How can I keep my horse's teeth healthy?

You can't really brush your horse's teeth, so what can you do to help maintain their condition? We asked Equine Dental Technician Gemma Lilly from The Donkey Sanctuary for her advice. 

Maintaining teeth condition

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The best advice would be to engage with the services of a qualified professional who will arrange to visit your animal a couple of times a year or so from approximately 12 months of age, but it should be noted that a preliminary oral examination should take place in foals to rule out conformational difficulties.

From about the age of two to two and a half years, we begin to see the deciduous teeth start to shed and be replaced by permanent dentition. 

While it's difficult for owners without a full-mouth speculum to assess the cheek teeth, efforts could be made to keep an eye on the incisor teeth while getting your animal used to having their mouth handled.

Owners are often alarmed when the incisors start to shed; frequently the teeth become discoloured at the root, appearing as though fractured and or the gingivae starts to bleed. 

While this may all be part of the process, a call to your qualified equine dental technician/vet will allay any doubt.

Signs of dental disease in horses

  • Changes in eating/feeding habits including inappetence (a veterinary emergency in ponies, miniature horses and donkeys)
  • Quidding
  • Dunking/dropping feed/forage into water
  • Drooling
  • Weight loss/poor body condition
  • Poor/changes in bitted behaviour including bridling
  • Halitosis
  • Nasal discharge (especially but not limited to one-sided, thick, yellow/green with/without offensive smell)
  • Masses/swellings around the head
  • Faecal fibre length; is a good indicator of dental efficiency

Please, do not rely on dental signs as an indicator of needing to engage with professional services; many horses will not show signs until dental disease is advanced and treatment is unlikely to be curable in these instances.

Qualified Equine Dental Technicians and vets may be found by contacting the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT) www.baedt.com

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