With all the young 2-year-olds currently in our barn beginning their training, it was time to bring a vet in and have a look at their teeth. Since the youngsters are learning how to wear bridles and snaffle bits, we needed to ensure none of them had any wolf teeth – which would surely impede their training progress and may even cause them pain in the process.
It’s amazing how a tiny little tooth can affect so much.
As such, I thought it might be helpful to enlist the expertise of Dr. Larry Hanson, owner of Sherwood Animal Clinic in Regina, SK, to explain the importance of extracting wolf teeth from riding horses for MSL readers. If you are a seasoned horse owner, this information may be somewhat of a refresher course for you but if not, read on. As a mixed animal practitioner, specializing in equine for 25 years and a breeder of Standardbred race horses, Dr. Hanson has a wealth of knowledge pertaining to the horse.
Q. Can you please describe in your own words, what wolf teeth are?
Dr. Hanson - Wolf teeth are the first premolars that usually erupt directly in front of the second premolar. This second premolar is the large tooth found first in the arcade, after the canines.
Q. How common are wolf teeth?
Dr. Hanson – Wolf teeth are quite common and usually erupt between 6-12 months of age. They are most commonly found in the upper arcade but can occur in the lower arcade. They are found in males and females with equal frequency.
Q. Why should horse owners be aware of wolf teeth in their horses?
Dr. Hanson - Wolf teeth are important for two main reasons. Loose tissue in the mouth can be drawn into the wolf teeth by the bit and can cause injury and pain to the horse. Secondly, wolf teeth can prevent the first large tooth from grinding properly against their counterpart and can cause formation of abnormal points and hooks in the mouth.
Q. How can an owner determine whether or not their horse has wolf teeth?
Dr. Hanson – Owners can feel the gum in the area behind the canine teeth. The wolf teeth will be felt as a smaller tooth in the area between the canine and first large tooth.
Q. And if their horse does have some wolf teeth, what are you recommendations for dealing with them?
Dr. Hanson – Wolf teeth are most easily removed by a veterinarian at the time of castration in males, while they are anaesthetized. They can also be removed under sedation at anytime, usually when the horse first has their teeth floated. This is recommended at 2-3 years of age, when the horse enters training.
Q. What is a “blind” wolf tooth?
Dr. Hanson – They are un-erupted wolf teeth. Blind wolf teeth can be problematic because they can irritate the overlying gum and be painful if bumped with the bit.
Q. Are there any additional comments you would like to add regarding wolf teeth?
Dr. Hanson - People often confuse wolf teeth with canine teeth. The wolf teeth are difficult to see and can be hard to feel, depending on exact location and size. Canines are the large “fangs” that are found just behind the incisors in both the upper and lower jaw. These are most commonly found in geldings, so people often think, possibly in error, that their mare does not have any wolf teeth. You do not remove canines in horses.