[Guest Blog] 8 Tips for Caring for Your Horse’s Teeth

Did you know…

+ A horse’s teeth are in use more than 18 hours a day, for a minimum 40,000 chewing motions.
+ This amount of usage results in the teeth being worn down by as much as 2-3mm per year.
+ In the first two weeks of life, your foal will erupt 16 deciduous (baby) teeth.
+ By the time the foal is a yearling, he has erupted 24 to 30 teeth.
+ The adult horse has between 36 and 44 teeth; male horses have four additional canines.



For most us, we can’t begin to fathom chewing for even an hour or two a day, let alone 18+ hours, yet this is simply part of the nature of a horse. However, it is this excessive use of their teeth, that results in so many horses having problems as they age. Adding to the problem, is that many domesticated horses wear bridles daily and have a diet that is high in concentrates. Consequently, our horse’s teeth are forming sharper edges, developing eating problems and dealing with discomfort.

So, what can we, as horse lovers, do to minimize dental problems for our horses? Here are 8 tips from the pros for taking care of our horse’s teeth.

1. At minimum, have annual checkups by a qualified equine dental technician. It is advisable to get them checked every 6 months for youngsters, older horses, or horses that have dental issues.
2. Be sure that your horse’s diet contains plenty of good quality long fiber. Horses who live in the wild are not as prone to their teeth forming sharp tips because of the larger amount of coarse grains and grasses.
3. Monitor your horse(s) for any signs of discomfort. Some of these signals include swelling along the jaw-line or cheek; sores and swelling around the mouth; head tossing; spilling food from the mouth; deliberately dropping partially chewed food; chewing more slowly than normal; or, favoring one side of the mouth. 

4. Every time you bridle your horse, take the time to check his incisors, front molars and gums. Should you notice something odd, call your vet rather than saddling up.
5. Because horse teeth are always growing, they often do so at different rates thus creating an uneven bite and edges. Talk to your vet about filing (aka, floating) your horse’s teeth. The floating will even out their bite, as well as prevent infections and other concerns. It should be noted that according to Horsewyse Magazine there are no nerves in the horse’s teeth so floating does not cause any pain.
6. Watch for extra teeth which come in on the top of the mouth in between the front teeth and back molars, called “wolf teeth” or “tushes”; these teeth develop in as many as 80% of horses. While for many horses, these teeth are not bothersome and will eventually fall out, some horses may need a specialized bit or require that the teeth be removed by an equine dentist. 

7. Be open to change. As your horse ages, it is often necessary to change your horse feed to hay cubes or pellets that can be soften with water so that it is easier for them to eat.
8. If you plan to train your two-year-old horse, then have the baby teeth, called caps, removed before beginning the process.

With preventative care and frequent visits with the vet you can keep your horse’s teeth in good condition. Whether you are training your horse for dressage or just enjoying the pleasure of riding, you want your horse to be happy and healthy for years to come.

Sources:

Essential Dental Care for Horses
Routine healthcare for horses



Josh and Liz live outside of Atlanta and currently split their time between their animals and business, Wild Cow - they hope to move to greener pastures soon!


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