If you're like me, any thought of the dentist is enough to enable my best procrastination methods! However when it comes to my donkeys, it's important to stay on top of their needs in this department. Teeth, hooves and gut health are critical to avoid the very worst problems.
Deenah has healthy but extremely worn teeth. When I first met her and looked in her mouth I thought perhaps she was fed a diet of sticks for a long time! All donkeys will develop hooks and sharp points as their teeth wear and change. In both young and old donkeys, things can change relatively quickly as caps fall out or teeth loosen.
Deenah has been choking lately. She'd eat a leaf of salal, or even an apple core and something would go wrong. She'd become very quiet at first and I could tell that something was caught in her throat just by the way she was holding her mouth, as though she wanted to spit something out. Sometimes she'd become mildly agitated, walk around, put her ears back - but any food offered was refused.
Staying by her side, I'd wait for her to start salivating, trying to work the offending thing up and out. Copious amounts of saliva would ooze forth and then she'd cough. The saliva is a good thing but this could be dangerous, as she could aspirate. I'd try to wait it out, often with my finger poised about the vet's phone number.
If the vet was called, she would sedate the donkey, then insert a nasal-gastric tube and pour in a mixture of water and mineral oil to flush matter out. This is the same procedure used for colic and not very pleasant although it could save a life. Every time Deenah chokes, I wonder if I should call the vet out but my intuition so far has been to stay with her, time the episode and see if Dee can work it out herself.
So far she has but after four such episodes, a vet call seemed appropriate to try to discover the cause.
The vet came yesterday and immediately spotted the problem, thank goodness! Deenah's front incisors were not meeting properly, causing her lower jaw to protrude a bit sideways and her chewing action was compromised. I had noticed that she seemed to be moving food in her mouth to a place more comfortable for her the chew.
Deenah also has a wave mouth - upper and lower teeth sitting in a wave-like pattern. The vet has been trying to correct this gradually to give her more of an even chewing surface. After a whole hour of rasping and filing, the vet felt she had corrected the problem and the ordeal was over for Deenah who was so amazing through it all.
Two things I have found so helpful are:
1. a bowl of soaked hay cubes or soy hulls or soy/beet pulp mash is a lovely offering for a sore mouth
2. Paste Banamine (Flunixin) is an oral anti-inflammatory pain reliever. A small dose (in Deenah's case 1 cc.) immediately after the dental work works wonders in helping to prevent discomfort. Note* Current thinking is that equine owners should NOT inject liquid Banamine inter-muscularly as it could result in a dangerous abscess! Although not to be used for a prolonged period, I have kept Deenah on a small dose of paste Banamine today and will use it again tomorrow if necessary.
For further reading, click here:
Donkey Dental Info from the UK Donkey Sanctuary