Despite veteran horses being more prone to teeth becoming loose, missing or worn, a horse with poor dentition isn’t necessarily older. Horses can suffer with diastemas (abnormal gaps in the horse’s teeth) at any age. In turn, this can prevent the horse from consuming essential fibre required for a healthy gut and result in the horse losing weight and condition. This can make finding horse feeds that is containing all the necessary nutrients in a form the horse can manage to eat, more of a challenge for the horse owner. Fortunately, we have put some tips together to help you keep your horse with poor dentition in good health.
Signs of Dental Issues
As it is often the case that poor dentition results in weight loss, it’s imperative that you look out for any signs or problems. The most obvious visual sign that there is a problem with your horse’s teeth, is if they struggle to eat. If you notice chewed up balls of forage at the bottom of the hay net or quidding, then this could indicate that your horse has poor dentition. Other signs can include:
- Foul smelling breath
- Pain when chewing (this could indicate a tooth abscess)
- Weight loss
- Colic or choke (contact your vet immediately if your horse shows signs of either of these)
What are Diastemas?
Diastemas are abnormal gaps between the six cheek teeth on each arcade and side of the mouth. These gaps can get food stuck in them which gets packed down and can lead to further issues. There are two types of diastemas; open diastemas and valve/closed diastemas. Open diastemas are when there is an abnormal gap between two teeth. Valve/closed diastemas are a result of the biting surface of the teeth joining together, forming a triangular shaped gap. Food gets packed in the gap and can result in the teeth rotting over time. In more severe cases, this can lead to infection in the gums too
High Fibre Diet
If horses are unable to consume as much food as they require it usually means they consume less energy than they need. When feeding your horse with poor dentition it’s important that you provide your horse with fibre in a form they can chew. If horses are struggling to chew long length fibre forage such as hay or haylage, opt for short chopped fibre feeds instead. If your horse can’t manage short chopped forage then feeding a soaked fibre feed is ideal. The soft, mushy texture makes it easier for them to chew and digest.
Alongside fibre, you can give your horse a digestive supplement containing ingredients such as prebiotics and yeast. These help to establish a healthy population of microbes in the gut which are essential for digesting fibre.
Regular Dental Care
Regardless of their workload, all horses and ponies should have their teeth regularly checked by a vet or qualified equine dental technician.
Ideally, horses/ponies should have their teeth checked every 6 months. This is because a vet or equine dental technician can identify any conformational abnormalities early on, thereby helping to reduce the risk of any bigger dental issues later on in the horses’ life. If you notice any abnormal behaviour when your horse is eating then don’t hesitate in getting your dentist or vet out sooner to check them over.
For more information, contact your vet or speak to a professional equine dental technician. Alternatively, for further advice on what to feed your horse with dental issues, speak to an equine nutritionist.