Signalment: "Chip" is a 10 year old American Quarter Horse gelding.
History: Chip's owner reported a 4 month history of weight loss. His owners tried: increasing his feed, weight building supplements, deworming, and dentistry performed by a lay dentist*. Chip continued to have a good appetite but also continued to lose weight. Chip had deteriorated from a healthy show weight to an unhealthy emaciated condition.
Physical Examination: On presentation Chip had a normal temperature, pulse, and respiration. His mucous membranes were pink. His capillary refill time was less than 2 seconds. He seemed systemically normal. He was passing normal feces. His owners were feeding him an appropriate amount of high quality feed. But his body condition score was 3 out of a possible 9.
Examination of Chips teeth (figure 1) revealed a slight overbite and overgrown number 106 and 206 premolars. These are the first upper cheek teeth. Notice in the picture below (figure 2) that the first premolars are much longer than 107 and 207 premolars behind them.
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Many horses that have an overbite and overgrown premolars also have caudal hooks. Caudal hooks are defined as overgrowth of the number 11 molars. For more information, please see our educational article on caudal and rostral hooks. In Chips case the 311 and 411 molars (lower last molars) were severely overgrown. You can see in the figures 3 and 4 below that the molars had grown to sharp points and were driving into his maxilla ( upper mouth).
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Chip literally could not close his mouth to chew. The lay dentist* had not addressed the issue.
Treatment: We treated Chip by performing a complete performance float. We reduced the overgrown premolars with a Dremel tool. We cut the overgrown molars then we smoothed the rough areas with a Swiss Float. Shown in the figures 5, 6, and 7 below; Chip now has a normal bite. He can close his mouth and chew normally.
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Comment: With a normal bite Chip is able to chew and digest his feed normally. He has quickly added weight and has now returned to show condition. Chip is on the show circuit and performing admirably. If you would like to read about how severe caudal hooks affected a mini donkey from a more personal point of view, see this blog by Dr. Koontz.
*A lay dentist is a person who is not a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine but performs equine dentistry. In Indiana only Doctors of Veterinary Medicine or people working under the direct supervision of a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine are legally allowed perform equine dentistry.
Robert H Koontz DVM
Chief Executive Officer
Conley and Koontz Equine Hospital