Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Cannot Chew, Chewing Abnormally

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 you feel the problem is severe or has come on suddenly.
  • 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.
  • If the horse seems to be having difficulty eating, in addition to showing this sign.

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

  • If you consider this a chronic and relatively mild problem that is not changing rapidly.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

Difficulty chewing is often caused by dental problems. For young horses, retained baby teeth are a common problem. For older horses, dental overgrowths, missing and loose teeth, and periodontal disease are common.

Foreign bodies in the mouth are also not unusual. A piece of wood, seed awn, or wire stuck somewhere in the mouth may prevent a horse from chewing normally. Trauma to the head or jaw can result in swelling or fractures that cause difficulty chewing. Nerve or brain dysfunction rarely causes this sign.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE). Assess the mouth (wear gloves) and, and share your findings and concerns with your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet uses good light and good technique to visually and tactilely assess things in the mouth. They consider their oral exam findings in light of the horse’s age, the signs they are showing, and their general health.

POSSIBLE TREATMENTS or TherapiesTo Lessen or Resolve the Sign

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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