Sunday, April 5, 2009

Parrot Mouth

Mrs Mom commented on seeing a horse with a severe parrot mouth a couple of posts back and it got me to thinking...

I did own a parrot mouthed horse one time. He was a tiny dynamo of a speed event horse and was so darn cowy that when he locked onto a calf or steer, you could just throw the reins away and focus on roping. Since he was a gelding...the question of reproducing that fault never came up.

I'm sure that everyone else was raised with the understanding that the parrot mouth condition was entirely genetic and was the result of one or both of the parents having the same condition. In the case of my little gelding, neither of his parents were parrot mouthed and he really didn't get noticeable until he was a 4y/o. I think he was 5 or 6 before I got his teeth worked on by a really good veterinarian who enlightened me a whole bunch about this horse's mouth. Not only was he significantly parrot-mouthed, he apparently had very soft teeth. He was missing a few already and the vet found another broken one still in his jaw. The only indication that this horse had any dental issues was that he carried his head slightly tipped while loping to the right.

The vet explained that the primary reason a parrot jaw is undesirable is because of how the teeth line up in the mandible. Any misalignment in the jaw bones leaves a horse with the propencity to "grow" hooks both on the upper and lower teeth.

Now, based on talking to my equine dentist, I started doing a little reading. According to the dentist, parrot jaw is not necessarily genetic! And it can be fixed to a certain extent with proper dental work. Now, I certainly am not knowledgeable enough to discuss this in detail, but I did find this really good article on the subject...Equine Dental/Parrot Mouth. There are good pictures included of both mild and severe cases.

Now in the article, they talk about the over grinding of teeth during dental work, which is something that CdnCowgirl brought up in previous comments. With modern power tools, this is a valid concern. I'm very comfortable with the expertise of the dentist I use, but he came highly recommended. Actually, anyone I talked to about getting horse's teeth worked on, they either recommended this guy or an equine specialist veterinarian who is nearly 200 miles away. I wouldn't recommend that anyone just hire the first name they came across and let them go to grinding on your horse's teeth. In that case, manual floats sure would be the way to go, lot less chance of creating more of a problem than they are fixing. As far as the sedation? Every horse I've ever had worked on, even with manual floats were sedated. I do remember hearing about an equine dentist in AZ, who used homeopathic remedies to relax horses so they could be worked on. I kind of poo-pooed the idea, but still wanted to see it in person(not enough to pay for his services though). A couple of people I talked to about him said they didn't think he got much accomplished with that method. So I stuck with what I knew, which was still manual floating at the time and regular sedation.

So back on topic, I asked our dentist what exactly creates a parrot mouth, if it is not entirely genetic? He said most often it is caused by feeding horses out of mangers, rather than on the ground and foals that are weaned late. Gulp!! So, to the top of the list for him to check out in May will be little Shooter. I think Shooter has a mouth that resembles Moon's anyway, it sure would suck if I've caused further damage by leaving him on his momma that extra time.

9 comments:

Mrs Mom said...

I knew one Warmblood colt that was born with a "slight" parrot mouth. Owner had "horse braces" (some sort of surgical procedure that accomplished an evening up of the jaws.) Neither the sire or the dam had any mouth issues, nor had any of their ancestors. Wonder where his came from? (No, seriously, how the heck do you think that worked???)

This filly the other day though-- wow. Her history is a mystery. The client said she got up one morning, looked out the window to check on the boarder horse in the field and discovered an extra horse that was in bad, bad shape. It took her some detective work, but she tracked down the horse dumper and a tiny bit of the filly's history, and has given her a home. Funny you should mention the missing teeth in that gelding of yours- this filly had a missing tooth or two on the bottom as well. I *assumed* that they had just... well, fallen out to be replaced by Big Pony Teeth... but now you have me wondering!! (Just for the heck of it, this nice filly also has a wicked bad *genetic* [true] club foot in her off side fore.)

Just when I think I might be getting a handle on this horse stuff, something else comes up and proves I have a long long way to go yet....

Thanks for this post! ;)

Mrs Mom said...

Oh- that Warmblood colt- the surgical procedure involved wires, and adjusting the tension on them every couple of days, for about the first year of his life.... That colt? Was MISERABLE. Utterly. Totally. Completely. MISERABLE. He wound up with gastric ulcers as well. Last time I saw him (before we moved here,) he was a two and a half year old BIG colt, with a BIG chip on his shoulder. NOT fun to work on AT ALL. (Can't say as though I miss him at all..lol)

cdncowgirl said...

Mrs Mom - OMG how could they think that colt *wouldn't* have issues! :x

cdncowgirl said...

Kimfer's grey filly has a very slight parrot mouth. Neither dam nor sire has one. Didn't notice it on any of her full or half siblings that were still at the breeders either.
Dale (or eq.dentist) told Kimfer to keep her teeth checked very regularly, whether she used him or someone else.
And on the subject of sedation, power floats etc - Dale is *amazing* he is an old school horseman, shown and bred horses for years. He uses manual tools and very VERY rarely sedates a horse. The bad thing is he is getting a little 'long in the tooth' himself and I am dreading his retirement. The vets around here that I know and like all insist on power floats and in MY opinion are not skilled enough to do a proper job. :(

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

I would say that poor filly has suffered from poor nutrition from the time of conception to have that many issues. If it's her molars that are missing-they are gone. When horses shed their baby teeth, there is always the permanent tooth coming in right behind it. On the molars, that is the "caps" that sometimes have to be popped off(like VooDoo's the other day). Poor little girl.

Cdn-I know how you feel. Having to replace someone you know and trust is probably one of the most agonizing things about horse ownership. If they give you good results and your horses get along with them, it doesn't matter how they do what they do huh?
When this dentist said he was going to start limiting his clientele, I kinda stopped breathing for a second. He just smiled and reassured me that we would still be clients. After this year, we may have to haul to him, but I'm okay with that.

Paige said...

I agree with you that they are not ALL genetic. Although, I believe that some are--there is no other way to explain why so many Smart Little Lenas have this problem--too many different mares, mare owners, etc for there to be any other explanation.

One of our mares--a Smart Little Lena, has thrown two babies that have had varying degrees of it. The first did not show up until weaning, and went away by age 2, and the second one showed up with it---and is now fine. I stopped breeding her altogether, until I found out what the deal was. I would breed her again now that I know they turn out okay, but I am cutting back anyway

I am lucky to have a great dentist; it constantly amazes me that so many people NEVER have any dental work done.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

That is something else I just recently learned Paige. That the parrot mouth can show up and then mostly go away. All this time, I just thought if a horse was parrot mouthed-they were born that way and stayed that way their whole lives.

One thing about it, I sure have gathered a lot of good information for the 4-H kids. Since it looks like it will be awhile before we can actually have horse practices, we will be working on equine science stuff.

City girl turned Country Girl said...

What a great topic for discussion. I have a horse on my ranch that actually belongs to my mom and she has a parrot mouth... My mom bought her and she was already in foal so I was leary about the foal. I was afraid it would be born that way, cause I did research it and I found info stating that. The foal was born 2 weeks ago and has a normal mouth thus far.. Hopefully she stays that way!! So I guess time will tell us.

Danielle Michelle said...

Thanks for the info. I'm working a horse right now for someone and the horse is parrot mouthed and I've having problems with soreness and a bit. The owner has called me stupid because 'young horses don't have these problems with their teeth!'

Don't you just love the ignorance? I'm glad I'm not stupid and I'm going to love bringing your article to the owner to show him what might just be the problem here....