Ask the Vet – Telling a horse’s age by its teeth
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Ask the Vet – Telling a horse’s age by its teeth

August 17, 2019

SARAH: “How can you tell the
age of a horse by the teeth? Also, I bet you know that dog’s
teeth should be brushed daily or they can produce teeth,
gum, jaw bone diseases. And she’s wondering if a horse’s
teeth should be brushed daily or weekly, and what type of
teeth, gum, jaw bone diseases can a horse get, and
what are the most common. And what are some ways to
prevent any teeth, gum, jaw bone diseases.” DR LYDIA GRAY: Wow. So what was her name? SARAH: So Emily. DR LYDIA GRAY: Emily
must have been listening, because didn’t you ask
someone to ask about how you age a horse by their teeth? SARAH: Yes, I did. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah, so
she was, she was listening. SARAH: She was so smart. DR LYDIA GRAY: So
I found this book. This is the guide
for determining the age of the horse. You want to guess
what year this is? SARAH: The AAEP puts out
the most fascinating titles. DR LYDIA GRAY: I know. SARAH: Oh, 2002. DR LYDIA GRAY: 2002. So it’s 15 years old. I think they have this
electronically now. SARAH: 2002 was 15
years ago you guys. DR LYDIA GRAY:
This was a fun book because it’s got
eruption schedule, which is super helpful. It is the most
accurate way to age a horse, because as
they’re losing baby teeth and gaining permanent teeth,
that’s pretty accurate. Like, the incisors for the
foal are six days, six weeks, six months. So nice little– and then
when they lose those incisors is 2 and 1/2 years, 3 and
1/2 years, 4 and 1/2 years. So it’s a little– SARAH: Nice cadence. DR LYDIA GRAY: — jingle. And then– SARAH: Singing that
one to yourself? DR LYDIA GRAY: — the tooth
comes in, let’s say the central incisors, at two
and a half years. It takes six months to be
what’s called “in wear”– and that means grow to
touch the bottom one. So from birth to
about five years, you can age pretty accurately. After that it gets
to be more of an art. And after 10, 15 years it’s
even not really an art. It’s kind of more like voodoo. But this book has
great pictures. It talks about the eruption. I’ll just read their indicators. And you can see how
complicated it is and how it can be not very
accurate, because it does depend a little bit on the
breed of the horse or pony, what they’re eating can change a
lot, the dental care they’ve received in their life. But the length versus the
width of the upper corner incisor, because
when they’re young it’s wider than it is
long, and as they age it gets longer and skinnier. Because remember
that horse’s teeth grow throughout their life. SARAH: And that’s why
you have to float them. DR LYDIA GRAY: Right. They are wider at the beginning. And as they get more of
the root, it gets narrower. Which leads to one
of the problems is gum disease as they
age, because there begins to be spaces
between the cheek teeth– which we haven’t
talked about yet. But those spaces can lead
to gum disease, gingivitis, periodontal disease–
periodontal meaning gum and bone. So as far as problems,
it’s what you said– because their
teeth grow all the time, you have to float them and
take off the sharp edges. And the sharp edges are on
the outside of the uppers and the inside of the
lowers, because the lower jaw is narrower. So those teeth, they
meet but there’s a little bit sticking into
the tongue side on the bottom, so we have to float those. That’s the number one
problem horses get. They can get cavities
but they don’t really, so we don’t brush them. And it has to do with the
infolding and the invaginations and the complicated
way their teeth are created versus other species. Their diet– they’re not eating
a lot of sugary, sticky treats. SARAH: Hopefully. DR LYDIA GRAY: Hopefully. The fact that they’re
trickle feeders– they eat all the time, so they
get the very alkaline saliva that bathes their mouth. So there’s some reasons that
horses don’t get cavities and don’t need brushed,
that they need floated. That’s the care that
your veterinarian is going to be doing every
six months or a year, based on exams.

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