So, you've discovered that your horse has sprouted his wolf teeth and now you're faced with the dilemma of whether to let them be or have them removed. But what are wolf teeth and should they stay or should they go?
What are wolf teeth?
Wolf teeth are tiny vestigial teeth that sit between the incisors towards the front of the mouth and the molars at the back. Vestigial teeth are rather like wisdom teeth in humans; they don't really serve a purpose and are an evolutionary relic.
Wolf teeth usually erupt in horses from three years onwards.
In many cases, the horse's wolf teeth are so small, they are barely visible. So, why do most people have their horse's wolf teeth removed?
Why should you have your horse's wolf teeth extracted?
Many horses do not suffer any ill effects of having their wolf teeth left in situ. However, the presence of wolf teeth can cause problems in some riding horses.
If the wolf teeth become displaced or sharp, they can cause problems when the horse is ridden. As the rider picks up the reins, the bit applies pressure to the horse's wisdom teeth, causing them to press against the cheeks, resulting in pain and resistance to the rider's hand. Loose wolf teeth may become diseased or cause recurrent ulcers inside the mouth, leading to pain and discomfort when the horse eats or wears a bridle.
Unfortunately, the eruption of the wolf teeth usually coincides with the horse being broken-in, and can cause problems with acceptance of the bit, leading to head shaking and other evasions that can be become habitual if the problem is not dealt with.
What happens when wolf teeth are removed?
Your vet will extract the horse's wolf teeth if necessary. The horse will be sedated to keep him still during the procedure and local anaesthetic will be used to numb the area around the teeth. The teeth are removed with special dental elevators and forceps that are designed to avoid fracturing the teeth or damaging the blood vessels that run along the jaw.
After the wolf teeth have been removed, the horse will need a couple of weeks off work to allow any bruising to heal.
If your horse has wolf teeth that are causing problems when he is ridden or when he eats, you should ask your veterinary surgeon for advice. If the problems can be solved by removing the wolf teeth, your veterinary surgeon and pet dentist will be able to carry out the procedure for you.