Wolf Teeth : What Are They?!

I've been revising a bit lately and was looking through an equine dentistry book when I stumbled across inormation about wolf teeth, straight away it brought back memories of my favourite riding school pony, Champ. I remember when I was about 7 years old Champ stopped being used for lessons because he had developed ''wolf teeth''. Being so young and with such an active imagination I conjured up images that he had developed some sort of big ferocious wolf like fangs and that we had to avoid him if we didn't want to end up being bitten. Awww poor old Champ, I bet all he would have wanted was a good grooming and a few cuddles :(

Horses and ponies generally have between 36 - 42 teeth being made up of 12 incisors for cutting grass, 24 premolars and molars for grinding food and 0 -4 canines which horses' male ancestors are thought to have used while fighting other males for hierarchy and mating rights along with 0 - 4 wolf teeth.

Wolf teeth are basically rudimentary (no longer functional) first premolars. The second premolar is a fully formed tooth and is always called the second premolar whether wolf teeth are present or not. The number, shape, size and position of wolf teeth vary but they are most commonly seen in the maxilla (upper jaw) then on the mandible (lower jaw). Between 40 - 80% of all horses are thought to have at least one wolf tooth!

It is quite common that when a foal is shedding its baby teeth, the action of the adult teeth growing in can push out and expel wolf teeth. They generally occur anytime from birth to 18 months which is why it is so important to get an Equine Dental Technician (EDT) to give you the go ahead before you start to back or break a young horse. Wolf teeth added to an already stressful situation will only result in a sore, uncomfortable and difficult horse. It is also not uncommon for a adult or mature horse to suddenly develop wolf teeth ... so its always worth getting a dental check up!

Unerupted wolf teeth are also known as 'Blind Wolf Teeth'. They will feel like hard lumps sitting under the gum and will usually be quite painful. These will usually need an X-Ray to locate the tooth exactly and it will more then likely need to be removed in order to make the horse comfortable and happier to accept a bit.

Normally wolf teeth won't cause a horse any discomfort or pain but unfortunately this can change once a bit is placed in the horses mouth. The pain can come from a number of ways including the bit pressing on a wolf tooth or blind wolf tooth itself, the bit pushing the cheeks and tongue onto a wolf tooth resulting in cuts and ulcers to the inside of the horses mouth as well as sore, swollen and tender gums from the wolf teeth.

Some horses who develop wolf teeth may need to have them removed by a vet and it isn't considered major surgery for the horse. The horse will need some time off work to allow the gums to heal and this can range from 2 weeks upwards. Not every horse with wolf teeth will need for them to be removed ... but it is worth getting your horses teeth checked at least once a year (more if its a youngster or an eldery horse) to be on the safe side and to ensure they not having any other dental problems. I'm always surprised and a little shocked by the amount of people willing to buy new bits and gadgets instead of going back to basics and getting their teeth checked!

Poor little Champ did end up getting his wolf teeth out and was back to his happy and cheeky self in no time! What a fab little pony he was ... I did make sure to give him lot of hug and kisses once his wolf like fangs had been removed and my arms were no longer in danger of being bitten off! :)

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