Dental problems often occur as horses get older. Falling teeth are of course easy to recognise, but what are other symptoms of bad teeth? And how can you take this into account in the diet, so they do get all the nutrients they need?
Dental problems in old horses
Dental problems often occur when horses get a bit older. As early as 15 years of age, horses can develop dental problems. If you compare an older horse's mouth to that of its younger counterparts, it is a world of difference. This is because teeth continue to grow throughout life.
Teeth and molars wear down as they grind over each other while chewing. Unfortunately, this wear does not always happen evenly. As a result, edges called "hooks" can develop. The molars no longer slide over each other, so the horse can no longer chew properly and will eventually lose weight. Large gaps can develop between the teeth (diastases) in which food gets stuck. This can cause inflammation. Sometimes teeth fall out, causing the opposite one to grow too far.
Symptoms of bad teeth
There are several symptoms that indicate poor teeth in a horse. Fallen teeth are easy to see. But when you look into a horse's mouth, you can mainly see the teeth, and not the molars. The degree of trouble a horse's teeth can cause can be very different. It is therefore very important to have your older horse's teeth checked at least twice a year by a specialised vet or a recognised dental professional.
Symptoms of dental problems:
- Loss of condition (if the teeth are not in order and your horse cannot chew properly, processing food becomes problematic)
- Propping up
- Taking a long time to eat roughage
- Eating concentrate quickly
- Playing with food
- Oesophageal obstruction
Symptoms dental problems in an advanced stage:
- Nasal discharge
- Foul smell coming from the mouth
- Swelling on jaw or bridge of nose
What if my horse has poor chewing ability?
Horses with poor chewing ability have a lot of trouble eating long-stemmed roughage. To still offer your horse sufficient fibre, it is advisable to feed your horse short-chopped roughage: the length of fibre that the horse can still chew is determined by the degree of dental wear, bearing in mind that for grinding fibre, some relief must still be present on the teeth. Pavo SeniorFibre has been specially developed for horses with reduced dental function. All fibres in Pavo SeniorFibre have a maximum length of three centimetres and are therefore considered short fibres. Moreover, the stems of the fibres are soft and will therefore not easily damage the digestive tract.
So in the choice of concentrate, keep in mind that some concentrate feeds aim to encourage chewing by mixing in long-stemmed fibres. These are less suitable for horses with poor teeth. It is also advisable to choose a concentrate with easily digestible ingredients, such as Pavo 18Plus.
Pavo 18Plus is a fully vitaminised muesli packed with easily digestible fibres to compensate for the reduced digestion of older horses. It are small chunks that fall apart quickly and can be fed both wet and dry. This also makes it easy to absorb by (older) horses with bad teeth.
My horse can no longer chew at all
If your horse cannot chew at all, it is best to use wilted or soaked products. This will prevent your horse from lacking certain nutrients or even starving. Then choose, for instance, Pavo SpeediBeet, roughage fibres in the form of fast digesting, low-sugar beet pulp. In addition, you can also feed Pavo FibreNuggets: this is an all-round roughage product with healthy fibres from grass and herbs. As our FibreNuggets are very palatable and you can feed this soaked, it is ideal for horses with (severe) dental problems. Furthermore, we have developed Pavo Fibrebeet for horses with condition deficiency or weight problems. This fibre-rich product has the same basis as Speedibeet but in combination with Lucerne.
Feeding tips for horses with teeth problems
It may seem as if horses are nibbling all day, while in reality they hardly eat anything. If you, as a horse owner, do not intervene, you run the risk of your horse not getting enough nutrients. A special diet with roughage substitutes can help in such a situation.
Give horses that have difficulty chewing short chopped roughage such as Pavo SeniorFibre. Horses that cannot chew at all will benefit from roughage products that you can dilute with water, such as Pavo SpeediBeet, Pavo FibreBeet, Pavo FibreNuggets, Pavo WeightLift or Pavo DailyPlus.
If you feed 300 grams / 100 kg body weight per day (or more) of beet pulp, we recommend supplementing this with bran, 40 grams / 100 kg body weight. This is to provide an optimal Ca/P (calcium/phosphorus) balance in the ration. Pavo SlobberMash has a high bran content and is easy to prepare.
When a concentrated feed is necessary, give Pavo 18Plus (divided into several small portions per day) diluted with water to make slobber in the ratio 1 : 1 (as much water as feed). It may be supplemented with either cold or lukewarm water. Let it soak for at least 15 minutes.
If your horse is not fed concentrate, it is wise to supplement vitamins and minerals, as he cannot get this sufficiently from roughage. You can do this by feeding a so-called balancer, such as Pavo Vital.