How do you know when your horse needs its teeth checked? Quite often they tell us, but put it down to bad or odd behavior. We discipline, or we put on a nose band to make it mind the bit, or we change bits, put on martingales or tie downs or other gear designed to keep our horse’s head where it belongs. Or we change feeds or buckets or other aspects of their environment. But, your horse could be acting up or doing strange things because it is experiencing discomfort and pain. Ideally, your... horse’s teeth should be checked by a professional at least once a year. Here are signs that it’s time to call an equine dentist or veterinarian to check your horse’s teeth even if it has been less time than that.
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Fussing With the Bit
A horse that fusses with the bit may be reacting to discomfort caused solely by the bit, or as with head tossing, dental problems that make holding the bit uncomfortable. Sometimes extra teeth are the problem and your horse might need a bit seat or teeth removed.
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Weight Loss and Poor Overall Health
If your horse can’t chew properly it won’t be able to extract all the nutrition it needs out of fibrous fodder like grass or hay. Bad teeth can contribute to weight loss. A horse that can’t chew properly is also prone to choke and impaction colic.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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If your horse has broken teeth, infected gums, sore cheeks or any other discomfort in its mouth caused by dental problems it may chew its food very slowly. This can lead to weight loss and poor nutrition, especially if it is rushed in any way, say by other horses who want to steal its food.
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Balkiness, Bolting and Spooking
Some horses have no tolerance for pain and will act out by becoming resistant. Some will act in the opposite way, becoming spooky and perhaps bolting at every opportunity. Others will be quite stoic, and will put up with a lot, which is why regular dental care is important.
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A horse that eats and spills or throws grain all over may be anxious about its food and trying to keep an eye out for anyone who might be trying to steal it. Or, because of dental problems the horse may just have a difficult time holding the grain in its mouth and chewing. Because the grain might not be ground up properly, choke can result.
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If there is a bad odor coming from your horse’s mouth or nose, suspect an infection of the gums or elsewhere in the mouth. This might be the only sign that there is a problem that might have to be treated with dental work and antibiotics.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Horses drool or slobber because they have eaten plants with fungi that makes them drool, an irritating substance, something embedded in the gums, tongue or palate or they might have a dental problem. Some horses drool when they have the bit in, and it's pretty normal. But if you're not sure, it’s time to call a vet or equine dentist.
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A small trickle of clear or slightly milky fluid is normal from your horse's nose. A yucky running nose can be a sign not only of a sinus infection, but of a dental infection. Your vet will help you find the cause of discharge and advise you on the best treatment.
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If your horse is head shy and won’t let you touch, groom or put the bridle on a painful dental problem could the cause.
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Horses with bad dental problems may be hesitant to drink cold water. Lack of water can lead to choke and impaction colic along with difficulty getting all the nutrition it needs from its food. If you suspect a dental problem it might be wise to wet your horse’s feed and provide warmed water until a professional can help you sort out the problem.