USE 'EM OR LOSE 'EM
Despite the challenges that come with aging, it is well worth the effort to keep older horses healthy and active. Good horses, as they age, become ambassadors of their kind that fill the niche of babysitter, teacher, companion and friend for their own species and for us humans too. They are the saintly souls that introduce trepidatious children and adults to the amazing feeling of riding. They are the old but still spicy lesson masters who have honed their skills for schooling cocky yearlings and humans alike.
A horse, well cared for from the start, may live into his or her 30's as a healthy, happy member of the family. This longer life span may be attributed to improvements in general health care, feeds and feeding practices and specifically to improvements in dental care and treatments. When it comes to senior horses, we can't emphasize enough the importance of regular dental exams and care as indicated.
EOTRH IS QUITE A MOUTHFUL
Along with improvements in equine oral hygiene, veterinarians have discovered “new” or at least previously unreported disease processes. One of these, uncommon but not rare, conditions is a real mouth full. Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis or EOTRH for short. The condition was first presented in veterinary literature around 2006 and has subsequently been noted by practitioners world wide including here in our own back yard.
EOTRH is a progressive, painful condition known to affect the incisors, canines and less often the cheek teeth of older horses. The disease is actually two separate processes, in some horses there are resorptive lesions of the root and alveolar bone while others exhibit hypercementosis (a build up of cementum around the tooth) leading to a bulbous enlargement of the tooth and root. Usually there are differing degrees of both processes in play. Clinically, horses present with varying amounts of oral inflammation, from gingivitis and gum recession to abscessation and draining tracts. There is much yet to learn about this disease process since we don’t currently know why or how it occurs and we have no cure for it.
Discomfort from the condition usually increases gradually over months or years. Without early detection it eventually manifests with weight loss and difficulty eating, especially hard materials like carrots or treats. The horse may also show head shyness, resistance to bridling or other behavioral changes. In cases with significant inflammation and tooth resorption the horse may present with a foul odor from the mouth and/or draining abscesses. A thorough oral examination may reveal the characteristic bulbous appearance of the incisors and excess cementum around teeth at the gum line, but radiographs are necessary to appreciate the extent of dental resorption and the number of teeth involved. Radiographic findings will show the extent of tooth root resorption, root and reserve crown enlargement due to hypercementosis, alveolar bone loss, osteomyelitis and loss or disruption of the tooth root canals.
The only treatment for severe cases of EOTRH is extraction of the involved teeth. (Yes, horses can actually cope quite well without their incisor teeth and extraction significantly improves their quality of life.) If the condition is recognized early, shortening of the incisors may help decrease the inflammatory process and ease symptoms. Daily cleaning of the incisors using a toothbrush and a disinfectant like chlorhexidine may also be helpful as a palliative treatment. (A palliative treatment moderates the signs of disease but does not address the cause.) This is another situation where attending to the disease process early makes for a significantly better chance of your horse trotting, happy and healthy, into her/his golden years.
We love caring for our senior patients and with that in mind, it's Dental December at RBE, take advantage of our DENTAL SPECIAL (see below) only a few short weeks left until the end of the month..... and the end of 2019!