I am happy to visit even if you have just one horse.

Hilary Shaw BVSc, BAgSc, Bay of Islands Veterinary Services Ltd


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