Have you ever wondered why your horse grinds his teeth?
What does this mean for you?
It is a common behavior you can see in young horses or older horses. The medical term is called bruxism. The rhythmic movement of the teeth leads to a scraping, grating, squeaking, or scraping sound.
So, why do horses grind their teeth? Well, there are several reasons. It can be because of anxiety, dental problem, or pain in the throat, mouth, and other places.
For you to understand this behavior and other important facts in detail, let’s dig a little deeper in this guide!
If your horse is grinding his teeth, here’s what you need to know
Before we head over to the reasons, it is good to understand equine dentistry. A horse has different types of teeth like canine teeth, incisor teeth, wolf teeth, molars, premolars, and deciduous teeth (baby teeth) in young horses. All these teeth have different functions in the horse’s mouth.
Many stallion owners believe that when he is grinding, he is in distress or pain. This is true, however, there are more reasons for that. Bruxism can be a behavior that occurs occasionally and in some cases, the behavior can be continuous.
Additionally, bruxism doesn’t indicate a specific problem. It is commonly a sign of many psychological or physical issues with him.
According to Andrew McLean Dip Ed, BSc, Ph.D. Equine Behavioral Practitioner, if bruxism is not a result of dental issue or other health conditions, it can be a conflict behavior.
An adult horse or a young horse can show bruxism because of many reasons. For example:
- Can grind his teeth because of colic ( abdominal pain);
- When he is experiencing pain in the esophagus, throat, or mouth;
- A sign of neurologic condition;
- A sign of anxiety, especially for stall-confined horses;
- To show aggression;
- They grind their teeth after going through anesthesia post-surgery;
- If they are suffering from gastric ulcers;
- Clicking horses also grind their teeth;
- When concentrating on a new task that is hard for them;
- If he is experiencing pain when riding;
- Young horses move their upper jaw and lower jaw as a sign of submission to stallions of higher ranks;
- Empty chewing or teeth gnashing is a sign of relieving stress in horses;
- A stereotypical behavior where he feeds himself just like the way humans bite their nails;
What are the consequences of teeth grinding?
Is bruxism bad for horses and does it have any consequences?
Yes, there are several negative consequences associated with grinding and empty chewing. If you notice this problem, it is good to seek help from an equine dentist. It can lead to jaw joint pain or permanent strain that causes muscle tension.
Can also lead to permanent damage if it goes untreated.
Continuous bruxism can lead to chipped, cracked, or broken teeth and this requires the teeth to float. It can also lead to sharp enamel pints, teeth sensitivity, tooth decay, and other dental problems.
Another problem associated with continuous bruxism in horses is the wearing out of the molars. This eventually leads to other dental issues like pain, discomfort, and problems with eating.
Repetitive grinding can also make the teeth weak, loose, or broken. The damage caused to the teeth can get worse with time and the teeth become weaker and prone to decay. Eventually, the loose teeth will fall out.
Related: Find out why horse teeth turn yellow! Get tips on things you can do to keep your horse’s teeth healthy.
How can we stop horses?
If you have noticed in your mare, you must be asking yourself how you can solve the problem. The good news is that there are several things you can do to prevent this behavior. The first thing you should do is to perform a whole mare examination.
When doing this, you should concentrate on his appetite, attitude, and signs of colic. You should also know when bruxism occurs.
Is it after feeding or when riding? With this information, it will be easier for your vet to know the cause of grinding. If he looks healthy, you can make some changes to relieve stress and do away with grinding behavior like engaging him more.
Your equine veterinarian can also do a clinical examination to find out if your adult horse is suffering from physical problems. He can do a dental exam or endoscopy to check if there are signs of gastric ulceration. If he has been showing this behavior for a longer time, especially when ridden, an investigation of the handler’s response and the horse’s behavior is important to determine the cause of the problem.
You can also solve this problem by using a thinner bit or adjusting the bit higher in the mouth to prevent chewing behavior. Try to lower the bit and use bits of different thicknesses, shapes, and metal combinations. Other tips that can stop:
- Using gastro guard for ulcers;
- Extra food to keep his mouth busy;
- Chiropractic horse care;
- A saddle that fits better;
- Riding when other horses are not around;
- Riding with light aids;
- Using a different rider;
- Teeth floating to remove sharp edges;
Related: Take your horse’s oral health to the next level with Toothpaste For Horses! Solve common dental problems such as tartar, plaque, and gingivitis.
It is a common behavior exhibited by both a domestic and a wild horse. It is important to consult an equine veterinarian or an equine dentist to find out if the cause is a dental problem or other issues. Grinding can happen to an older horse or a young horse.
Grinding doesn’t show a specific problem and it is therefore related to many more issues that he could be going through.
In most cases, if the grinding is a result of dental pain, he will stop grinding his teeth if you deal with the dental problems. Also, always ensure proper dental care and teeth floated to ensure horse teeth are in good condition.
Zunnun AhmedWe are a group of horse enthusiasts. We want to provide information and tips to help others learn more about horses, how to care for them, and how to enjoy them.
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