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  • Can the type of hay fed influence equine dental health?


    Equine dental health is linked with wellbeing. Where diets are high in water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC) there is increased risk of peripheral caries in the molar teeth. Because horse teeth continually erupt, removing dietary ingredients associated with dental disease should permit any damaged areas of teeth to grow out. The impact of replacing oaten hay (high in WSC) with a non-cereal hay (lower in WSC) on dental caries was examined in a recent study. 

    The study 

    • A retrospective, blinded, longitudinal study was conducted on 42 cases of horses with peripheral dental caries, based on clinical records from a single veterinary practice. 
    • Study horses were initially fed oaten hay (high in WSC) which was replaced with a non-cereal hay or straw. 
    • No other dietary or management changes were recorded and there was no control group due to the nature of this study. 
    • Photographs were taken at the start of the study and during subsequent visits over a five-year period. 
    • Dental caries in the photographs were scored using a caries grading scale by six equine veterinary dentists. 

     The results 

    • At the start of the study, 47.6% of cases were described as having inactive caries. 
    • At follow-up, 69% of cases were described as inactive and there were significantly lower grades of peripheral caries in the molars. 
    • No significant improvements were seen in the premolars at follow up. 
    • At the initial consultation, 22 horses had teeth 100% affected by caries; 5 of which had teeth fully resolved by the conclusion of the study. 
    • Some horses did not show improvement, others showed signs of deterioration, suggesting that other factors are also involved in the development of peripheral caries. 
    What does this mean? 

    Study results suggest that dietary amends can support the management of equine peripheral caries in the molars by allowing damaged areas of teeth to grow out. Replacing hay that is high in WSCwith forage lower in WSC can support this process. 


    1. Jackson K, Kelty E, Tennant M. Retrospective case review investigating the effect of replacing oaten hay with a non-cereal hay on equine peripheral caries in 42 cases. Equine Vet J. 2020 Dec 17. doi: 10.1111/evj.13404.  

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