February is National Pet Dental Health Month! It is a special month to remind clients of the importance of oral hygiene for their small and large animal companions! Horses are living into their 30’s these days and good dental care is essential for this longevity. Dental assessment and care starts the day that they are born! At birth, your veterinarian will evaluated your foal’s mouth to check for congenital defects, like a cleft palate. Early intervention with defects can help lead to a better quality of life for you foal.
Horses require YEARLY assessment of their mouths to keep with good oral care. Adolescent horses may be evaluated for the presence of “caps” (retained baby teeth) and wolf teeth. Depending on the age of the adolescent, it may be recommended to have caps and wolf teeth removed under sedation. Some horses need to start having their teeth “floated” or filed as young as a year of age. “Floating” of equine teeth always involves sedation to provide optimal assessment and treatment of the oral cavity. Horses tend to get sharp edges and hooks on their teeth which can be painful due to trauma of the cheeks and tongue. To prevent this trauma, your veterinarian will file down the sharp aspects of the teeth.
Dental “Floating” also involves an oral examination and not just filing of the teeth. The oral examination checks for: short or over grown teeth, loose teeth, abscessed teeth, fractured teeth, trauma to the soft tissue (cheek and tongue), and oral masses. Some abnormalities seen may even require dental x-rays.
Horses eat to live and live to eat! Good oral care allows a horse to efficiently digest their food, which leads to maintaining a good body condition score. It can also help with prevention of gastric ulcers; certain types of colic and some behavioral issues. If it has been over a year since your horse has had an oral examination, contact your vet today for an assessment.