Reg­u­lar den­tal ex­am­i­na­tions from an early age can help iden­tify many oral prob­lems when they are still treat­able.

EQUUS - - Young Horses Health Check -

young­sters, along with te­tanus . You want to get the im­mu­nity started.”

Vac­ci­na­tion alone, how­ever, isn’t enough to pro­tect young horses from in­fec­tious dis­eases. “To rely on vac­cines with­out biose­cu­rity is a huge mis­take,” says Con­nally. “To pre­vent stran­gles, in­fluenza and rhino re­quires a good biose­cu­rity pro­gram.”

Biose­cu­rity mea­sures fo­cus on re­duc­ing a horse’s ex­po­sure to pathogens---from other horses to wa­ter buck­ets---es­pe­cially when trav­el­ing. “When I worked with race­horses I had one client who ev­ery year could count on his 2-year-olds do­ing fine in train­ing and stay­ing in­cred­i­bly healthy at his place---and then he’d take them to the track and half of them would be un­able to run in their first race be­cause of res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease. This il­lus­trates the biose­cu­rity is­sue,” says Con­nally. “Ex­po­sure is a big part of the pic­ture.”

When you take a young horse on the road, don’t al­low him to come in di­rect con­tact with any un­fa­mil­iar horses. This means no nose-to-nose “in­tro­duc­tions,” no mat­ter how cute. Also, do not share tack, wa­ter buck­ets or other equip­ment with un­fa­mil­iar horses. Back at home, iso­late any po­ten­tially ill an­i­mal, those re­turn­ing from stays off the farm or those with un­known vac­ci­na­tion his­to­ries un­til you are sure they are healthy.

Like older horses, young­sters need reg­u­lar den­tal care---or at least ex­am­i­na­tions. Foals who have bite ab­nor­mal­i­ties, such as par­rot mouth, can out­grow them, but only with reg­u­lar den­tal care. “A per­son has to be proac­tive while these ba­bies are young and the jaw is still grow­ing---and you have a chance to make a dif­fer­ence. There is a lot of plas­tic­ity in young grow­ing bones,” says Nel­son.

But even if a horse has a nor­mal bite at birth, it still pays to mon­i­tor his teeth and mouth as he grows. Tem­po­rary mo­lars usu­ally push up through the gums some­time dur­ing the foal’s first month of life, and these “baby” teeth re­main in place un­til they are pushed out by emerg­ing per­ma­nent teeth. In hu­mans, baby teeth come loose and fall out as per­ma­nent teeth come in, but in horses the baby teeth de­te­ri­o­rate as the new per­ma­nent teeth start to erupt. They be­come hol­low and are then called “caps,” which are shed as the per­ma­nent teeth come in. The first set of caps shed when the horse is about 2 ½ years old, the sec­ond set at 3 years of age, and the fi­nal set of caps comes off when a horse is about 3 ½ to 4 years old.

Not all young horses fol­low a text­book sched­ule, how­ever, and com­pli­ca­tions may de­velop. Some­times these caps do not de­tach from the gums as they should when the per­ma­nent teeth are push­ing them out, ex­plains Nel­son. This con­di­tion is called a re­tained cap and can cause pain, in­flam­ma­tion of the gums and, if it in­volves the up­per jaw, some­times si­nus prob­lems. If the re­tained cap is not re­moved, it may force the new

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