CARE OF THE HORSE FOLLOWING DENTAL TREATMENT
Every treatment is slightly different and may have implications as to what after-care you provide for your horse. Irrespective of the information on this page, the advice of the equine dental practitioner on the day of treatment needs to be followed. You also need to ensure that following the treatment, suitable short and long-term care is given to the horse. Good management gives the practioner the best chance of achieving the desired results for the patient according to the long-term treatment plan.
Always bear in mind that a horse which has undergone routine dental treatment without sedation should be able to eat, drink and be ridden almost immediately post-treatment. If routine treatment is combined with more extensive dental correction, it is not unusual for the horse to experience slightly impeded mastication for several days. This is due to the increased sensitivity and the horse needing to adjust to the occlusal (tooth surface) changes when grinding its feed. If the practitioner recommends altered feeding, it is important to follow that feeding plan.
Patients that have been administered an intravenous or intramuscular sedative for treatment often experience some side effects which are not unusual and only temporary. Initial lack of coordination such as staggering is common within minutes of receiving the sedative. Many patients salivate excessively due to the relaxation of facial muscles and sweating is also common side effect. During the recovery period as the effects begin to wear off and a patient may also urinate. As the ability to manage the intake of feed is also compromised, sedated horses must not receive any feed until they are alert and no longer affected by the sedatives.
COMPLEX TREATMENT: SHORT AND LONG-TERM CARE
Complex treatment such as major dental correction and permanent tooth extraction may result in a number of important recommendations including:
- Meeting short and long term dietary requirements
- Administering medication punctually if prescribed
- Avoiding the washing out of the extraction site in the first seven days
- Checking on the horse's well-being twice daily, including taking the temperature
- Recognising behavioural changes or physical issues
- Ensuring feed buckets are at ground level
The foundation of a healthy horse is to provide a diet which is specific to its nutritional needs and is appropriate to the horses chewing efficacy. Chewing efficacy is essentially the capacity for the grinding of feed by the molar teeth. Your equine dental practitioner will be able to assess the efficacy rate. This rate will determine what length of fibre is appropriate to be fed to your horse. In older horses a diet consisting predominantly of shorter fibre may compensate for the lack of chewing ability and may be effective in preventing colic and choke. Alternatives to hay include hay cubes, rough-cut chaff and high fibre pellets.
Good quality long-fibred feed in appropriate quanitities will give any horse a headstart in terms of its overall health if their dentition and oral health is acceptable. Good general health, longevity and vitality are the goals when it comes to the horse. A diet primarily consisting of grasses and hay (roughage) will be most beneficial in maintaining dental health and tooth occlusion in the early years of a horse's life. It is the responsibility of you as an owner or trainer to care for your animal to the best of your ability. That means you must accept responsibility for providing a suitable environment for the horse.
Knowing a horse's weight and condition is vital in order to tailor a diet that is best suited to their specific needs. As most horses aren't able to be weighed on scales, using the body condition scoring system gives horse owners the ability to visually assess and then rank a horse based on its overall fat and muscle mass. Additionally, information collected using this system can form part of a report of the horse's general physical health. Very often, equine dental practitioners find that upon examination of a patient's teeth there is a direct correlation between body condition and dental health. Patients that have very poor dental occlusion often have great difficulty eating and can therefore struggle to maintain ideal body condition. It may also be worth noting the differences between fat and muscle mass.
Throroughbred race horses or endurance horses may have very well-developed muscle tone, yet have a relatively low body score. This is a normal presentation in this case so not all horses require dietary intervention. However, when we have the case of a pony, it too can have a low conditon score yet should be regarded as unacceptable as this would not be the presentation that could normally be expected for its type.
Australia most commonly uses the traditional British system of ranking 0-5. The AEDP also uses half points for the purpose of accuracy.
- 0- Very Poor: Absence of overall fatty deposits and topline, highly visible outline of ribs, prominent spine and pelvis, very 'sunken' (concave) appearance of the neck, back and rump.
- 1- Poor: Very little fatty deposits and topline development, visible ribs, prominent spine and pelvis, 'sunken' appearance of the neck, back and rump.
- 2- Lean: Some fatty deposits, easily visible and defined topline, ribs just visible, spine and pelvis covered but can be felt. Body has an overall smoother appearance.
- 3- Good: Adequate fatty deposites, well developed topline blends smoothly from the neck, over the ribs and back to the rump. Ribs and pelvis can be easily felt.
- 4- Fat: Fatty deposits becoming exessive, neck has developed a crest and is soft to touch. Topline has become difficult to see, ribs and hips are difficult to feel. Body has developed an overall round and 'pudgy' appearance.
- 5- Very Fat: Any present muscle tone is barely visible, very large fatty deposits on the crest, shoulders, stomach and rump area. Ribs and pelvis can barely be felt, rump and tail area is buldging. Visible 'gutter' running along the spine all the way to the dock. The entire body is very pudgy.