Dental Correction Improves Digestibility in HorsesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · December 27, 2011
It makes sense to think that horses with dental problems or painful mouths would not be able to eat efficiently. These horses also might get less nourishment from ingested feed and hay that they were not able to chew properly. But is there any scientific evidence to support our suppositions?
A recent study conducted in Germany attempted to answer this question. In the study, nine adult Warmblood horses were selected because of mild to moderate dental findings. The horses did not show signs of pain when chewing.
Following a three-day adaptation period during which the horses ate hay and a mixture of corn, oats, and barley, measurements were made of voluntary intake of hay, digestibility of feed, and size of fecal particles before and after dental correction.
Voluntary hay intake amounts did not differ before and after correction, though there was considerable variation in intake by individual horses. There was a significant increase in apparent digestibility of energy from 46.8% before correction to 51.5% after correction. Apparent digestibility of dry matter and crude fiber also increased.
Horses eating larger amounts of grain showed more improvement of digestibility than those eating smaller amounts. There was no apparent correlation between severity or type of dental correction and improved feed digestibility.
Dental correction had no apparent effect on fecal particle size in this study.
Results of this study confirm the importance of regular dental care as part of equine management because horses can digest feed better, therefore deriving more nourishment from a given amount of feed, after dental work has been completed.