Survey highlights dental disease in UK horses
Zoetis UK today announced that results from the latest National Equine Health Survey show that dental disease is a significant problem for horses in the UK. Of the horses included in the survey 5.4% were suffering from trouble with their teeth and dental disease was the sixth most frequently recorded individual disease syndrome in the survey.1
The results suggest horses in the UK commonly have dental abnormalities and reiterate the importance of raising awareness of equine dental disease. In another veterinary study, dental abnormalities were detected in a huge 94% of geriatric horses yet only a quarter of these animals were reported by the owner to have a dental problem. Although this may in part be due to historical abnormalities detected at examination, the authors suggested that dental disease may be under-reported by owners.2
NEHS is an annual snapshot survey, conducted by Blue Cross in conjunction with the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA). 5,235 people took part in the 2017 survey and returned records for 15,433 horses. A total of 841 of these horses were recorded as having problems with their teeth, with 54% treated by a veterinarian and 46% receiving attention from an equine dental technician.1
The horse has up to 44 teeth, set in a powerful jaw. As herbivores, horses munch their way through on average 2.5% of their bodyweight in forage and feed every day to maintain their weight – that’s 12.5kg (dry matter) of food chomping for a 500kg horse. This is why it’s so important to keep your horse’s teeth in good working order.3
Just like humans, horses can have many problems with their teeth such as loose or broken teeth, excessively worn teeth, infections and gum disease. It’s crucial to identify problems early, preferably before symptoms occur, to minimise discomfort and maximise chances of successful treatment. The 2017 survey showed that 92% of horses received regular dental checks with approximately two thirds receiving annual checks and one third receiving checks every six months.
Dr Wendy Talbot, equine vet at Zoetis commented: “It is tricky to know if a horse has dental problems because you can’t see inside the mouth and often there won’t be any obvious symptoms. This is why regular check-ups are so important. It’s reassuring to see that a high percentage of horses are receiving regular dental checks. Ideally your horse’s teeth should be examined by your vet or qualified equine dental technician every 6- 12 months.”
It is often best for your horse to be lightly sedated before a dental examination as this allows for a safer and more thorough procedure with minimal distress for your horse. Only your vet is qualified to sedate your horse.
Zoetis has recently supported an equine dentistry roadshow with Chris Pearce MRCVS, founder of the Equine Dental Clinic, to help vets develop their knowledge and practical skills in equine dentistry.
1National Equine Health Survey 2017
2IRELAND J. L., CLEGG P. D. , McGOWAN C. M. et al (2012) Comparison of owner-reported health problems with veterinary assessment of geriatric horses in the United Kingdom. Equine Veterinary Journal, 44 (2012) 94–100
3National Research Council, Nutrient Requirements of Horses 2007 Sixth Revised Edition