It is important to catch dental problems early. Horses with dental problems may show obvious signs, such as pain or irritation, or they may show no noticeable signs at all. But left undiagnosed and untreated, a dental problem can develop into a much more significant health concern.
In a 2006 study of horses suffering from chronic weight loss, 20 percent of the horses experienced weight loss due to dental disorders. In addition to weight loss, the inability to chew feed into small particles can lead to colic, and the bacteria associated with gum disease in the horse’s mouth can migrate to other areas of the body, similar to what occurs with gum disease in humans.
“Routine dental maintenance is the easiest step an owner can take to prevent a more serious problem from developing,” said Eleanor M. Green, DVM, AAEP president. “When you schedule vaccinations or a Coggins test for your horse, this is the perfect opportunity to schedule a dental examination with your horse’s veterinarian as well.” During April, the AAEP’s “Ask the Vet” feature on aaep.org will focus on equine dentistry. Drs. Lynn Caldwell and Elizabeth Schilling of the Equine Dentistry Committee will answer questions from horse owners about dental health. In addition, a variety of educational articles and resources about equine dentistry are available on the AAEP Web site. Visit www.aaep.org/horseowner to learn more.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners, headquartered in Lexington, Ky., was founded in 1954 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the health and welfare of the horse. Currently, the AAEP reaches more than 5 million horse owners through its nearly 9,000 members worldwide and is actively involved in ethics issues, practice management, research and continuing education in the equine veterinary profession and horse industry.
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Tamzali, Y. (2006) Chronic weight loss syndrome in the horse: a 60-case retrospective study. Equine Veterinary Education/American Edition, December 2006, p. 372 – 380.