Wolf teeth are the small, first premolar teeth. Not all horses have wolf teeth. Wolf teeth typically erupt and are at full size in the first year of life.
Some believe that the presence of wolf teeth interferes with the bit. My opinion is that it depends on the circumstance and the particular character of individual wolf teeth. I see no reason to remove wolf teeth strictly for health reasons. It is only a consideration for horses that will carry a bit in their mouths.
Removal is a simple and routine procedure with few complications. The gum is elevated away from the tooth with a sharp curved scoop-like instrument. The tooth is then scooped out of the socket. The teeth may break off below the gumline or come out complete, including their curved root. It is considered acceptable if the teeth are broken off below the gumline because they usually don’t erupt any further. But there should not be any tooth protruding above the gumline.
For convenience, I remove them routinely during routine castrations while a horse is sedated.
The horse is sedated using drugs that provide some pain relief. Local anesthesia is preferred by some vets but is usually not used. I do not use it.
YOUR VET’S ROLE
Your vet should explain to you potential benefits of this procedure versus cost. The procedure is usually quick, with little drama. There is usually mild to moderate resistance to the procedure. Unhandled or poorly handled horses may resist.
The procedure should take at most 2-5 minutes per tooth, unless there are complicating factors. There should be a small amount of blood in the mouth and on the vet’s hands after the procedure. The sockets are small and are left open. They usually become packed with feed, but healing takes place rapidly anyway.
While some vets recommend that caretakers flush the sockets after removal, I do not think it is necessary. I usually prescribe follow up care for horses after wolf tooth extraction only when lower wolf teeth have been removed. In this case, I may recommend that caretakers flush the lower sockets once daily with weak salt water.
The mouth heals very rapidly and well. In most cases, horses act as though nothing happened. That said, keep an eye on your horse to be sure they continue to eat well and act normal after the procedure.
I usually recommend that no bit be place in the horse’s mouth for a minimum of 3-5 days after the procedure.
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Consider Potential Side Effects & Complications
Complications from removal of wolf teeth are very rare. However, it is possible to leave part of the tooth protruding above the gum-line, causing ongoing irritation.
Some bleeding is expected after wolf tooth removal. Blood may drip from the mouth for a few minutes after this procedure.
More extensive bleeding indicates that a larger vessel may have been injured. A large artery (palatine artery) runs very close to the wolf teeth, and rarely can be damaged during extraction. Although this complication may look bad, in most cases there is no long term damage.
Consider Reasons Not To Use This Treatment
Although removal of wolf teeth has become a customary practice, if the location and size of these teeth do not pose a current or potential problem given the horse's intended use and bit type, then this treatment may not be necessary.
Skills I might need
Is It working? Timeframe for effect
In horses that have their wolf teeth removed because of perceived resistance to the bit, look for an improvement in behavior after several weeks.
Within 7-10 days, there is usually no ongoing discomfort from the extraction procedure.
Questions To Ask My Vet
- What are the benefits and risks of this treatment?
- When can I place a bit in my horse's mouth after this procedure?
- Is there any follow-up care needed?
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