Sedating Your Horse

Sedation is something that is often needed in the autumn for clipping but also for the farrier, travelling or for rasping teeth.
There are 3 main ways in which horses can be sedated – 2 of these are via an oral syringe that the owner can administer themselves (Domosedan and Sedalin/Relaquin) and the third is through intravenous sedation administered by the vet.

Sedalin or Relaquin
The active ingredient of sedalin is ACP, which is a mild sedative and reduces anxiety. For this reason, sedalin is often used for horses that do not require as deep a level of sedation. Sedalin has the huge advantage in that it can be can be administered by the owner with a prescription from your vet. The only caveat is that the vet must have seen the horse in the last 6 months to comply with DEFRA medicine dispensing regulations. An additional advantage of sedalin is that it is given orally like a wormer. The sedation will take approximately 30 – 40 minutes to fully develop, and last for up to a couple of hours, so it is key that you enable enough time for the sedation to take effect before any procedure is initiated.

Domosedan Gel
The active ingredient in domosedan is detomidine, which gives a higher level of sedation than ACP. Therefore, we recommend domosedan for those horses that require a medium level of sedation. Domosedan is very advantageous in that it can be can be administered by the owner with a prescription from your vet. The only caveat is that the vet must have seen the horse in the last 6 months to comply with DEFRA medicine dispensing regulations. One difficulty in giving Domosedan is that it must be given under the tongue on the gum / oral mucosa – not just into the mouth like a wormer, therefore this can be difficult in horses that are difficult to worm. The sedation will take approximately 30 – 40 minutes to fully develop, so it is key that you enable enough time for the sedation to take effect before any procedure is initiated. Sedation would typically last for an hour or so.

I/V sedation
I/V sedation is sedation given into the vein and is used in those horses that require a high level of sedation to enable procedures to be performed, when oral sedation is not adequate. The dose / type of sedation used depends on many different things – including duration of sedation required, procedure being completed, depth of sedation of required, how sensitive the horse is to sedation. I/V sedation requires a visit from the vet, and can be done on our zone visit scheme. The advantages of I/V sedation is that it gives a much greater depth of sedation, therefore it is very useful in horses that are exceptionally sensitive to procedures being performed. Additionally, with I/V sedation the vet will wait for up to 15 minutes to enable a ‘top up’ if the horse starts to come round from sedation. I/V sedation typically uses a mixture of a sedative drug and a opioid which usually produces a more profound sedation with less sensitivity to touch.

Dentistry

Routine dental examinations are an essential part of your horse’s health care but is unfortunately often overlooked by owners for the following reasons:

  • The mouth is inaccessible meaning sores and ulcers cannot easily be observed.
  • Horses will tolerate severe dental abnormalities and pain without showing many clinical symptoms.
  • Many horses receive dental work performed by unqualified people who do not have adequate education or training.
  • Equine dentistry has historically been undertaken in a reactive manner when there is advanced problem rather than trying to identify early disease and prevent progression.

By undertaking regular examinations, severe, painful dental related problems can be minimised or prevented.

How frequently should my horse’s mouth be examined?

We recommend that all horses undergo a dental examination at least once a year.  Some horses such as those expected to perform at a high level and those with specific dental abnormalities might benefit from more frequent examinations.

Who should rasp my horses teeth?

Vets 

  • Have received dentistry training during their time at University and are fully qualified to examine and rasp horse’s teeth.
  • Undertake further dental training with Chris Pearce (www.equinedentalclinic.co.uk) – one of the worlds most experienced equine veterinary dental practitioners.
  • Can administer prescription drugs such as sedatives, local anaesthetics and pain killer drugs allowing safer more comfortable treatment.

Dental Technicians

  • Provide equine dental care but may have no formal training or qualifications. 
  • No legally recognised qualification for Equine Dental technicians. The British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT) administrate an exam to prove competency and should you decide to use the services of an Equine dental technician we advise that one that has undertaken this examination and is a member of BAEDT is used.
  • Cannot sedate or administer drugs.
What should you expect?
  • Thorough oral and dental examination – assessment of teeth and soft tissues – using head torch, probes and mirrors.
  • Controlled reduction of sharp points and balancing dental arcades (using hand rasps or modern lightweight motorised instruments)
  • Dental charts to record findings and work performed.
  • More advanced techniques such as wolf tooth removal and tooth extraction can be undertaken along with the use of a dental endoscope to help visualise the mouth and teeth.
Sedation

In order to allow a proper examination we advise that all horses receive a little sedation.  Not only does this allow thorough, controlled examination, it also increases the safety for both horse and owner.  We understand that some owners prefer their horses not to be sedated and we are happy to examine your horse without sedation if requested to do so.

We will sedate horses for work to be performed by BAEDT members if requested in advance and an appropriate consent form is completed.