The doctor on call at Equine Medical Service was requested to examine and treat a thirteen year old gelding that received trauma to his mouth after bolting and running through several fences. The horse has a broken jaw and several broken teeth that necessitated general anesthesia, surgical de-bridement (removal of dead tissue) and fracture stabilization. The horse recovered from his injuries and has no problems with eating to date.
Mouth wounds can look quite dramatic when they result in exposure of underlying tissue and possibly bone, loosening or loss of teeth, and bleeding. However, these wounds generally heal very well despite the initial severe appearance and number of bacteria in the mouth. For hygienic reasons, it is a good idea to wear rubber gloves when working in and around your horse’s mouth.
Lacerations in the mouth can be caused by nails, wire or other objects protruding from fencing, stall walls or other areas in your horse’s environment. Other common causes are hooks used for hanging buckets. These should be removed if not in use, or taped over.
A significant wound in the mouth/tongue area can heal remarkably well, even if a large portion of the tongue is missing. Many internal mouth wounds are not sutured because suturing of mouth wounds is difficult and the suture line usually breaks down. Mouth wounds tend to heal well without suturing.
External muzzle wounds are treated medically and allowed to heal for 2-8 weeks. These external wounds are then rechecked to determine the need for any reconstructive surgery, which often turns out to be minimal.
Splinters or other irritating pieces of dried plant material eaten by your horse can cause mouth abscesses. The injured mouth can emit an unpleasant smell. Abscesses can drain into the mouth or open through the skin around the mouth.
The possibility of a foreign object, such as a stick or piece of wire, should be ruled out if your horse is not eating and has blood tinged saliva. This condition may appear similar to choke (esophageal impaction).
Teeth may be loosened or lost in a variety of ways in a stall, paddock or pasture.
Jaw fractures can occur in various ways. Horses often fracture their lower jaw by getting it stuck in a horseshoe latch and pulling back. Kicks from other horses may also cause a jaw fracture.