The Horse.com indicates the domestication of horses has led to an increase in dental disease and abnormalities. Before horses were domesticated, they spent 80% of their time walking and grazing. The Horse.com indicates these activities kept their tooth edges rounded off and decreased sharp edges. They used their teeth harder and longer when eating grass only compared to eating a pelleted feed, which is what many horses eat these days. To determine the prevalence of abnormalities, the group at the University of Queensland examined the skulls of 400 horses of all ages and determined that horses 11 to 15 years of age had the highest occurrence of dental disease. It is believed these problems developed from untreated minor abnormalities early in life, such as retained baby teeth, malaligned teeth, or pockets of infection. Their theory is that since most horses eat processed feeds that do not encourage proper tooth usage, minor dental disease becomes severe abnormalities.
The article recommends increasing grazing to decrease dental abnormalities; increased grazing and time out of the stall and in the pasture is always a good idea. The article also recommends feeding on the ground to encourage the horse to chew more, which is okay as long as you are not in a sandy area because feeding horses on sandy ground will increase sand ingestion and can lead to sand colic. However, regardless of the amount of chewing, all horses need some dental care and the mouth should be examined every time your vet examines your horse. Many horses do not have severe abnormalities but can have small abnormalities that can affect their performance.
VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email email@example.com.