Tighter controls on equine dentistry in NZ proposed

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Some tooth extractions in horses would become veterinarian-only procedures in New Zealand under proposed regulations intended to clarify the rules for surgical procedures in a range of animals.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is seeking public feedback on its proposed changes, with submissions closing on July 24.

The ministry’s discussion paper on the proposals acknowledges that the regulations will impact on the types of procedures that equine dental technicians can perform and may affect the viability of their businesses.

There are two options under consideration in relation to extractions.

The first will allow a competent person to extract a deciduous incisor (milk tooth) or cheek tooth (molars and premolars) from an equid provided in all cases they are loose.

A freshly extracted wolf tooth.
A freshly extracted wolf tooth.

All other tooth extractions, including wolf teeth, would be veterinarian-only. Pain relief must be used at the time of the procedure.

The owner or person in charge of the animal has responsibility to ensure that only competent people perform this procedure.

Under the second option, a competent person may extract a finger-loose deciduous incisor (baby tooth) or cheek tooth in an equid that has an obvious visual recession of the gums and is protruding above the occlusal surface, but may not use tools or other equipment.

All other extractions would be veterinarian-only. Again, pain relief must be used at the time of the procedure.

The owner or person in charge of the animal again carries the responsibility to ensure that only competent people perform this procedure.

Proposed penalties are a maximum fine of $3000 for an individual, or $15,000 for a body corporate, for failing to use pain relief when extracting teeth, other than loose baby teeth. The same penalties would apply for an owner or person in charge of an animal for allowing the regulations to be breached.

The department noted that wolf teeth are routinely extracted for prophylactic and therapeutic reasons, including in response to behavioural issues.

“Scientific evidence is lacking on whether prophylactic wolf teeth removal is necessary,” its discussion paper says.

“Currently, non-veterinarians and veterinarians both extract wolf teeth. Pain relief is administered by some practitioners.

“Removal of wolf teeth is more complex than removal of deciduous teeth. All or part of the crown can be hidden beneath soft tissue and they can be large with deeply embedded roots.

“The greater palatine artery and the hard palate can be lacerated during this procedure. Soft tissue infections or tetanus may also occur following this procedure. Fractures of wolf teeth can lead to permanent and painful local swellings.

“It is considered that extraction is likely to meet the criteria for a significant surgical procedure and that pain relief should be provided to the horse.”

The department says the veterinary community has indicated a very strong view that extracting wolf teeth should be veterinarian-only due to the complexity of the procedure and the impact on the animal if the procedure is not performed correctly.

“As a result, the proposal that all extractions (with the exception of deciduous teeth) be veterinarian-only reflects that [the] non-veterinarian community are likely to have difficulty accessing pain relief.

“Without access to pain relief for extractions, a regulatory proposal allowing non-veterinarians to extract teeth with pain relief would not be able to be implemented.

“All other extractions are likely to be significant surgical procedures and therefore would need to be carried out by a veterinarian.”

Castration and branding

The department also proposes amending existing regulations on horse castrations – a veterinarian-only procedure – to include all equids – horses, ponies, donkeys, mules, other wild asses, zebras, and any of their hybrids.

Both donkeys and zebra were excluded from the original horse castration regulation because there were no known issues and it was thought to be sufficient to leave the procedure for these equids up to the Act.

“The confusion (demonstrated through feedback received by MPI) about whether the horse castration regulation applied to other equids provided an opportunity to clarify this and consider the unique circumstances of these other equids.”

The proposals around freeze branding would allow a person deemed competent to perform this procedure. Further investigation is being undertaken into the availability of effective pain relief.

The department is proposing to prohibit hot branding, with freeze branding seen as a preferable alternative.

While scientific studies have found that both hot and freeze branding cause pain and distress in cattle and horses, it is likely that hot branding may be more distressing than freeze branding.

Blistering, soring, and caslicks

The proposed regulations include a prohibition on performing blistering, firing, mechanical soring or nicking of a horse or other equid.

Blistering and firing are procedures which involve the application of chemical, or thermal cautery (hot or cold) to the legs of a horse to create tissue damage to, or an inflammatory reaction on, its legs.

Nicking involves the cutting of the skin or ligaments of the tail of the horse to make it carry its tail in a raised position.

Mechanical soring relates to the application of devices including chains and weighted platforms, to the hooves or legs.

For caslicks, the proposed regulations would list the creation or repair of a caslick as a veterinary-only procedure, with pain relief required.

A competent person would be allowed to open an existing seam when the mare is served or is foaling if the horse is given pain relief authorised by a veterinarian for the purpose of the procedure and no tissue is removed from the mare.

The owner or person in charge of the animal has responsibility to ensure that only competent people perform this procedure.

Currently, there are no specific requirements for caslick procedures.

The ministry will hold six public meetings around the country in late June and early July on the proposed changes.

More information: https://www.mpi.govt.nz/dmsdocument/34878-new-mpi-report-template
Information on having a say is here
You can comment on the proposed changes online here

30 thoughts on “Tighter controls on equine dentistry in NZ proposed

  • June 14, 2019 at 1:26 pm
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    I have been a horse owner for 60 years and have worked with horses for 50 of those years.
    I don’t believe horse dentistry should be restricted to vets only, in most cases, vets are lucky to have had a weeks training in horse dentistry. But horse dentists should have qualifications in that field and be held accountable as are vets.
    Gelding should be regulated and only performed by a vet in all equines incl donkeys and zebras (Zebras I have no knowledge of) Donkeys are actually more susceptible to complications than horses.
    Soring and nicking should be definitely be totally illegal and their is no need for blistering or firing in this day and age
    Caslicks I believe can be opened by a competent person but should the creation of a caslick should be done by a vet with pain relief given

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  • June 14, 2019 at 3:44 pm
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    I’d prefer a qualified dentist extracting a tooth rather than a vet. Having them work alongside each other would be the ideal outcome.
    Last vet I used to extract a tooth from my horse stuffed it up. Had to call dentist in to fix it up.

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    • June 15, 2019 at 8:40 am
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      I am.happy for equine dentists to do all required work on my horses
      A well trained dentist always puts horse welfare first and is prepared to work alongside a vet . That has been my experience over past 20years. Have lived in both north and south island. Yes there are “frauds” for want of a better word. To be honest I think the farrier industry needs more of an investigation

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      • June 23, 2019 at 9:16 pm
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        Not happy about this I’ve used my horse dentist for 25 years hes wonderful with the horses & does this work daily & will always recommend if a vet is required which I’ve needed once in this time. why would I want someone doing it that has little hands on experience over one that has over 25years? All it’s going to do is infact put people of doing dentist work on their horses in the end.
        I agree with above comment think farrier work needs more investigations done than dentist work.
        Sorry but will be supporting the dentist’s here.

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  • June 14, 2019 at 4:25 pm
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    I use a qualified equine dentist for all dental work with my horses. She has had 20 years work experience, is well qualified and every couple of years goes overseas for more training. In my opinion she would know more about equine dentistry than a vet. My horse has had its wolf teeth removed with no problems. I wouldn’t feel confident at all using a vet where this is not their specialty. And my vet only lives 15 kms away but to come out to me charges $80 mileage. Maybe this is a money making scheme for vets as well?? What next – using a vet to shoe horses?

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    • June 17, 2019 at 11:23 am
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      Have used Equine dentists for some 30 years , my farther before me some 50 odd years and never had a problem, vets on the other hand have not the training on teeth the dentists have . Sure for some more complex extraction etc the Equine dentists I have used will always work along side a Vet.

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  • June 14, 2019 at 6:49 pm
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    Why could you not authorise a dentist to do a procedure? Could there not be training for this and qualifications? I would prefer to use my horse dentist over a vet anyday as he does this every day. The horses are very happy – he is of course 75 years now and I understand perhaps his skills could be lost. This is a growing industry and it is important that horses have a dentist.

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  • June 14, 2019 at 7:53 pm
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    Ridiculous. My horse dentist is a very capable dentist I don’t need a vet

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  • June 14, 2019 at 10:35 pm
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    Not interested in a vet touching my horses teeth. Qualified horse dentists all the way. No way would I go to a doctor over a dentist for my teeth, so why would I do the equivalent to my horses? Not enough thought has gone into this idea. Equine dentists should be allowed to go get a qualification to be able to administer pain relief to horses. Otherwise a vet can come give pain relief, then equine dentist perform the tooth extraction.

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  • June 14, 2019 at 10:36 pm
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    It seems the intention to regulate is good. I would like dentists to have better qualifications and be able to administer pain relief. Vets can’t be experts at everything and we need to keep cost in mind.. if everything becomes expensive it is only the horses that will suffer.

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  • June 14, 2019 at 11:53 pm
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    Horse dentists do a very good job and are relatively affordable. As others have noted many vets do not have adequate training in doing teeth and are more expensive than the dentist.
    It seems excessive to remove the dentists ability to remove teeth when it is within their ability and level of training. This could actually make things worse for many horses, as prohibitive costs could risk the work being neglected entirely.

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    • June 15, 2019 at 12:02 pm
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      Unless the veterinarian is qualified in equine dentistry and uses this in a regular basis, I cannot see how they can be better or more knowledgable than a trained and qualified equine dentist.
      A good equine dentist will also work alongside a veterinarian especially in regards to sedation and pain relief.
      I am concerned there is consideration on enforcing vet only procedures, the best option that I can see is regulating the industry and ensuring equine dentists are trained and qualified.
      It was interesting to read about the wolf teeth, all my horses (various ages) that have had wolf teeth removed have been sedated and the removal has been straight forward, the teeth have been narrow with small roots.

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  • June 15, 2019 at 8:18 am
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    This is just a ridiculous regulation proposal and reeks of bureaucratic interference in favour of vets. My equine dentist is highly qualified and regularly travels overseas for updated education in this field at a recognized licenced training facility. By all means ensure equine dentists are qualified to undertake this work and when necessary utilise a vet for pain relief etc. That is clearly in the animals best welfare. But a blanket banning of a highly qualified professional has some serious and unpleasant undertones. Furthermore, there have been instances of vets incorrect diagnosis and treatment programs so care is required there also. Let’s all keep a calm head and think this through carefully.

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  • June 15, 2019 at 10:34 am
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    This is just stupid, equine dentist’s are specifically trained where as vets only have a basic knowledge. The professional I use for my horses dentistry always explains his role and any treatment that may require the assistance of a vet. If something isn’t broke then leave it alone. If you had to have a vet each time the costs would possibly deter some people from regularly have dental work undertaken.

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    • June 17, 2019 at 6:48 pm
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      Who would you get to shoe your horse,,,your vet or your farrier ?its a no brainer,, but you’d be surprised how many horse owners say to their farrier the vet wants you to do such and such,,,,up to the individual horse owner coz they all different I reckon

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  • June 15, 2019 at 11:03 am
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    Who would you trust to treat your own teeth? Or your children’s teeth? Your GP? Your heart surgeon? Come on. Only a trained dentist is qualified to treat your teeth. Having worked in dentistry for over thirty years I know how important it is to have someone with the correct training and experience to treat this very specialised area of the body. Extraction of teeth is not simply a case of gripping it with forceps and applying a bit of force. There is quite a lot of skill needed to apply pressure in the right area so as not to damage the jaw bone or the adjacent teeth. Likewise if attempted by the uninitiated, the tooth is likely to break making removal of the roots a job requiring an even greater skill set. Even among dentists themselves there are teeth that are referred to specialists for extraction. Let’s leave the specialist care to the specialists who are properly trained and experienced to do it. Your horse will be grateful for it and will recover faster for having the right care.

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    • June 18, 2019 at 10:34 pm
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      I have used horse dentist for my horses and donkeys for many years with complete confidence..I have vets for vet work, farrier for hooves, and dentist for teeth..leave things to the trained experts in their field.

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  • June 15, 2019 at 6:27 pm
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    Who would you trust to treat your own teeth – or your children’s teeth? Your GP? Your heart surgeon? No. You would see your dentist because a dentist has the training and experience to treat this area of the body. Having worked in dentistry for over 30 years and seeing the difficulties that even trained dentists sometimes have with the removal of teeth, I shudder to think of the poor horse having to endure the inexperienced and untrained hands of a vet. It is not simply a matter of gripping a tooth with some forceps and applying a bit of force. There is a huge amount of skill involved in, not only in being able to extract the tooth in a timely and pain free manner without breaking said tooth and then having to dig out the remaining roots, but also in not damaging the jaw bone or the neighbouring teeth – not to mention the nerves and the sinus. And if the tooth does break, having the skill and knowledge to safely remove the roots. Let’s leave teeth to the specialists who know what they’re doing. The horses will be most grateful, I’m sure.

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  • June 16, 2019 at 1:44 pm
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    How ridiculous! Vets are not trained properly in equine dental work, probably barely even spend a week on this during their vet training, There is no way I would allow a vet to touch my horses teeth EVER. Sounds like a revenue collecting exercise being pushed by vets via the veterinary Council to me. If dental work requires pain relief and/or sedation then the dentist will call a vet in anyway.

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  • June 16, 2019 at 9:09 pm
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    Unfortunately many dental practitioners working on horses do not have the specialist training people assume they do. They would need a university degree to have the degree of knowledge they are being given credit for. Human dentists have a degree and therefore charge appropriately for their professional services. There is no equivalent for horses, however vets are trained in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and medicine and those promoting a high level of equine dentistry have actively completed post graduate training in the field. Anyone who has completed a degree and a high level of training is entitled to charge an appropriate fee for a complete exam and travel time if this is time they are unable to complete other work as well as offsetting costs of running a car. Until there are recognised qualifications with transparency on what has been studied and passed by examination and there is a registration and disciplinary body for equine dental technicians the only way to stop tooth extraction being performed by people without pain relief or correct technique is to limit it to the vet profession. Vets do have a governing council where people can have concerns met if a job isn’t done acceptably and legal requirements to work within an individual competency level. They also have a legal requirement to stay current with professional education. This framework is not in place for dental technicians and using the term “dentist” implies a level of training that isn’t the case. For them to be sufficiently qualified to use nerve blocks and sedation they would need to do a university degree.

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  • June 16, 2019 at 9:32 pm
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    I use a qualified horse dentist who has specialised experience in dentistry, unlike my horse vet who I value greatly, but he is not a specialist in dentistry and is more like a GP (would you go to your GP to extract a tooth?). If needs be my dentist and vet will work together when sedation is required, but 99% of the time sedation is not required. In the past 40+ years I have used vets to do dentistry and have not been impressed with their level of skill, or that they need to sedate EVERY horse they work on. I do not like using drugs/sedation unless necessary and while it is needed at times, it should not be mandatory as the majority of horses do not need it. A well qualified horse dentist has a huge amount of specific equine dental training, while a vet only has a small amount of dentistry training among the many other animal issues they have to learn (of which equine is only a small percentage unless they specialise and even then dentistry is still a small portion of their equine studies).

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  • June 18, 2019 at 8:00 am
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    I would rather a horse dentist who is doing horse dentistry all day and can recognise when things aren’t right. Are the vets not making enough money that they have to demand control of a whole separate industry for themselves to charge out for? People who won’t be able to afford the dentistry from a vet won’t get it done and the animals will suffer even more. What a ridiculous waste of time and money.

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  • June 23, 2019 at 10:01 am
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    I rang a vet for a horses teeth to be looked at as i suspected a capped tooth.. The vet arrived $135.00 just for coming, horse needed teeth work, but they hadn’t brought any teeth gear, and would call back the next day with gear, another $135 plus teeth work. I declined. Sorry not all vets, are good vets, most vets today are trying to boost how to get more money from clients. I was lucky to find a good Horse dentist, who brought her gear when she came did the job, the horse was happy so was I..

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  • June 23, 2019 at 3:07 pm
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    I use a well qualified horse dentist who has specialised experience in dentistry, unlike a horse vet who is more like a GP.Vets need to have a broad knowledge of all that ails a horse, dentistry representing only a small portion of their training, and I’m sorry but it shows. I have used vets in the past to have my horses teeth done and each time has been unsatisfactory. I know too much about the anatomy, and the teeth had not been ‘floated’ nearly as precisely as my experienced horse dentist achieves. Correct occlusion is vital for function, comfort and longevity of the horse and the experience I had on 3 different occasions with vets was that the teeth were not done to my satisfaction, not nearly as professional and precisely as with my experienced horse dentist. Plus the need to sedate every horse they treat is really unnecessary in my opinion, and costly. My horse dentist does not sedate, my horses are calmly behaved for the procedure. I want the very best care for my horses and getting vets to do their teeth is the last thing I would want.

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  • June 23, 2019 at 4:46 pm
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    I have used a vet once to do teeth,,,never again, sedated both horses without consultation,,,straight in with power tools on Horse was only 2 yrs old which I now know should never be done. I will only use an Equine Dentist now.

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  • June 23, 2019 at 7:40 pm
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    Qualified horse dentist all the way for me. I’ve used 4 different ones in the past 20 years and all qualified, extremely capable, competent and worked overseas. Also they are horse-people and know how to handle all horses on a daily basis. Many vets do not have the hands-on day to day experience and skill to deal with the equine species. No disrespect, vets have a place, but I feel equine dentistry is a specialist and skilled area. I for one would not be happy to hand over equine dentistry to our local vets who don’t see much horse work. I also don’t believe in sedation for horse UNLESS ABSOLUTELY necessary. A vet administered sedation to one of my horse years ago to do a routine teeth job as she did not have the skills to work with the horse. Two different equine dentists worked on that horse after that perfectly happily and easily with no sedation required. Sedation was horrible – a time and a place but not in most routine teeth inspections and work.

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  • June 24, 2019 at 7:31 pm
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    A correctly trained, experienced equine dentist can not be replaced. They are specialists in this field as that is expressly what they tend to. Vets can not, understandably, be expected to see the same volume of horses for dental work. When I call in people to tend to our horses, they are the most experienced and most qualified and therefore do the best job for the animal. Equine dentists, specialists, every time. No doubt.

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  • June 25, 2019 at 7:11 am
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    It is ridiculous that a fully trained Equine dentist cannot obtain pain relief before extracting a tooth. Most vets to my knowledge have had minimal training at this procedure.

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  • July 2, 2019 at 4:43 pm
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    I feel its really important that a vet trained in equine dentistry is used for all dentistry on my horses, by this I don’t just mean any vet, I wouldn’t expect a small animal vet to perform dentistry, just as I wouldn’t expect my dental vet to treat my dog!!! There are too many so called equine dentists in NZ who have NO qualifications, just like human Drs and Dentists, we need regulatory bodies to ensure clear boundaries are adhered too, also we need to ensure dentists are actually qualified to do what they do, I wouldn’t see someone who called himself a dentist but yet had no official qualifications, is a no brainer!!!!

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  • July 5, 2019 at 6:29 pm
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    A fully trained Equine dentist is qualified to be used for all dentistry needs and they in conjunction with vets have access to pain relief. To my knowledge most vets do not have sufficient training and regular re-certification to perform the dentistry currently performed by equine dentists.

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