We all like to treat our horses, but can stable and field licks damage his teeth — and can horses really get tooth decay? Here, we ask equine dental technician Penny Brownings for her advice.

It’s true that giving stable and field licks can be bad for your horse’s teeth. The licks you give your horse for treats are predominantly bound with sugar and sugar syrup.

We’re seeing an increased number of horses with tooth decay, due to the fact they’re being fed more sugary treats and are spending less time grazing as they would do naturally. This unnatural dietary change causes an imbalance in the pH of your horse’s teeth, which can cause dental caries (tooth decay). Studies are currently being carried out at Edinburgh University on the effects of pH components fed to your horse, with sugar being one of the main influencers.

I wouldn’t recommend feeding treats of any kind to your horse, they don’t need them. If you want to give him something to keep him entertained, use one of the following instead:

  • Himalayan salt lick on a string
  • Vegetables, such as parsnips and swedes
  • Carrots hidden in hay in a double-netted haynet, so he has to search to find them
  • Split hay into two hay nets, hanging one so it swings, and one in its usual place.

These are much healthier alternatives and will help prevent tooth decay in your horse.

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