Many older horses have difficulty chewing properly, as do some younger horses. Whether it is because of lost teeth, worn teeth, gum problems, or jaws that are misaligned and don't work well together, making chewing and eating easier will result in better nutrition, a healthier horse, and less waste of good feed.
- Consider the form of the feed being given to the horse. Adding some warm water to the feed 10 to 15 minutes before feeding will allow the dentally challenged horse to chew and swallow more easily and will also reduce the chances of choking and colic.
- Selection of the feed is important. A senior horse feed with a high fat level of 6 - 10% and containing highly digestible fiber sources, such as beet pulp, is easily digested and can replace much of the hay that the horse would normally consume.
- Add some high quality hay to promote intestinal motility. Although most senior feeds are high in fiber and can be fed as complete feeds, the horse needs enough bulk to maintain intestinal motility. Hay cubes or chopped forage can be soaked and mixed into the feed or fed separately. If the horse is able to eat high quality regular hay, separate the flakes and scatter them in small piles so that the horse walks from one pile to another. This will help the digestive tract and will provide a grazing effect for the horse.
- For horses affected by Cushing's disease, choose feed with low amounts of sugar and starch, which could improve glucose and insulin metabolism and reduce the risk of laminitis and founder.
- Unless your dentally challenged horse is the most dominant horse in the group, feed it separately to give it enough time to finish its feed.
Remember that periodic dental care by your veterinarian becomes more important as your horse ages, or becomes afflicted with dental conditions or diseases. Use the five suggestions noted above along with any animal specific advice your equine dentist offers to maintain a healthy and pain-free horse.