Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Parrot Mouth or Overbite

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

    You notice that a horse has an overbite, meaning that the front edge of the top incisor teeth (nipping teeth) is further forward than the front edge of the lower teeth.

    In some cases the upper and lower incisors still make contact but are imperfectly aligned, a mere overbite. In severe cases, the central incisors do not meet at all, a condition called “parrot mouth” by some breed associations. This distinction is important, because some registries such as the AQHA consider this a genetic defect, and do not allow the registration of horses with a true “parrot mouth.”

    Severe overshoot of the front (incisor) teeth usually does not cause a horse much trouble, and it is merely an unsightly cosmetic blemish. In many cases, however, the cheek teeth (molars and premolar grinding teeth) further back in the mouth may not meet well either.

    Due to this, there is a greater tendency for dental overgrowths to develop points, hooks and ramps that may cause a variety of problems for the horse, including the mechanical worsening of the appearance of the parrot mouth itself.


    Consider this a fault and what you see is only the “tip of the iceberg.” There may be more dental issues in the rear of the mouth.


    Your vet carefully examines the whole horse’s mouth and determines the need for dental care. In young horses, there may be a window of opportunity in which surgical procedures (orthodontics) may help the final result.

    What Not To Do

    Do not ignore this problem, especially in a foal, because there may be a limited time in which veterinary intervention may help the problem and provide a better quality of life. Breeding these horses is controversial. There is debate about the genetic basis for this condition.

    Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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