According to research done at the University of Edinburgh by Alistair Cox, periodontal disease is common in horses, affecting approximately 60 per cent of horses over age 15.
Although bacteria are known to be the cause of periodontal disease in humans and many other animals, their significance in relationship to horses is not clear because of the differences in the mouths and teeth of horses.
Periodontal diseases affect tissues and structures surrounding and supporting the teeth including the gums. The disease is painful and can impact the horse's ability to eat and the general quality of the horse's life.
For the research, Cox examined the skulls of 22 horses that had been submitted for post mortem examination. Although none of the horses had received treatment for periodontal disease, 16 had some form of it.
In his research, Cox noted that spirochetes were present in cases of equine periodontal disease. These bacteria, commonly found in human cases of the disease, may have more to do with equine periodontal disease than previously thought since much periodontal disease previously has been thought to be the result of mechanical factors in the horse's mouth.
According to Cox, more research needs to be done to understand the development of the disease in horses and the best methods of prevention and treatment.
Cox's research is funded by The Horse Trust.