Ask the Vet: Dentistry

Written by Cindy Allen, DVM, Bit O’ Magic Equine, Aluchua, Fla

Question: Can fretting from being stabled, and in muddy conditions, cause foaming and drooling?

Answer: Drooling is saliva that is either profuse release or a normal amount that is not being swallowed.

If profuse and particularly slimy, it may be due to some type of irritation.

If it is the type of salivation producing foaminess that is what you might see on the horse’s mouth and lips when they chew on a bit continuously, thus is less indicative to me of direct mouth irritation.

With your horse, my first examination would be to check inside the mouth making sure there is not overly sharp edges or problems with occlusion causing him to chew or irritate his cheeks.

And secondly, to determine if  he is chewing on something – like wood or stall items – to irritate the  lips or mucosa. Thirdly, if there does not seem to be other obvious reasons why he would be drooling so much, I may want to consider ulcers as a possibility.

With a stalled horse that is fretting regularly, stomach ulcers can be present.

One theory associated with “ulcer” behavior in horses is increased pain from the lesions occurs as acid is released when eating a grain meal or when fretting. Ptyalism (constant grinding of teeth) is a reaction associated with ulcers in young horses. Chewing in general causes a saliva release in all horses, and calcium containing saliva actually has a buffering effect in the stomach.

The surest way to diagnose ulcers is with a thorough endoscopic examination, which will include the stomach and upper dueodenum in the horse.

If diagnosed with ulcers, the problem will usually respond well to term of 4-6 weeks of appropriate oral medication with omeprazole or ranitidine coupled with management changes such as more turnout and regular access throughout the day to grazing or access to forage.

Cindy Allen, DVM, Bit O’ Magic Equine, Aluchua, Fla.