As horse owners, we all know how important the health of our horse is to us. And how an infection in your horse’s mouth, particularly in their teeth, can contribute to giving them bad health. Given that horses grind their feed in a circular motion, a lot of horses often get to suffer an uneven wearing of their teeth. And statistically, this is one of the most common painful dental issues in horses, so painful that it can cause extreme discomfort if not corrected with a float. How much does horse teeth floating cost? And how often do you need to have it done?
The sharp points produced by this circular grinding can cause cuts and sores inside the mouth, loss of teeth, and malnutrition. Teeth issues can be difficult to see, and therefore easy to ignore, or misdiagnose all together, leaving you with a lighter wallet, and the same uncomfortable horse. As such, we’ll be discussing today on the entirety of Horse’s teeth, by answering the most common questions and concerns. Questions like What is a float?
What Is Teeth Floating?
Horse teeth floating refers to the process where the sharp points on the surface of your horse’s teeth are removed. The file used to smooth out the edges is known as a “float.” These sharp points are caused by the circular motion that horses use to grind their feed, and they make it hard for your horse to eat or hold substances in its mouth.
There are two methods for floating. The power float, which is ran by power tools – (didn’t see that one coming did you?) This is excellent for a horse that is difficult to float because it’s much faster. However, it does run the risk of over floating, or filing the horse’s teeth down too far.
The alternative is a hand float, with which the points are manually removed. The risk with a hand float is the fear of under floating, or not having to remove enough of the points on a horse’s teeth. A hand float is also very difficult to complete with an uncooperative horse.
Nevertheless, both have their benefits, risks and you need to work with your chosen professional, to find what option your horse prefers.
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Horses must chew their food sufficiently for it to digest properly. If the horse’s teeth do not have a flat surface that can grind the food, the digestive process will be hindered. Horses that take forage as their food, usually require less work on their teeth than horses that eat hay and grain diet. The heavy fibers found in grass require more chewing and grinding, invariably enhancing the wearing out of your horse’s teeth.
A horse’s teeth come with sharp and razor-like edges, which can cut your horse’s cheeks and tongue when they start chewing. And when this happens, in order to compensate for the painful, uneven teeth, your horse may have to develop poor chewing habits, which can possibly lead to tooth or jaw problems.
The good news? A recent study revealed that regular dental care and floating improves feed digestible intake. And a higher digestibility will spell out lower feed costs for you! You can read more about that study here.
When Should A Horse Have Its Teeth Floated?
Keeping your horse on a regular float schedule can be vital to their health and well-being. While some yearlings have been found to have points sharp enough to damage their cheeks and tongue, most horses start regular floats around two years old – especially if your horse is going into training for the first time.
Horses five to twenty years old should be floated at least once a year, while horses over twenty years of age should be examined every six months. And if your horse is known to have dental issues, or you notice any problems, you should have your horse’s teeth checked more often. As your horse gets older, check for loose teeth and other known issues related to aging.
It’s also important to remember that your horse’s teeth keep growing, on average, until they are thirty years old. So having a float done once, won’t cut it.
Also, endeavor to keep them on a regular annual schedule, in order to prevent any issues from developing with their teeth.
Signs of Dental Problems? How often do we have to check our horse’s teeth?
Horses don’t always display signs of pain when it comes to their teeth, so it’s important to know and recognize the subtle signs of dental issues. Below are some of the most common signs that your horse has a dental issue:
- Foul-smelling breath
- Weight loss
- Nasal discharge
- Pus seeping from the sides of the cheek or below the jaw
- Ulcers on the tongue and cheek lining
- Refusal to accept the bit
- Head shaking
- Reddening of the gums (gingivitis)
- Packing of feed between teeth
- Broken or missing teeth
- Tilting of the head to one side while eating
- Dropping clumps of hay or grain from their mouth
- Dropping a lot of grain from their mouth while chewing
- Inability to chew feed
As stated earlier, horses under two years of age should have dental exams every six months, in an effort to correct any conformational issues such as over or underbites when chewing, those in work below the age of twenty should be checked every six months, while those feeding on pasture should be checked once every year unless there are signs of discomfort. You should always have your horse’s teeth checked yearly, even if you don’t notice any problems.
Does Floating A Horse’s Teeth Hurt?
In a perfect world- no. The nerve is very low in the tooth, so removing points and making corrections will not cause pain to the horse. However, there are some parts of the examination and procedure that could cause your horse some discomfort.
After examining, if your horse is resistant, or attempts to chew aggressively during the procedure, they can place a tremendous amount of strain and stress on their cheek and jaw muscles, as a result causing soreness that may appear in a couple of days after.
Horses with jaw issues can experience discomfort or pain caused by a speculum (the device used in holding a horse’s mouth open). And speculum is the only way to reach a horse’s rear molars. Thus, if you have any pre-knowledge, or suspect that your horse has a jaw or nerve issue, find a professional willing to give your horse a great deal of space from the speculum throughout the procedure.
But, if your horse hasn’t had regular floats, or their horse teeth floating are in poor condition, you may notice blood on the float. Usually, this is often as a result of the float rubbing injuries on the cheeks or tongue, made by the sharp points of the horse’s teeth. Bloodstains or flowing are never caused by the float itself.
How to Care for Your Horse’s Teeth
There are a few options for caring for your horse’s teeth between dental exams. As such, always pay attention to your horse’s eating and general behavior. If your horse is dropping feed, drinking during feed time, eating slowly, showing signs of poor digestion, colic, or choke, check for dental problems. It’s also good to take any behavioral problems into consideration, as they could be linked to dental issues.
Make sure no feed is gets trapped in between your horse’s incisors. If this happens, you can use a small stiff brush to remove the excess feed build-up, or flush their mouths with clean water using a large syringe. This is very necessary, especially in older horses.
And lastly, feed your horse from the ground because, not only were they designed to eat this way, but it also helps in aligning their jaw when they are chewing.
How Much Does a Float Cost?
Average horse teeth floating costs between $80 to $220 per horse. This varies depending on your location, and whether you use a dental specialist or a veterinarian. Other factors can also increase the price like if your horse requires sedation, the cost usually runs between $10 to $30, or extractions which usually ranges from $20 to $80 per tooth.
Some professionals charge first time float fees, for horses who have never had their horse teeth floating worked on before, and most also charge travel fees.
Keep that mouth healthy!
Whether your horse is showing signs of dental issues or not, it is important to incorporate an annual float, and regular dental checks, into your horse’s health plan. A healthy mouth will maximize your horse’s performance and enhance their comfort and well-being. As owners, that’s all we could ever ask for.
Check out these links from the American Association of Equine Practitioners for awesome descriptions on how a horses’ mouth works, and what their dental needs are:
- AAEP – Understanding Your Horse’s Teeth
- AAEP – The Importance of Maintaining the Health of Your Horse’s Mouth
Did we miss something? Let us know! Comment below on your experiences with equine dental care, the biggest expenses you’ve had, and how you budget to keep your horse happy and healthy.
Is floating a horse's teeth necessary?
Horses often need their teeth floated regularly when they are fed hay. Hay contains many different kinds of plants that can rub on the horse's teeth. These sharp bits of plant matter are sometimes referred to as "hay grit" or "chew", and they can wear down a horse's tooth surfaces slowly. Hay grit can break off the tooth surface all together, causing holes to develop in the tooth itself. This is called a "fistula", and it can lead to bacteria build-up that can be harmful for the horse. Horse owners should be aware of this and have their horse's teeth checked regularly so the hay grit is removed from their mouths.
Horse floating became popular in the 1970s as a way to prevent dental problems and stimulate an inactive mouth. It has many benefits for dental hygiene, but it is not necessary for every horse. Horse owners should consult with a veterinarian if they are unsure of when or how often to float their horse's teeth.
How often should you float horses teeth?
Some horses' teeth may need floating every 6 months, whereas others only need it once or twice in their lifetime. The rate at which a horse's tooth wears down largely depends on its diet and how often it eats hay and other abrasive food. Horse teeth can wear down at different rates, so it's important to keep a check on the horse's mouth.
Frequent floating may be required if a horse is fed a diet that aggravates tooth wear, including:
- diets rich in cereal grains (like oats)
- hay containing alfalfa or timothy
- hay that is low in crude fiber (2% or less)
Horses that eat these types of feed need to be checked frequently for dental wear.
Is horse teeth floating dangerous?
Horse teeth floating is generally safe if done correctly by trained professionals. Horse owners should always consult with a veterinarian before floating their horse's teeth because of the risk of infection and injury to the mouth.
Horse teeth floating can become dangerous if done improperly by untrained owners because of the risk of gingival and periodontal infection, which can lead to an abscess and even death. Horse owners should only float their horses' teeth with the help of a veterinarian or an experienced horse owner.
Horse owners should be careful not to damage the gum tissue when using sharp tools such as dental floats. It's also important to avoid floating horses' teeth when they are in pain or feel threatened since this can lead to spooking. Horse teeth can be sensitive for a few days after being floated, so care should be taken not to startle the horse when it eats or drinks. Bleeding and infection can appear if horse's mouth is not cleaned carefully after being floated, so it's crucial to disinfect and rinse horse's mouth thoroughly after floating to prevent infection from setting in.
Why do wild horses not need their teeth floated?
Free-roaming wild horses do not need their teeth floated because they do not eat hay or other abrasive food.
A wild horse's diet includes forage such as grasses and herbs, which contain no abrasive particles that can wear down tooth surfaces like hay does. Horse teeth in the wild do not wear down at a rapid rate, so there is no need to prevent dental problems by floating the teeth. Wild horses can maintain healthy and strong teeth with regular grazing only.