Signs Your Horse Needs a Dental Exam

Are your horse’s teeth bothering him? Here are some common signs to watch for.

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Signs Your Horse Needs a Dental Exam
Food packed between cheek teeth can cause bad breath. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Caroline N. Niederman

Equine injuries such as wounds or soft tissue swellings are typically easy to recognize. Problems that aren’t visible to the eye, however, can go unnoticed. Take dental issues, for example. These often go undetected because the cheek teeth can’t be readily seen and are dangerous to examine without proper equipment.

There are some subtle clinical signs, however, that can alert the owner about a dental or mouth problem, so it’s important he or she be on the lookout for those and schedule routine dental exams. A full examination requires sedating the horse, keeping his mouth open with a speculum, and using a strong light source and a dental mirror to visualize all of the cheek teeth. It also involves manually checking for loose teeth or other issues.

Some conditions are unique to either the growing or geriatric horse, while others can occur at any age. The following are the most commonly seen signs of dental problems and their possible causes

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Written by:

Caroline N. Niederman, VMD, owns Complete Equine Dental Maintenance, a mobile equine dental practice in Houston, Texas.

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