Phone: (970)568-9445
7888 Kremers Lane Laporte, CO 80535

Equine Dentistry: Is Your Horse Getting the Most Out of That Expensive Hay?

If your horse has not had a routine dental exam and floating in the past year, you could be wasting your money on feeding too much hay, and your horse may not be getting the nutrients it needs. Routine teeth floating can reduce the chances of some major health problems and increase your horses feed efficiency.

Horses teeth are not entirely like our own teeth. They are made up of cementum, dentin, and enamel like our teeth. They have a crown, root, blood, and nerve supply, like our teeth, but that is were the similarities end. The horse's tooth has a long crown and a short root. We have a short crown and long root. The tooth is also continually erupting through out the horse's life. Our teeth are completely erupted by the time we are teenagers. The horse grinds down its teeth so that points form on the outside of the upper teeth and the inside of the lower teeth. We may grind our teeth but that is not normal for us. So, what makes them so different from us? Mainly, the food they eat. Their diet consists of grass, hay, and/or grain. Grass is made up of a highly abrasive substance, called silica. Silica is what makes up quartz rock, panes of glass, and sand. This is the reason they wear their teeth down, and why they need the reserve crown that is continually erupting.

One might ask, what is so critical about the sharp points that develop and what does that have to do with feed efficiency? There are many answers to that question. The enamel points that appear over time reduces the horses ability to chew (masticate) properly. A horse chews in an elliptical pattern from side to side and uses the entire row (arcade) of teeth to chew their meal. Horses, as with all mammals, lack the enzyme to break down cellulose into the basic components that their bodies can use. The reason they can get energy from hay or grass is that they utilize the by-products of bacterial fermentation, which is a result of their unique digestive system. For the bacteria to break down the cellulose, the plant matter must be small enough for the bacteria to digest it. Cattle and other ruminants are similar in the respect of utilizing the by-products of bacterial fermentation, and they have the opportunity of chewing their food twice, when they chew their cud. The horse has only one chance to chew its food. The finer the plant particle, the more nutrition can be extracted by the bacteria and utilized by the horse. Therefore, the sharper the enamel points, the less surface area to chew with. The larger the plant particle size, the decreased amount of nutrients available to the horse and the greater amount of undigested hay in feces being picked up and hauled away by you.

The major health problem that can occur with the larger particle size is that a horse is more prone to impaction colic. The larger particles have a more likely chance to "plug" your horses digestive system. Combine this and a horse not wanting to drink a lot of water in the cold weather, and you are setting your horse up for a potential stomachache and undue stress.

To solve this problem, and hopefully prevent any more, the doctors at Equine Medical Service can examine your horse's mouth and decide the proper therapy.

Floating of the teeth is a procedure that grinds down the sharp enamel points and insures your horse has the best chewing surface they need going into winter and beyond.