Q&A: Who should float my clients' horses' teeth?


Q: Who should float my clients' horses' teeth?

Q: Who should float my clients' horses' teeth?

That's certainly a hot-button issue these days. Some in the equine veterinary profession are starting to reject the tradition of nonveterinary equine dentists (NVEDs) floating horses' teeth. Equine practitioners are pushing for more sedation during this procedure, arguing that certain areas of the mouth can't be reached, assessed, or treated without it.

Because the American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends that only licensed veterinarians administer sedatives or analgesics for the procedure, as well as diagnose dental problems, those veterinarians ask clients to refer floating cases directly to them. However, most horse owners and many equine practitioners still work hand in hand with NVEDs to provide floating services to clients.

Dr. Geoff Tucker is an equine veterinarian who focuses on dentistry and floats the teeth of more than 3,500 horses in and around Palm Beach, Fla., each year. For veterinarians too busy for floating, he recommends they develop a close relationship with an NVED.

"There are way too many horses out there for veterinarians to do all the work," Dr. Tucker says. "If it takes 20 to 30 minutes to float one horse's teeth, and you've got a barn full of 10 horses, that's a lot of time for a busy veterinarian to spend." Dr. Tucker also worries that many clients will forego teeth floating when the cost of a veterinarian's time is so much higher than an experienced nonveterinarian's.

"Embrace those nonveterinarians," Dr. Tucker says. Equine practitioners should find someone they can trust who's experienced in floating and collaborate with him or her. You could even hire this person. Take your floater around with you on calls and make introductions with your clients. "The floater will get a percentage of the income from floating procedures, and the clients will get the peace of mind that if there's any mistreatment of the horse or problems, the veterinarian is there to cover it," Dr. Tucker says.

Dr. Tucker has expanded his business by hiring on an assistant who rides with him on visits and shares the labor of filing teeth. "She can handle the meanest horses because she's learned the techniques that work," he says.

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