Remember Benefits Of Dental Checkup For Your Horse
By Bob Keating
STILLWATER--Horse owners should remember the prudence of a once-a-year dental checkup--no, not for them, but for their horses.
Teeth care is an aspect of horse management that's often overlooked, reminds Bruce Peverley, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service area livestock specialist at Claremore.
A horse should be checked for uneven teeth wear as a yearling and at least once a year thereafter, he advises. A horse with a tendency toward more teeth problems may require dental attention two or more times per year.
Proper teeth care benefits both the horse and owner. A well-functioning mouthful of teeth can allow better utilization of feed while chewing, can reduce feed expense, can help maintain better condition and general health, and can improve responsiveness to a bit.
Most equine teeth problems are hidden from sight, since the molars used to grind feed substances into smaller particles are located along both the upper and lower jawbones, Peverley points out.
A horse grinds feed with both a side-to-side and an up-and-down chewing motion, and upper and lower teeth have a slightly offset configuration, he notes. Also, the lower jaw is slightly narrower than the upper jaw.
"The natural design creates opportunities for tooth edges to be left out of the feed grinding process," Peverley says. "On the upper teeth, the outside edge toward the jaw will be the unused edge. On the bottom teeth, the inside edge toward the tongue will be unused."
A horse that develops uneven grinding surfaces on its teeth will develop some inefficiency in grinding its feed. The smaller the particle size into which feed is ground, the more surface area that becomes available for digestive juices to attack. This improves feed digestion.
Also, over time unused edges will become sharp and, in some cases, elongation of the tooth edges will occur. That can create cuts in the cheeks and gums, and sometimes can produce sores and ulcers. Infections of the sores also can develop.
Peverley advises that a horse with teeth problems can be seen dropping grain from its mouth, holding its head sideways while eating or, in more severe cases, appearing to be reluctant to eat.
A horse also may display some reluctance to carrying a bit, or may become less responsive to a bridle.
Most equine dental problems can be treated by a process called "floating the teeth." The relatively simple and inexpensive practice, performed by a veterinarian, removes the sharp edges from the molars along the upper and lower jaws.
Just like dental work for humans, proper teeth maintenance or treatment for a horse can be well worth the effort.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Oklahoma State University for allowing us to provide you with this information.
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