Horses Often Adept At Hiding Dental Pain

Though most horse owners and caretakers will investigate a horse’s mouth for pain if he’s refusing to eat his feed entirely, equines often offer other clues that their mouths may hurt, reports EQUUS magazine.

Scientists from the University of Helsinki surveyed the owners of 47 horses that had cheek teeth surgically removed because of root infections. Tooth root infections can be caused by several things, but most of these removals were the result of dental fractures.

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The survey asked 23 questions of these owners regarding horse behavior. Respondents noted that the behaviors that were eliminated after the surgical tooth extraction included dropping hay, eating slowly and adjusting hay in the mouth while chewing.

Before surgery, horses with dental pain often avoided the bit, raising their heads or getting “behind” the bit to avoid contact. Painful horses also behaved more antisocially toward people and horses. All of these behaviors dissipated when the painful tooth was removed.

Dr. Jaana Pehkonen, lead researcher, said that avoiding the bit was the most common indicator that something was amiss. She notes that this may be because this behavior is easiest to notice.

In half the study horses, tooth infections were not discovered until a routine dental exam took place, indicating that many owners miss behaviors that can be linked to dental pain. Only six of the 47 horses had obvious signs of tooth issues like external swellings or sinus drainage. Nearly all the owners said that their horses were more comfortable after the teeth were removed.

Pehkonen concluded that some equine behaviors, like self-mutilation, aggressive behavior or withdrawnness aren’t regarded as pain behaviors by horse owners. However, once the pain is removed and the horse returns to acting “normal,” it’s easier to see that the behaviors indicated discomfort. Pehkonen recommends horses have annual dental exams so that any problems can be identified.

Read more at EQUUS magazine.

The post Horses Often Adept At Hiding Dental Pain appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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