Dental problems can cause horses to lose their balance

Published 5:51pm Wednesday, May 15, 2013

“This is the main reason I always wear these steel toed boots,” Zimmerman said smiling and pointing to his toes.

However, with the development of new equine anesthetics and more advanced dental equipment, like the full-mouth speculum, today’s dentists can safely perform more complete examinations.

The importance of maintaining a regime of dental check-ups is vital for a horse’s overall health. It’s also important to understand the natural changes in the way horse’s teeth wear. According to Zimmerman, the way a horse consumes grass while grazing in a field versus how their jaws move while chewing grain and hay in their stall, is clearly different. The mastication or chewing variations can cause their constantly growing teeth to veer off into sharp edges. These enamel points can cause irritation and even lacerations to the surrounding soft tissues of the mouth.

Horses with painful TMJ’s and active mouth sores begin to change the way they eat, by chewing on one side of their mouth, reducing their jaw pressure or even not eating all together. Zimmerman said horses with dental problems might receive only 20 to 30 percent of their daily nutritional requirements.

Not all dentists and veterinarians perform every examination on a horse when they visit a farm; so it is up to the owners and trainers to inform their healthcare provider of any noticeable changes occurring in their horses’ daily activities.

Signs of dental problems include:

• Weight loss

• Dropping grain while eating

• Skin and coat changes due to malnutrition

• Obvious signs of discomfort when taking the bit

• Ulcerations and lacerations on cheeks and tongue

• Visible sign of teeth wear including cracks and fractures

• Excessive drooling or swallowing before chewing

• Overall sluggishness and head bobbing while in forward motion

• Sudden changes in personality and performance

Editor's Picks