Equine Dentistry: A Vet Tech’s Guide

Published on December 9, 2019 by arothstein

Vet tech performing equine dentistry services on horse

The field of veterinary technology is growing rapidly, and there is room for veterinary technology specializations like equine dentistry. With over 7 million horses in the United States, according to the American Horse Council, more vet techs are choosing this pathway.

Interested in becoming a vet tech? A career as a vet tech is ideal for an animal lover who is dedicated to caring for and healing animals. One animal that needs attention from both veterinarians and vet techs is horses. A vet tech can help educate horse owners on how to keep their horse healthy. A major part of a horse’s health is their mouth.

Vet Tech Specialty Fields

Vet techs have the opportunity to work in a variety of specialty fields. If you you love horses, training to become an equine vet tech is one of the options.

Training to be a vet tech requires you to get an associate degree from an accredited school and passing the VTNE. The degree program can usually be completed in less than two years. To work exclusively with horses, a vet tech also completes an additional program that focuses on equine health.

Duties of An Equine Vet Tech

An equine vet tech works under an equine veterinarian who must earn a DVM degree. After earning their degree, a veterinarian must complete a postgraduate internship in equine care.

Other Tasks of an Equine Vet Tech

The primary duties of an equine vet tech includes preparing horses for examinations. The equine vet tech also assists the veterinarian with the care of horses. These tasks include restraints and soothing a horse for examination. The equine vet tech assists the veterinarian in procedures and performs x-rays.

Additionally, an equine vet tech dispenses medications to horses, extracts blood for lab tests, and discusses medical concerns with owners. Because of this, excellent communication skills are required as an equine vet tech.

Equine Vet Tech Careers

An equine veterinary technician may choose from several career paths. The most common setting in which an equine vet tech works is a large animal veterinary practice. However, equine vet techs may work in other settings including race tracks, steeplechase courses, and breeding farms.

Furthermore, being an equine vet tech means that you not only have the opportunity to examine horses that are sick or injured, but you also have the experience to help horses to heal and have better lives. Part of the prevention includes equine dentistry.

What is Equine Dentistry?

An equine dentist is a veterinarian who specializes in equine dentistry, or horse dental care.

Some common equine dentistry procedures include:

Equine dentists also treat oral disease in horses. If a horse is losing weight or having problems chewing, an equine dentist can offer assistance to a veterinarian in determining a diagnosis and the necessary treatment.

How are Equine Dentistry Needs Different?

Horse’s teeth differ from human teeth because they continuously grow throughout the horse’s life. Veterinarians get into the field of equine dentistry to detect health problems and treat chewing problems caused by horse domestication.

How Do We Know if a Horse is in Pain?

When a horse has dental problems including cavities, it can cause pain as it does in humans. If a horse’s dental problems aren’t treated properly, they may develop oral diseases. Horses may have overbites, underbites, or floating teeth. All of these problems may be corrected by a veterinary dentist.

Equine dentists check horses for problems including tooth pain or decay, and oral disease. An equine dentist may have to undertake surgery to repair a broken jaw in a horse or extract teeth that are growing improperly.

How Does A Vet Tech Help?

A vet tech can get involved caring for horses by specializing as a large animal vet tech. A vet tech that specializes in large animal care works with veterinarians in caring for farm and ranch animals including dairy cows, goats, sheep, and horses.

Graduates of accredited vet tech schools can apply to take the VTNE exam. After passing the exam the test results are sent to a credentialing board so the student can be licensed or certified to work as a vet tech. In addition, equine vet techs may earn certification through the American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians.

Most equine veterinarians work from a mobile practice and the vet tech assists on calls to ranches and farms. The vet tech must be receptive and able to spot any pain or illness. When a horse has problems with its teeth or gums, the vet tech will prepare the animal and assist during the dental procedure.

Vet Techs and Communication Skills

Depending on where an equine vet tech works, a lot of travel may be involved. Not only does a vet tech have the opportunity to work closely with horses, but they also have to communicate effectively when visiting with horse owners.

The horse’s health and well-being should always be the first priority, but the vet tech should have the communication skills to talk to horse owners, farmers, and ranchers, by answering their questions. Explaining their horse’s treatment plan and medications that the veterinarian prescribes will gain the trust of the client. It’s essential to discuss the horse’s treatment in a way the average person understands and answer all their questions.

How Do Vet Techs Educate About Equine Dentistry?

One of the essential issues that a vet tech can discuss with a horse owner is the teething problems in younger horses and how they often aren’t noticed until the horse isn’t eating or is in obvious pain.

Problems with the deciduous teeth when a horse is young can lead to long-term problems when the permanent teeth come in. When dental problems go untreated in a young horse, it can alter their physical development and how willing they are to accept a bridle. The vet tech can stress the importance of regular dental checkups for their horses.

How History Impacts Equine Dentistry

As horses evolved, they grazed for up to 18 hours each day. Today, many horses only graze for a few hours. due to less time feeding, their teeth may become uneven which may result in ridges and sharp points.

When the teeth are uneven it’s hard for horses to grind food. This can also cause sores in their mouth. Another problem when horses aren’t able to grind their food properly is that the food may not be totally digested.

Symptoms of Dental Problems in Horses

When a horse is exhibiting any of these behaviors, your vet should be called.

An equine dentist must examine the horse and assess the condition of each tooth to determine the problem and treat it correctly.

Some horses may show obvious signs of pain or discomfort. However, others may not show any symptoms of dental problems. For this reason, it’s essential for horses to have regular dental examinations.

How Does a Horse’s Age Impact Dental Care?

The age of the horse is a factor in the frequency of dental examinations. Foals should be examined shortly after birth and frequently during the first year so an equine dentist can correct any abnormalities from birth.

Equine Dental Care for Foals and Young Horses

Two and three-year-old horses that are being trained for the first time should have regular dental examinations more frequently than older horses. A horse’s deciduous teeth are softer than permanent teeth and often develop sharper points on the teeth than permanent teeth usually have.

A veterinary dentist can float the teeth to remove any sharp areas and to check for caps retained. If the caps haven’t been shed, an equine dentist should remove them. The caps should always be removed before intense training begins to prevent further problems as the horse matures. Horses between the ages of two and five should have thorough examinations twice a year.

Veterinary dentist should exam yearlings because they often have sharp points on their teeth that could damage the tissue of the tongue and cheek. The usual treatment for overly sharp teeth is floating.

Mature Equine Dental Care

Mature horses should be examined annually to diagnose potential problems with the teeth as soon as possible. The examinations are necessary to make sure the teeth are properly aligned.

Horses that are at least 17 years of age should be examined each year since they have a higher risk for periodontal disease. This is a serious and painful disease that must be diagnosed early for the treatment to be successful. Horses that are 20 years of age and older should have an annual examination and nutritional counseling to ensure they have a good quality of life.

What are the Benefits of a Healthy Horse?

The primary benefit of keeping a horse healthy is that it will have a longer, happier life. One of the ways to ensure that a horse doesn’t suffer from a compromised immune system, digestive problems, and even depression is to minimize stress.

Socialization

Horses thrive on the company of other horses. If an owner can keep more than one horse, it’s beneficial to them. Another way to ensure a horse is in the company of others is to board one or two horses as companions.

Vaccinations

Horses should have annual vaccinations to ensure good health and a longer life. The immunizations a horse needs depend on the area in which the owner lives and the circumstances of the horse. A veterinarian can make the best recommendations.

Roughage

Horses need high-quality roughage to keep them healthy and live longer. Even if a horse eats more than the owner expects, it’s not worth buying inferior food.

Exercise

Daily exercise is the most effective method of keeping a horse’s circulatory system healthy and improving digestion. Exercise also does wonders for a horse’s attitude and helps keep them happy and content.

Want to Learn More?

Did learning about equine dentistry interest you? Ready to start a program to become a veterinary technician? With an associate degree in veterinary technology, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.

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