7 Signs of Dental Problems in Horses

Horses need all kinds of regular care, from barefoot trims or shoes, to semi-annual shots. They also need routine dental care, just like people, although many owners don’t realize the importance. Because horses’ teeth erupt continuously, they tend to wear unevenly, causing sharp points that interfere with chewing and create sores in the mouth. Good equine dentistry practices include routinely filing down or “floating” teeth to restore a smooth chewing surface.

Are you worried that your horse might be overdue for a dental checkup? Here are seven signs he may require equine dentistry.

Unexplained Weight Loss

If your horse is losing weight for no apparent reason, one of the first things your vet will check is the condition of the teeth. Dental problems are often a reason for weight loss in horses because dental pain leads to poor chewing, which prevents your horse from getting the full nutritional value of the feed.

Dropping a Lot of Food

Does your horse drop a lot of food when he eats? If he can’t seem to keep his feed in his mouth, it may be from shifting it around, as he may be trying to eat on one side of his mouth since the other side hurts.

Tipped Head While Chewing

Another telltale sign that a horse is experiencing pain in his mouth is if he tips his head to one side or the other as he chews. This is also usually a sign that he is trying to shift his food to chew it only on one side of his mouth.

Hay Balls

If you’re seeing rolled-up, partially chewed balls of hay around your horse’s feed trough or in his water tank, it’s a good bet he’s having trouble chewing. The hay balls are a result of not being able to chew the food well enough to swallow it, so the horse spits it out or washes his mouth out in his water tank.

Nasal Discharge

So far all we’ve talked about may be signs of nothing more than an overdue float, which is easy to fix. If you start seeing yucky nasal discharge, something more serious could be going on. Your horse could have a run-of-the-mill respiratory or sinus infection, but he could also have a broken or infected tooth causing that sinus infection.

Head Shy

If your horse seems abnormally head shy, especially in regards to the bit, he may have some serious dental problems bothering him. Some horses are very sensitive and will act head shy when they just need a routine float, but it can also be a sign of a much more painful problem, such as a broken tooth.


It should go without saying that if you see swelling in your horse’s jaw area, it’s time to call the vet. Your horse could have a serious infection in his mouth and likely won’t be eating or drinking, which is a potentially dangerous situation for a horse.

The Importance of Equine Dentistry

Equine dentistry is an often overlooked facet of a horse’s well being, but if you see one of these signs, be sure to get your vet or equine dentist to take a look. Feeding a horse who can’t digest his food is throwing away money, so it benefits your budget as well as your horse to keep his mouth happy.

Of course, sometimes there’s not much you can do. Sometimes your horse is old or doesn’t have many teeth left, and just can’t chew very well. For information about nutritionally complete, easy-to-chew feed such as alfalfa pellets and cubes, contact Sacate Pellet Mills today.