Pony left with painful overgrown teeth: calls for owners to check teeth specialists’ qualifications

  • An equine dental technician (EDT) has issued a warning about the importance of checking for qualifications before having horses’ teeth done after an owner was unknowingly using an unqualified individual.

    Vikki Fowler, who is also a qualified vet, attended a 15-year-old pony on 7 March who had been receiving annual treatment by an unqualified EDT.

    Vikki told H&H: “The owners moved the pony to a yard where I do all the horses’ teeth and the yard owner suggested to them I looked at their pony. The owners had been using the same EDT for most of the pony’s life.

    “The back teeth were overgrown by 2cm and pressing into her gums – it’s a huge overgrowth. The pony was missing its top back teeth which is why they became so overgrown. It’s probable they had never been there and she had never developed them down to a conformational fault.”

    Vikki said the pony had not shown signs of “quidding” but had “runny and swollen” eyes.

    “Quidding is when a horse or pony tries to chew its food; they’ll take a mouthful but they can’t chew it enough so they spit it out on the floor. Usually quidding is one of the first signs owners think of when it comes to dental pain or they will see pain through the bit if the horse is ridden, but for horses and ponies who aren’t ridden owners rely on eating. This pony was not being ridden often and doesn’t eat a lot but the owner assumed it wasn’t a great eater,” she said.

    “The pony had runny eyes for many years; while I can’t say for certain, it seems highly likely that the pressure from the teeth pressing up into the orbit of the eye caused everything to become inflamed and swollen. When the area around the eye is inflamed and swollen it blocks off the tear ducts and the eye is constantly weeping, making it a prime suspect for attracting dust and flies.”

    Vikki said the pony is going to require treatment at three-monthly intervals for up to five visits to get on top of the issue, after which six-monthly visits will be needed.

    “The owners were devastated – nobody owns a horse and wants it to be in pain. They thought they were doing right by this pony, they didn’t realise the EDT was unqualified,” she said.

    “I’ve seen three cases almost identical over the past few days, by different people performing the work.”

    Vikki warned that it is not illegal to work as an EDT without relevant qualifications.

    “At the moment there is no legal standing; anybody can buy equipment off the internet, call themselves an EDT and go out there and practice. More terrifying is if one of these unqualified people did something wrong and permanently injured a horse there is no comeback because there is no governing body for them – it’s horrific,” she said.

    Vikki added owners should check for one of the two Defra-recognised qualifications; the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians or the World Wide Association of Equine Dentistry. The registers of EDTs holding these qualifications can be found online.

    “It is very easy to check – the registers have a full list of members, areas covered and telephone numbers,” said Vikki.

    “Nobody thinks that someone practising unqualified is legal, you don’t question a human dentist’s qualifications because you automatically assume they are qualified, and people assume it’s the same in the horse world. A lot of people just don’t know that anyone can buy rasps and go out and call themselves an EDT.”

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