Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Gums have Dark Red Line above Teeth

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

There are a few areas on the body that provide important information regarding the state of a horse’s circulatory health. These areas include the gums, the pink membrane inside the nostril, the whites of the eyes, and the pink inner vulvar membranes of mares. That said, the simple act of evaluating the color of your horse’s gums is a very important skill.

When a horse’s gums are pink but have a dark line at the gum-line of the incisor teeth this can be a sign of toxemia, dehydration and other abnormal circulatory states. In the veterinary world, this is often called a “toxic line”.

This appearance can also be confused with normal. Keep in mind that horses (especially older horses) with gingivitis, periodontal disease, or EOTRH will also have a red line at the gum margin.

WHAT TO DO

When in doubt, assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) and call your vet to discuss your findings and concerns. If you see a sign like this, always compare the appearance of one side to the other side, and to the gum color of your other healthy horses. Always consider the state of the horse’s general health.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet may advise you to take a “wait and see” approach or suggest that they examine your horse, depending on the presence of absence of other signs or problems.

A careful physical exam may help your vet generally define the nature of the problem. Blood work can be helpful in identifying more subtle disease states.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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