How do you know when your horse needs its teeth checked? Quite often they tell you, but you might mistake it for bad or odd behavior.
You may discipline your horse or put on a noseband to make it mind the bit. Or, you may change bits, put on martingales or tie downs, or use other gear designed to keep your horse’s head where it belongs. You may change feeds, buckets, or other aspects of your horse's environment. But, your horse could be acting up or doing strange things because it is experiencing discomfort and pain.
Ideally, your horse’s teeth should be checked by a professional at least once a year. Learn the signs that tell you it's time to call an equine dentist or veterinarian to check your horse’s teeth, even if it has been less than a year.
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Fussing With the Bit
A horse that fusses with the bit may be reacting to discomfort caused solely by the bit, or as with head tossing, dental problems that make holding onto the bit uncomfortable. Sometimes extra teeth could be the problem, and your horse might need either a bit seat or to have teeth removed.
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There are a few reasons your horse might toss its head while being ridden. It may be reacting to how you use the reins. It could have problems carrying the bit, or it may have dental problems that cause continuous discomfort, or just when it wears a bit.
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If your horse has broken teeth, infected gums, sore cheeks, or any other discomfort in its mouth caused by dental problems, it may chew its food very slowly. This can lead to weight loss and poor nutrition, especially if it is rushed in any way, say by other horses, that want to steal its food.
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Balkiness, Bolting, and Spooking
Some horses have no tolerance for pain and will act out by becoming resistant. Some will become spooky and are likely to bolt at the slightest distraction. Others will be quite stoic and will put up with a lot, which is why regular dental care is important.
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A horse that eats by spilling or throwing grain may be anxious about its food. Also, it might be trying to keep an eye out for any other horses that may try to steal its food. Or, the horse may just have a difficult time holding the grain in its mouth and chewing, because of dental problems. Because the grain might not be ground up (or chewed) properly, choking can result.
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If there is a bad odor coming from your horse’s mouth or nose, suspect an infection of the gums or elsewhere in the mouth. This might be the only sign of a potential problem that might require treatment with dental work and antibiotics.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Horses may drool or slobber after having eaten plants with fungi or some other irritating substance. Also, something might be embedded in the gums or under the tongue, or the horse might have a dental problem. Some horses drool when they have a bit in, and that is pretty normal. But if you are not sure, it is probably best to call a vet or equine dentist.
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A small trickle of clear or slightly milky fluid is normal from your horse's nose. A yucky running nose can be a sign of not only a sinus infection, but of a dental infection. Your vet will help you find the cause of the discharge and advise you on the best treatment.
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If your horse is head shy and will not let you touch, groom, or put the bridle on, then a painful dental problem could be the cause.
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Horses with bad dental problems may be hesitant to drink cold water. A lack of water can lead to choke and impaction colic, along with difficulty getting all the necessary nutrition from the food. If you suspect a dental problem, it might be wise to wet your horse’s feed and provide warmed water until a professional can help you sort out the problem.