November 2019 - Equine Welfare
No animal lover wants to hear or see abuse, but it’s a subject that we are often faced. Join us in November as our expert, Dr. Alina Vale answers your questions concerning equine welfare, neglect and abuse.
Click here to read this month's questions and answers.
- Based on canine treatment of some deep pockets with doxycycline gel, I am wondering if this can be used in horses to help clear up gingivitis. I have a 27-year-old Arabian that underwent five extractions a few years ago. I am rinsing his mouth daily with Listerine then flushing to keep the bacteria down. My other 22-year-old has some cavities and I wonder about the option of fillings to increase tooth longevity. (View Answer)
I generally find gingivitis to be a secondary problem in the horse---that is, I've rarely seen it as the main problem. Usually, there is an anatomic problem with the teeth that allows food to accumulate in the pocket between the gums and the tooth. I have occasionally used doxirobe gel in the horse, generally in cases where I've identified a periodontal pocket, cleaned it out, and not found it necessary to extract the adjacent tooth.
In the case of your 27-year-old with five extractions, I'd be curious to know if there is currently any gingivitis, or if the previous extractions have fixed that problem. For your 22-year-old, cavities can be filled in a similar manner as in people---by drilling and cleaning out the cavity, then filling. However, when considering the premolars and molars in the horse, for various structural reasons, the process is more difficult, and should not be considered a permanent solution---many of them needed to be replaced every few years. Reece Myran, DVM, Pooler, GA.
- I have had my horses' teeth floated by both manual and mechanical methods. It seems that the mechanical method is more abrasive than manual and as my horses are now entering into their senior years (16 and 18) I am wondering which method would be best. Am I being overly concerned about this? (View Answer)
The short answer is that I have used both methods extensively, and both ways can be used correctly (or abused for that matter). I would suggest that you allow the veterinarian with dental experience who takes care of your horse's mouth to use whatever method they feel is the most appropriate for the situation. Reece Myran, DVM, Pooler, GA.
- I have an 8-year-old Arabian gelding that slobbers his grain still, after being examined by an equine veterinarian dental specialist twice. Any explanations? (View Answer)
My guess is if your veterinarian has examined your horse twice, there is no pathology in your horse's mouth.
Even though dropping grain is often cited as a sign of dental disease, I have found that to be very unreliable over the years. My personal opinion is simply that the horse's mouth is not designed to eat small pellets/grains, and especially if they eat fast, some will fall out of their mouths. The one thing I would suggest is feeding your horse over a rubber mat (or something similar) to keep him from ingesting a bunch of sand/dirt when he picks up what he has slobbered. Reece Myran, DVM, Pooler, GA.
- The last time my horse's teeth were done with power tools he began quidding. What would have caused this? Also how can an owner know if too much tooth surface is removed? Is it considered in general that power tools are better than manual? (View Answer)
As to the difference between manual vs. powered tools: either method can be used correctly or incorrectly--the real issue is the knowledge/skill/experience of the operator. Horse owners, quite honestly, can't really tell if too much dental tissue has been removed. If your horse was quidding after dental work, he may have had too much dental tissue removed, which is a common finding in my experience. I would strongly encourage you to the following:
1) Only allow a veterinarian to perform any dental work on your horse and;
2) Don't be afraid to question them about their dental experience/training. Reece Myran, DVM, Pooler, GA.
- Is it true the more frequently a horse's teeth are floated the faster they grow? I purchased my Tennessee Walking horse when he was five, and had his teeth floated at 18-month intervals per the veterinarian's recommendation. However, by the 12-month mark, he had sharp points cutting into his tongue and cheeks. I then began having them done every 12 months, but then he started showing signs of sharp molars at eight months! I recently learned that horses don't have unlimited teeth growth; sooner or later they'll run out. Last year my equine dentist and I agreed to push it back to a year. My guy is now 15-years-old and I'm concerned about the amount of tooth he has left. Have I floated his teeth too often? (View Answer)
I don't know of any hard science to support the idea that more frequent floating will increase eruption rate. From your description, however, I would fully expect to see a 5-year-old developing sharp areas quickly, as this age range is a time of rapid tooth eruption in general. Keep in mind, development of sharp areas on the molars/premolars is completely natural! The horse's mouth is well designed for chewing grass, and those sharp areas are necessary for proper cutting of the forage, and transfer to the back of the mouth for swallowing. Within reason, removal of some of those sharp areas may be necessary (especially for ridden horses), but I would urge you to continue having your horse's mouth examined yearly, and be examined only by your veterinarian. There are not (for better or worse) any real guidelines for how often is "too often". Your best bet is to trust the judgement of your veterinarian. Reece Myran, DVM, Pooler, GA.
- My equine dentist somewhat jokingly mentioned my mare should be flossing more. However, I understood his point that horses, as well as humans, get stuff stuck between teeth, which isn't good. How much of a problem is this, and is there anything an owner can do to help? (View Answer)
The horse's premolars and molars are set up such that they actually function as "1 tooth"---that is, in the normal state, the gaps between those teeth are so tight that even if you tried to floss them, you would be unable! (unlike our human teeth). Where the horse can run into problems is when there is a pathological situation that opens up a gap between these teeth, allowing feed to accumulate. The vast majority of these problems are caused by a mechanical issue / incorrect alignment of the molars/premolars. If left uncorrected, serious periodontal disease can develop, often leading to the necessity of extracting teeth. The best way for you as an owner to stay on top of this is to allow your veterinarian to do yearly examinations of your horse's mouth. He/she is the person most qualified to recognize a problem and figure out the solution. Reece Myran, DVM, Pooler, GA.
- My 12-year-old OTTB gelding had single nasal discharge last Spring a week or two after having his teeth floated by a veterinarian. It took three rounds of antibiotics to clear and being a new owner, I didn’t know if it was allergies or something else. This year, the stable changed equine dentists and through discussion, we decided to X-ray him. He has a blunted nerve root on an upper molar (whichever is the oldest tooth) and it was recommended that we extract it prophillactly before it causes trouble again. I was all in at first but the possible risks have me concerned - fractured tooth, opening the sinus, prolonged lateral anesthesia. Now the question - please discuss the harm in waiting for another episode, would another abscess make the tooth easier to remove? (View Answer)
The scenario you describe is actually very common, in which (usually) an upper tooth (usually the first molar), develops what is called a periapical abscess. Since the roots of this tooth are close to one of the sinus', often the first outward sign will be nasal drainage. I'll need to avoid giving you any specific recommendations, but here are some generalities:
1) I've had many cases where a chronic sinus infection lingers for long enough that it becomes---if not permanent---at least semi-permanent. I would urge you to definitively treat this situation sooner rather than later (ie, not antibiotics alone).
2) There are certainly risks associated with tooth extraction, but those can be mitigated by proper planning and experience. Make sure that your veterinarian is very comfortable with the procedure---if not, they will certainly be willing to refer you to a veterinarian who is. Reece Myran, DVM, Pooler, GA.
- My mare just had her teeth floated in February. Now she seems to be chewing some of her hay, coastal or alfalfa, and dropping it. I notice a few of these wads after I have given her flakes of hay. However, the next day, those wads of hay are gone, which means she ate them. What would cause this behavior and is this a teeth issue? (View Answer)
In a previous answer to a question, I pointed out that dropping of pellets/grain is not, (in my experience), a reliable indicator of dental problems. However, dropping of forage (hay or grass) usually IS a sign of a problem. There are so many possibilities that it probably doesn't make sense for me to list them all here: my best answer for your situation is the following:
1) I'm suspicious there is something not normal in your horse's mouth, and
2) have your veterinarian examine her mouth in the near future. Reece Myran, DVM, Pooler, GA.
- Is it possible for a yearling colt to have teeth problems? I have a Quarter horse yearling that is a very slow eater and is only half way done with his creep feed by the time his buddy (another yearling) is done. His full brother also eats slowly. Could this be a dental issue? (View Answer)
The short answer is absolutely yes: though I don't often see dental issues in a horse this young, they certainly occur. The good thing about finding a dental problem at this young age is that oftentimes, the problem can be corrected, as none of the permanent teeth are in place yet. Usually in an older horse, I have to settle for fixing a problem the best I can, knowing that I will have to manage an abnormal mouth for the rest of the horse's life. You may be able to avoid that outcome by addressing any dental issues right now.
All that being said, there are numerous explanations for a slow-eating yearly, with a dental problem just one of those possibilities. Your most important step is to have your veterinarian examine the yearling. They will be able to take a "global" view of the situation, and be able to zero in on likely issues. Reece Myran, DVM, Pooler, GA.