Older Horses: Dental Problems

The type and severity of age-related dental problems often are determined by the type of dental care the horse has had during its lifetime.
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As a horse ages, there is an ongoing wear and tear process that slowly, but steadily, erodes the animal’s ability to be as productive and athletic as he was during earlier years. Nowhere is this more evident than with his teeth.

The bad news is that, in the past, little attention was paid to equine dental work and often horses ended their lives in misery, with a set of worn-out teeth that were unable to properly masticate (chew) hay or grain. The result, in many cases, was continuous pain and, quite often, malnutrition. Horses can literally starve to death because of teeth that can no longer do their job.

The good news is that attitudes and approaches have changed. More and more horse owners have become aware that good dental care is a key component in keeping a horse fit and productive and ensuring that he is able to consume adequate nutrition even in his later years.

Because there has been a change in attitude and focus of horse owners, increasing numbers of veterinarians are making dental care a key part of their practices, and others are concentrating solely on equine dental work as a specialty practice

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Les Sellnow was a prolific freelance writer based near Riverton, Wyoming. He specialized in articles on equine research, and operated a ranch where he raised horses and livestock. He authored several fiction and nonfiction books, including Understanding Equine Lameness and Understanding The Young Horse. He died in 2023.

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