The Horses Teeth (DBIRD_NT) by lindash


The Horses Teeth (DBIRD_NT)

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                                                                         No. J39

                                                                         June 1996

                                                                         Agdex No: 461/26

                                                                         ISSN No: 0157-8243

The Horse's Teeth
A Potential Cause of Problems
P. Graham, formerly Extension Officer, Darwin


As with other animals, horses may be subject to tooth problems. These problems have affects,
not only on the horses health, they also may effect the rider. What initially appears to be a
simple nutritional problem may, in fact, be the result of dental disorder. Efficient digestion starts
with good teeth.


The commonest dental disorder in the
formation of sharp edges on the back teeth
which cut the tongue and cheeks. The most
obvious signs of this is sloppy or messy eating.
Affected horses will drop feed (which may be
partly chewed) and will usually eat slowly. A
horse with this condition may develop
digestion problems, resulting in weight loss
and poor performance.

A further sign of tooth trouble may be seen
when the horse is being ridden. If a horse lugs,
throws its head or generally tries to get away
from the bit, it may be in pain from its teeth.

To detect discomfort from sharp edged teeth pressure is gently applied on the cheek at the
tooth line. The horse will react as the inner check is pressed onto the sharp edges.


Some of the more common tooth problems of the horse may be attributed to:

•   Age
•   Genetics
•   Nutrition   - feed types and composition
                - mineral deficiency
•   Grazing conditions
•   Feeding regime


A horse grown out on good pasture or hand-fed, with a balanced diet of protein, roughage and
minerals, will normally maintain a good mouth until it is seven to nine years of age.

When a horse is fed hard grain and hay that requires a lot of chewing sharp edges may develop
in animals as young as two years of age. Old horses are likely to have tooth problems, and
require more frequent attention.


Problems from this source are usually major faults such as twisted and deformed jaws. In most
instances these can not be corrected and should be noted when purchasing a new horse or as
soon as a foal is handled. Horses with these problems should not be used for breeding.


Horses raised on country low in calcium and phosphorous will often exhibit tooth abnormalities,
even relatively early in life. This is one particular problem horse owners in the Top End need to
consider when they have lateritic soils and poor dry season native pasture.


Owners should keep an eye on pasture height. If the horse is allowed graze too close to the
ground, it will pick up soil and sand. Constant grazing in this fashion damages teeth and will
cause sand colic.


The same problem arises when horses are fed in small areas such as yards, stables and stalls if
they are able to spill feed onto the ground and then consume it from there. The abrasive affect
on teeth is marked. In addition, as with low grazing, the horse becomes a candidate for sand
impaction or sand colic.


Sharp teeth are generally rasped to remove the offending edges. Great care is required
otherwise the tooth problem may be intensified. If, however, the owner/rider is doing the job
rasping should only continue until the points have been reduced and the rasp slides over the
teeth without jagging.

It must be stressed that specialised skills and tools are required to do a thorough job.

The horse requires a balanced diet, one which includes sufficient minerals and vitamins. Apart
from the normal feed-stuffs the inclusion of calcium in the form of commercial additives or as
meat and bone meal should be considered.

Problems with teeth can cost owner/riders money in wasted feed and veterinary fees.

•   Check teeth regularly
•   Check the horse's nutritional status
•   Have a skilled person do the tooth rasping when necessary.

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While all care has been taken to ensure that information contained in this Agnote is true and correct at the time
of publication, the Northern Territory of Australia gives no warranty or assurance, and makes no representation
as to the accuracy of any information or advice contained in this publication, or that it is suitable for your
intended use. No serious, business or investment decisions should be made in reliance on this information
without obtaining independent/or professional advice in relation to your particular situation.

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