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Equine Dentistry

One of the many routine health care rituals horse owners need to keep at the top of their list is annual dental exams and tooth floating (filing). This should be done by their veterinarian or an equine dental technician recommended by their veterinarian. Horses’ teeth, unlike humans continue to grow throughout their lifetime.

As molars and premolars grow, they tend to develop very sharp points that can painfully wound the cheeks and tongue, making bitting and riding unpleasant for both horse and rider. By having these points filed down or “floated”, it can help eliminate problems associated with these kinds of injuries.

Horses’ highly specialized teeth accommodate the grinding of plant material that is natural, basic, and necessary to their diet.

Equines tend to have a more side-to-side action in order to properly grind and process food than humans do. If severe points are present, this grinding action is restricted and the horse cannot chew properly. Evidence of this is seen when a horse will drop much of the food from its mouth when chewing. This can also inhibit the ‘fuel efficiency’ of the animal and cause an increase in the feed bill to the owner. Also, when the dental care is neglected, the horse will lose weight, look unthrifty, and develop signs of disease that follows this chronic weakened state.

Horses with neglected teeth have higher incidences of weight loss, esophageal obstruction (choke), colic, parasitism, infections, and behavioral problems. A horse in this condition due to the lack of routine dental care is showing outward signs of unacceptable neglect.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends dental exams and floating be performed every year for most horses. Those with special needs, youngsters and oldsters, may require more frequent attention. The dental exam should be included as part of your horse’s annual physical examination. Your veterinarian can help you form a dental plan to best suit the needs of your horse.

Unfortunately, as good as we think we are to our horses, many of our horses are dying because well-meaning people who are involved with the management of these animals do not understand basic modern management, or their legal and humane responsibilities regarding the stewardship of these noble animals. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it is the LAW that our domestic animals receive necessary veterinary care. Proper dental care is a NECESSARY and common practice of equine management.

Veterinarians’ Oath

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine,

I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of livestock resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

I accept as a life long obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

The Large Animal Protection Society would like to thank and commend those veterinarians who have come forth over the years to live up to their oath and report and/or help with any large animals that they observe getting into an illegal situation. We know your job is very difficult, long hours and sometimes not the best working conditions, but we do appreciate the many who have taken time out of their very busy schedules to make court appearances, provide medical care to the animals in rehabilitation, and support us in many ways.

Thank you so much!