Signs of Dental Discomfort

Can a rider or owner tell if a horse is having dental issues?
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Q. Is there a way that I, just a rider, can check my horse’s teeth to tell if there are any problems in her mouth?

Hille, Turkey

A. I’ll start by saying that without examining the inside of the horse’s mouth you cannot determine the health of the mouth. Now, that being said, there are things that can give you an idea of whether the horse is having problems.

Some of the outward signs that we see include horses that hold their heads to the side when they eat, pack feed in their cheeks, have odor or abnormal smell in their mouths, bloody discharge from the mouth, or excessive salivation. However, horses are pretty stoic animals, and I examine horses quite often with terrible teeth that aren’t showing many clinical signs, and I have other horses that show dramatic signs of discomfort but have very small things going on in their mouths

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Written by:

Jack Easley, DVM, MS, Dipl. ABVP (Equine), is a private equine practitioner serving the Central Kentucky area. While his practice provides all equine services, his passion of 35 years has been equine dentistry. He lectures and teaches worldwide, contributes to lay horse magazines and journals, and is the co-author of the three editions of the textbook Equine Dentistry.

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