Tired horse yawning

What Causes Bad Breath in Horses?

Frederic Bousquet

A horse’s breath can tell you a lot about their oral and general health. If you’ve noticed that your horse’s breath has turned from pleasant to foul, you’ll want to read more below about the potential causes of their bad breath.

Causes of Bad Breath

Bad breath can signal problems not only in the mouths of old and young horses, but also in their sinuses, throats, intestines, and kidneys.

Oral-based problems that cause foul-smelling breath include:

  • Retained caps
  • Cheek ulcers
  • An abscessed or loose tooth
  • Feed pockets
  • Periodontal disease
  • Wounds in the mouth

A dental problem with any of the four upper cheek teeth can also develop into a sinus infection, as these teeth are connected to the sinuses and can cause malodorous breath.

How to Find Out What’s Causing Bad Breath in Your Horse

Two horses playing with each other

Conducting a general assessment of your horse’s health can provide clues as to where the source of the foul odor lies. This can be accomplished via a Whole Horse Exam (WHE), which involves monitoring your horse’s appetite, attitude, and demeanor, as well as their communication and interaction with you.

The WHE also involves a visual inspection of your horse’s face, eyes, and legs for things like swelling and symmetry, and a dental examination. You’ll also record your horse’s heart rate, feel for pain and swelling in other areas, and take their rectal temperature. Any abnormalities should be reported to your vet.

Other Signs

Bad breath that is accompanied by the following signs indicates infection and, therefore, warrants a call to your veterinarian:

  • Fever
  • Yellow or green mucus
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing

Difficulty eating and signs of abdominal pain can both be associated with a tumor, intestinal obstruction, and other serious conditions. Therefore, it’s critical to call your vet as soon as possible if these signs are present.

How to Treat Bad Breath in Horses

Funny smiling black horse

Depending on the cause of your horse’s bad breath, there are a number of things that can help them. If you’ve called your veterinarian, they may prescribe medication to lessen swelling and eliminate infection.

A dental health problem may require the extraction of a tooth or doing some filing to eliminate rough edges that can cause pain and secondary infection.

Colic and other digestive issues can result in bad breath and be treated naturally with products like peppermint powder. Peppermint is ideal for soothing upset stomach, relaxing digestive system muscles, and helping your horse to expel gas. Turmeric is another ideal treatment that supports healthy digestion, while aloe vera can help effectively treat ulcers.

Silly white horse braying

Horses with heaves or who have problems with their liver or pain sensitivity can benefit from spirulina, which is anti-inflammatory and has an immune-boosting effect. Ginger root powder can promote detoxification, as it protects your horse’s liver.

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