As with all animals the mouth starts it all. Dental health is a key factor to overall health of the horse. Horses have ‘continuously erupting teeth’ which means that they grow throughout their life, similar to rabbits.
Dental exams should begin at an early age. Newborn foals should have an exam performed by a veterinarian to ensure proper alignment of incisors or congenital defects of the lips or palate, early treatment or repair may save the horse a lifetime of oral disease and pain.
Young horses shed their deciduous premolars over a few years between 2-5 years of age. They should have exams routinely every 6 months (depending on level of training and work) to help predict or solve problems early in life and dental development.
All horses should have a dental exam prior to training to allow for the identification and correction of any problems that may affect their performance. Sharp enamel points will cause discomfort as the bit or noseband will pinch the gums against the teeth and cause mixed signals with the bit.
Not all wolf teeth cause problems in horses, but numerous issues can be caused by them. Wolf teeth often interfere with the smoothing of the first cheek teeth and the bit placement within a horse’s mouth. These teeth are often extracted early on to prevent the development of issues.
Signs owners should monitor are often subtle signs including weight loss, dropping feed, tenderness on the bit and head tossing to name a few. Any changes to your horse’s normal behaviour should be noted and discussed with your veterinarian.
Written by: Mayfield Veterinary Clinic