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


Cannot Chew, Chewing Abnormally


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.

  • 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.

your role


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.

your vet's role

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.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How old is the horse?
  • Has your horse lost weight?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Does the horse seem able to eat?
  • What do you feed the horse?
  • What were the findings?
  • When was your horse's last veterinary dental examination?
  • Have you looked into your horse's mouth?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • What did you see when you looked in the horse's mouth?

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