BHS Dental Awareness Week

The most important aspect of reducing the chances of your horse having bad teeth is to feed a high fibre diet. Studies have shown that feeding fibre based feeds encourages your horse to use the full range of jaw movement which reduces the likelihood of sharp edges forming. High fibre diets have also been shown to generate more saliva which has natural anti-bacterial functions and so helps to promote oral hygiene.

Horses are living longer and in many cases are outliving their own teeth. This can make feeding an old horse with poor dentition challenging. When a horse’s teeth become loose, worn or missing, it can make simple things like chewing very difficult and will reduce the horse’s ability to obtain the essential nutrients they need from their diet.

Horse having dental issues checked by dentist

The number of enquiries regarding poor dentition and how to use hay replacers to the Dengie Feedline has increased significantly in recent years. In 2020 there were 5 times more enquiries regarding hay replacers than in 2015 and the winter months are when enquiries peak each year. Interestingly it’s not just older horses that present a challenge, horses of all ages can suffer from conditions such as diastemas, where abnormal gaps can develop between a horse’s teeth. This often means that the horse cannot manage long-length forage, which should make up at least half of every horse’s diet, which can result in significant weight loss. There is also an increased risk of colic as the horse may consume larger pieces of forage which can be more prone to causing impactions in the digestive tract.

Alicia Wilkinson’s event horse Perfect Timing II (Pooh) lost a lot of weight and was ultimately diagnosed with diastemas that had reduced her ability to chew long length forage. Along with dental work, a change of forage was required to ensure she received sufficient fibre in her ration. On recommendation of Claire Akers Dengie’s Performance Horse Nutritionist, Pooh was fed Dengie Grass Pellets and Alfa-Beet soaked to a mash to partially replace her forage. Pooh went on to complete at various International Horse Trials including Tattersalls, Blenheim, and Burgham on this ration, so clearly using a forage replacer is no bar to health and performance.

Blenheim Palace Show Jumping Horse

A study funded by Dengie showed that when high-fibre materials were provided in a form the horse could manage, they were able to consume just as much as a horse with normal dentition. If you have a horse with bad teeth it can be as simple as finding the right form of forage and feeding enough of it to enable them to gain weight and look and perform as well as ever.

There are a wide range of products in the Dengie range which can be used as forage replacers. Hi-Fi Lite, Meadow Lite with Herbs and Ulser Lite are all low calorie chopped fibre feeds, ideal for good doers, whereas the Hi-Fi Senior or Pure Grass are higher calorie alternatives all of which can be fed up to ad lib quantities as a full or partial forage replacer. There are also pelleted options available, Pure Grass Pellets and Alfa-Beet which can be soaked to a soft mash making them very easy to chew even for horses with no teeth at all!

Grass range

BHS Dental Awareness Week runs from 10th – 16th November. Join Dengie and Ben Portus from Paton and Lee Equine Veterinary Surgery for a free webinar and Q&A session: Addressing Dental Issues in Horses at 7pm on 14th November. Common dental problems and how to manage them will be discussed as well as feeding tips and advice.

For more information about feeding for dental health, Dengie’s hay replacer options or for help and advice on all aspects of feeding call the Dengie Feedline: 01621 841188 or fill in our Feed Advice Form.