Horses’ teeth continue to erupt at a fairly constant rate their entire lives, depending on the grinding motion of chewing to keep them from growing right out of their heads. Unfortunately, chewing motions don’t do a perfect job of keeping teeth filed down, and their teeth can eventually develop high and low points that eventually become sharp edges and cause sores in the horses’ mouth. Industry standard is to examine and file down their teeth once a year to prevent bad chewing habits from becoming permanent and preserve their ability to benefit from the full nutrition of their food.
How can you tell it’s time for a little equine dentistry? Here are a few common signs to watch out for.
One common sign that a horse is past due for a float is a tendency to drop a lot of grain as he eats. As his teeth become more uneven, his chewing patterns become imperfect, giving food an opportunity to fall back out. Sores developing in his mouth make the situation worse, as he will start to chew gingerly in order to avoid making the sores worse.
Another sign that your horse’s teeth need attention is tipping his head to one side or another while he eats. This may be accompanied by dropping grain. The biggest reason to do this is to bring all the food to one side of his mouth and avoid eating on a side where something hurts. This means his teeth are bad enough to already be causing sores, so most likely he’ll need his mouth examined sooner rather than later.
Another common sign of bad teeth is the presence of hay balls. A horse with bad teeth is unable to chew the hay effectively, so some of it starts to ball up in his cheeks and the back of his mouth. You’ll find these balls of hay and saliva by his feed trough or in his water tank. Feeding him senior grain, soaked pellets, or mash may ensure he gets the proper nutrition now, but equine dentistry will be required to resolve the situation.
Weight loss in horses is tricky, because it can go from “looking good” to “let me count your ribs” remarkably quickly, and goes back on much more slowly than it comes off. If you notice your horse starting to lose weight and you can’t explain why, it’s always a good idea to have your vet out to check him. One of the first things most vets will check is the teeth.
Speaking of food passing straight through, if the teeth are bad enough that your horse is losing weight, you’ll probably see signs of the feed passing straight through, too. Grass, hay, and some grains, such as oats, need to be chewed in order to break up the outer husk and allow for digestion. If you’re seeing a lot of the feed pass straight through, dental care may be needed so your horse can benefit from the food’s nutrition.
Sometimes horses have missing teeth that cause them difficulty, and at that point, no amount of equine dentistry is going to make them chew perfectly again. Soaked pellets and hay cubes can provide plenty of nutrtition that doesn’t require a lot of chewing. For more information about feed options that meet your horse’s needs, contact Sacate Pellet Mills today.