Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Equine Dentistry

Today was dentist day - interesting for me, not so interesting for the horses, but important nonetheless. It involved a certified Equine Dentist - Marcus Rietema (also President of the IGSA) and my vet, Leslie Mikluvich. Oddly enough, Leslie used to be Katie's vet and remembers Bee!

Here are the tools all laid out before we got started.

Fenway was first and you can tell in this picture he knew something was up.

First was a manual "float" where the dentist basically sticks long poles with metal rasps on them into the horses mouth to de-burr the teeth on a first pass. Then comes the speculum and the power tools.

Fenway did really well, and had a lot of work done. At one point, probably before another injection, he did look over at me like he was ready to be done. Really ready to be done. (He wasn't quite, though.)

Sadie was next, but I didn't take any pictures of her because - with a whole lot of drugs in her - she did not act sedated at all and I figured the last thing she needed was the flash going off.

Then came Doc, a 20-year old gelding related distantly to Lena (Doc Bar) and looking more like cutting horse stock than she ever has. His owner had her boyfriend Phil come do dentist duty. Phil is "retired" and has my dream job - working in the local small-town hardware store. He did a great job of tending Doc and keeping us all company while we watched and waited.

This is Doc getting his front teeth chopped down to the right level. (If the front teeth are too long, the back teeth can't come together and chew food properly.)

Doc also came through with flying colors and apparently has great teeth for a horse his age. Yay!

Lena was last because I had planned to be there all day and wasn't sure what was going to happen with the extraction. As it turns out, the tooth was loose and came out (relatively) easily. We're hoping the permanent tooth - pushed back because this one was in the way - will now migrate towards the space it was supposed to occupy. Yes, I saved the tooth. And both Katie D. and Shannon wanted to see it, so it can't be all that weird of a thing to do amongst horse-owners. Maybe a little weird to other folks, though.

Lena had watched me going in and out of the barn all day, and had watched other horses go in and out all day, so was already vaguely suspicious. She also remembered Dr. Leslie, and not necessarily fondly.

Mostly, Lena was good. Luckily, Steve decided to leave work early or there wouldn't be any pictures of Lena since I would have been holding, not photgraphing.

Here she is getting her front teeth done, though since she is only five, not quite so much came off.

She did have some nasty hooks (sharp points) in the back which were causing ulcers in her mouth, which is one of the reasons to get your horse's teeth done. Would you want to have a bit in with things like that going on in your mouth?

Just so you know, there is no instant gratification here for the owner. After their ordeal, both Fenway and Lena were eating very gingerly and both turned their backs to us in an expression of their irritation. It's like parenting, really. Phil even said at one point, "It hurts me more than it hurts you."

When Steve asked Marcus why dentistry is needed for horses, the answer he got was basically that healthy teeth are even more important now that horses don't roam the plains eating hard scrabble food and live more than ten or twelve years. You know, kind of like humans. Katie says there are a lot of people who don't believe in it, but it makes sense to me and if it makes Lena a healthier, happier horse, I'm all for it.

This is Marcus after a very long day of horse dentistry. Many thanks, I'm sure Lena will start speaking to me again soon. :-)


Terrie said...

Great post -- thanks! I posted a link from Critter Geek!


Marcus Rietema said...

Hey there, Nice write up and photos! I enjoyed spending my day with all of you. I also appreciate the tag for the IGSA. Thanks!