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Regular Dental Care Is Important Part of Horse's Health

Pet Column for the week of October 28, 1996

Related information:

Services - Dentistry

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
By Joseph Hahn
Information Specialist

As with humans, regular dental care is the key to a healthy mouth. The same goes for your
horse. But don't show up at your human dentist's clinic with your horse in tow. A licensed
veterinarian is the person to maintain your equine's choppers.

"Horses can have dental problems from birth to old age," says Dr. R.D. Scoggins, equine
Extension veterinarian retired from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine at
Urbana. "Horses' teeth continually erupt from their mouth until the day they die."

He stresses that doing dentistry on a horse is a veterinary procedure and should only be
done by a licensed veterinarian. While the procedure is very safe, it often requires the horse
to be sedated and should only be done by someone with the proper training and
experience. Dr. Scoggins recommends the following schedule for regular dental care:

From birth to 1-year of age -- as needed
From 1- to 6-years of age -- twice a year
From age six to approximately 13 -- once a year
From age 13 and older � twice a year

"Removal of retained deciduous (temporary) teeth, caps, wolf teeth extraction, and floating
sharp pointed teeth to enhance comfort are some of the more common dental problems in
young horses," states Dr. Scoggins. "While gingivitis and loose teeth are common for
geriatric horses."

To help determine if your horse is having problems, he recommends watching how the
horse eats. The things to watch out for include a head tilt, excessive food dribbling while
eating, and whole grain in the manure.

"Feed your horses as close to nature as possible to help prevent dental problems," explains
Dr. Scoggins. "Grazing is ideal, but primarily a forage diet with enough long stem grass hay
will also work. Having a mixed feed diet will diminish the chewing time and the amount of
wear on the teeth."

Dr. Scoggins recommends that owners have dental work performed on a horse before it
begins training. This will diminish training problems associated with pain due to teeth
problems. He also suggests performing dental work at least two weeks prior to a major
event so the horse can get used to the new feel in its mouth plus allow injuries to heal.

"After fixing a dental problem, a horse that is not eating well may have a tendency to
overeat," says Dr. Scoggins. "Because eating is more comfortable and it is using what it eats
more efficiently, a horse can get too fat or even develop colic after dental work. Reduce the
grain portion of the diet and gradually reintroduce it as needed."

For more information about horse dentistry, contact your local equine veterinarian.