Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Do you hate going to or have a fear of the dentist? 
Do you hate the sound and feel of the drill?
Maybe you'd better not read any farther.
Or maybe it might make you realize that your dental experience, compared to Pride's, 
wasn't really that bad after all.

The horse vet that specializes in dentistry came out to visit Pride today.
What, you say, a dentist that does house calls?

The first thing the vet does is sedate you.
Wow, all fear of the dentist is now gone.  
You are so out of it that your head is hanging between your knees, inches from the floor.  You can't expect the dentist to get down on his knees to look in your mouth,  so your head needs some help to get it to the right height. A rope tossed over the rafters, and that fancy padded halter thingy hoists your jaw up to viewing level.  Note the floppy bottom lip.

Then the vet puts that horrible speculum thing in your mouth, so you can't bite his arm off, and starts poking around in there with his hand.  He pulls out clumps of chewed up grass, and smells it.  That smells helps him figure out what is happening in there.  He shines his head lamp in there and then brings out the biggest drill you've ever seen.  Look at the length of that sucker!

It has a little round grinder head on the end, with a casing around it so that if the grinder slips off the tooth, it won't cut into the cheek.

Pride didn't like the vet putting his hand in his mouth, but once the drill got going he relaxed more.  The vet said that happens every time.  You'd think the horses would object even more to that, but it seems to relax them.  Tooth dust was floating out.

As you can imagine, with the length of a horses jaw, there is a whole long line of molars back there.  If the upper and lower molars aren't exactly aligned, one edge of a tooth can develop sharp points that don't get ground off, and those sharp points can poke into places they shouldn't.  Pride had some sore spots on the inside of his cheeks where the points were hitting.  Since he is nearly 30, his teeth are just about worn out.  There's not much left of them.

All the protruding points got ground off.
Then the vet brought out his little pick thing, just the same size as a human dentist uses, and picked away at the plaque on Pride's incisors.

Then when it was all done, Pride's head was back down almost at the ground.  The front legs were forward and the back legs, well they were back, and he was well braced while the anesthetic wore off.  An hour later he was out grazing in the field.

The vet was great.  Gave us a running commentary of everything he was doing.  I liked the way he handled Pride.  
We had a discussion about Pride's weight.  This was the first summer that Pride didn't put on weight.  He's going into Winter carrying less poundage than we'd like.  Maybe those pointy teeth poking into his cheeks were making for some painful chewing, and he wasn't able to eat as much.  Maybe it is just old age catching up with him. The vet suggested we measure around him in the girth area, and then repeat that every few weeks.  He said we'd pick up a weight loss with the tape measure faster than just eyeballing him.  Then we could adjust his feed accordingly.  At the beginning of November we let him into the back hayfield, where we could have taken a late, light second cut of hay, but didn't.  So there's lots of grass out there.  That combined with some grain and horse pellets will be his diet for the winter.  The amount of horse pellets will increase as the grass decreases.  Even if he was totally toothless, we could soak pellets in warm water to make a mash, and he could just swallow that.
There's lots of life in the old boy yet.
And somehow I'm getting the feeling we're running a seniors home for animals.


  1. When we were on the farm, our vet kidded us that we ran a retirement home for animals. At least when we had to say farewell, we knew they'd lived good lives. That counts for a lot, doesn't it?

  2. That was really interesting. I was offered a job working with a local Vet that specializes in eye care. He did eye surgery on one of the Tigers from the Zoo. Sometimes I regret not taking that job.

  3. Right there with you on the Seniors Home. Good of you to have the Vet come out to float Pride's teeth. Loved the last picture....looked like he had a heck of a hangover :0)

  4. between Old Ewe, April and Pride you have the start of a retirement community. I hope Pride eats better now and gains a bit of weight:)


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