What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Teeth Grinding (in Adult)


When a horse grinds its teeth, you will hear a grating, squeaking or groaning sound. In most cases, teeth grinding (bruxism) is a sign of abdominal pain (colic). Horses may also grind their teeth if they have pain in the mouth, throat, esophagus or elsewhere. There are certain neurologic conditions in which this sign is common as well.

Teeth grinding may also be a stall vice caused by anxiety, and is commonly found in stall-confined horses that are isolated from others. In some cases, it can be a sign of aggression.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you are convinced this is a sign of colic (abdominal pain).
    • If you notice other signs of abdominal pain (colic).
    • If you notice other signs of abdominal pain (colic).
    • If you feel the problem is severe or has come on suddenly.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the behavior continues but the horse has good appetite, attitude and shows no other signs of colic.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If you want to rule out any physical issue being a factor in the behavior.
    • 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.

your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to their attitude and appetite. Look for other signs of colic. Take some time to notice when this behavior occurs - after feeding, while being ridden? This is important information that may help your vet in determining the underlying cause of this behavior.

If your horse appears healthy otherwise, consider making management changes to reduce stress and eliminate this behavior. Provide an environment that engages your horse more, such as more turnout or stimulation from other horses. Horses do better psychologically and physically when they are kept in view of others and turned out when possible.

your vet's role

Your vet may perform a complete physical examination and history and use diagnostics to rule out a painful abdominal condition. If this turns out to be strictly a behavioral issue, they may have management suggestions for reducing it.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Is this a new behavior?
  • Has there been a change in frequency or degree of teeth grinding?
  • Is the horse showing other signs of abdominal pain (colic)?
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite?
  • How is the horse managed?
  • When do you seem to notice this behavior?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Have there been any management changes?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
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Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP