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What to expect during equine dental exams

What to expect during equine dental exams


Is your horse due for a dental examination? Scheduling dental exams annually is a critical step toward keeping his health, wellness and behavior in check.

According to a 2020 equine dental wellness survey conducted by Zoetis, out of nearly 4,500 horse owners, 73% indicated their horse was showing at least one behavior associated with dental pain. The benefits of recognizing these behavioral problems and following through with an annual dental examination by a veterinarian can include earlier diagnosis and treatment, along with improved health and performance for your horse.

As vital as annual dental exams can be, the dental wellness survey also revealed that 22% of horses owned by survey respondents hadn’t received a dental exam in at least 12 months.

What to expect during an exam

“I find that horse owners sometimes hesitate to schedule annual dental exams because they are unsure about what goes into an exam and what their horse will experience,” said Jeff Hall, DVM, senior equine technical services veterinarian for Zoetis. “Dental exams are a safe, routine procedure that should be conducted by your veterinarian proactively every year.”

A thorough dental exam can take 10-30 minutes and includes:

* An assessment of external structures of the horse’s head and soft tissues (e.g., lips, cheeks and lymph nodes)

* An examination of internal structures (e.g., tongue, palate, gums and cheeks)

* The visualization and palpation of teeth

During examination, veterinarians use a full mouth speculum. A full mouth speculum is a piece of equipment that fits onto a horse’s head, similar to a bridle, with mouth plates that fit between the front teeth to hold a horse’s mouth open. This allows for a more complete visualization and palpation of most aspects of the teeth.

Safe sedation

To complete a full mouth speculum dental exam, horses need to be sedated for their safety and for the safety of their handlers. Sedation also ensures compassionate care of the horse and precise control of the procedure being performed.

When your veterinarian considers equine sedative options, a consistent and reliable sedative is preferred. A sedative that provides pain control is advantageous to ensure your horse’s comfort level during the procedure.

Annual oral and dental examinations are a recommended baseline of care for horses by the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Depending on your horse’s age, level of performance and overall condition of the teeth, additional examinations throughout the year may be needed.

Work with your veterinarian to schedule your horse’s annual dental exam. Consider scheduling it during your horse’s annual spring vaccination appointment to ensure your horse is set up for success and feeling his best year-round.

A safe, routine procedure to keep your horse feeling his best all year

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