Talo’s vet diagnosed him with EOTRH over a year ago. EOTRH stands for Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis. It’s a dental disease that mainly affects older horses. What it basically means is that the horse’s body absorbs the calcium in the root of the tooth, and the tooth becomes unstable. In an effort to stabilize the tooth, the body of the horse builds up cementum (calcified tissue) on the root, making it big and creates a huge swelling that starts to stretch the gums and create infections. The condition usually affects the incisors.
Talo has moderate EOTRH. Barring the vet’s diagnosis, I wouldn’t have noticed that anything was wrong with him – he was eating and grazing happily and didn’t resist the bit (other than his usual antics, when he doesn’t feel like working). Still, we decided not to wait until it gets worse, and did some x-rays. Five of his teeth looked like they needed to come out.
We scheduled surgery for last Wednesday, in Bet Dagan Veterinary hospital. I was, naturally, very worried, and had many doubts about the surgery. After all, tooth extraction seemed like an excessive thing to do, especially since Talo wasn’t showing any signs of pain. Although I had misgivings, I’v researched the matter and read many owner stories of post-EOTRH recovery. In many of those cases, all of the horse’s incisors needed to be extracted, and the surgery was mostly performed on older horses than Talo – 20 years and up. Most owners said the horses recovered very well and quickly and were much happier after the surgery.
So, I figured we better not wait until pain starts, or Talo gets too old for a safe surgery.
The extractions aren’t fun to watch, and it’s not something for the faint of heart to view. Since I am not that easily disgusted, I had no problem staying with my horsey the whole time. It took quite a few hours, and eventually we only extracted three teeth. Each extraction took quite a long time, because the roots were so freakishly huge. After seeing the teeth that came out, I knew I did the right thing for him. I have no idea how he managed to eat and behave regularly with those monstrosities up his gums.
The scariest part of this long day was actually the hour of post surgery. I put Talo in a stall, in order for him to come out of sedation in a peaceful, quite place. He did get a lot of sedation, so I didn’t expect him to snap out of it, like he usually does when he gets small amounts. Still, time has passed, and Talo was just standing in the stall, shivering and refusing to move or drink water. He also didn’t have any bowel noises. I was super worried – he peed a lot during the surgery (the vet said it’s due to the drugs) and it’s summer and hot – I didn’t want him to get dehydrated. Plus, his behavior was so unlike him – he just stood there, with his nose mashed up against the bars and wouldn’t move.
I called the vet, and she suggested taking him out for a walk. It turned out to be the best idea of the day – the second he stepped out of his depressing stall, Talo was himself again. With his mouth still bleeding, he immediately pulled me to the nearest hay bale and snatched a bite. Then he proceeded to look for every small piece of grass in the area, and chugged a bucket full of water like he’s been to the desert. I was so relieved to have my boy back…
My instructor came to pick us back to the stables, and Talo was super happy to be home. He went to his stall and demanded food. I gave him small amounts of hay and alfalfa, and he kept looking at me like I was starving him. Mind you, he wasn’t supposed to eat a lot after recovering from sedation.
The very next day we went out for some hand grazing (I call it “grass walking”). Talo ate without issue, took his antibiotics like the good boy that he is, and let me rinse his mouth with salt water.
Today, four days post surgery, we did a light lunge with a halter (no bit, of course), and it went great. I don’t know when we’ll be able to go back to our riding routine, but at least he can release some energy and of course, he gets his grass walk every day, so he’s very content.
The vet said there is’t enough tissue to suture, so basically Talo now has holes in his mouth were the teeth were. Hay and food gets stuck there, I try to clean it as best I can, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He has a slight icky smell from his mouth, but I am guessing it’ll pass as the tissue heals.
We might need to extract more teeth in a year or so – we’ll see. In the mean time, I’m just happy that my horse is healing, eating and having fun with me. The rest is not a problem 🙂