Wolf Teeth in Horses

Updated June 17, 2024 | By: Kim Allshouse, DVM
An equine veterinarian examining the mouth, gums, and lips of a horse.

Most horse owners have heard of wolf teeth, but few have ever seen them. And to make things confusing, they go by many other names such as the first premolar or Triadan 05.

So, what are wolf teeth exactly and why do we worry so much about them? Do they need to be extracted or can horses live with them? If you’ve asked any of these questions, you aren’t alone as these are common concerns of horse owners.

What are Wolf Teeth?

The wolf teeth are technically a horse’s first premolars. Unlike other premolars, which are large cheek teeth, the wolf teeth are vestigial, meaning they no longer serve any functional purpose. Wolf teeth are reminders of a time when equine ancestors were much smaller and more focused on browsing sticks and branches rather than grazing on grass.

Location and Occurrence

Wolf teeth are usually not visible if a horse’s mouth is closed. When you flip up your horse’s lip, the only teeth that you should be able to see are their incisors and canine teeth (if present). The canine teeth, somewhat pointed teeth just behind the incisors, are commonly mistaken for wolf teeth by owners. They are more common, and often larger, in stallions and geldings, but it’s not uncommon for mares to have them as well.

In contrast, wolf teeth are equally as common in mares, geldings, and stallions. They often erupt (or emerge through the gingiva) as early as 5 months of age, though they have been reported as late as 2 years. Maxillary (upper) wolf teeth are quite common, while in contrast, mandibular (lower) wolf teeth are relatively rare.

Wolf teeth are generally located directly in front of the other premolars in the interdental space. There can be a lot of variation from horse to horse as some are located much farther forward in the mouth and are quite large, while others are tiny or may not even erupt through the gingiva (referred to as “blind” wolf teeth). Others may even come in sideways!

Equine wolf tooth in front of cheek teeth
Wolf tooth in a “normal” position, located directly in front of the cheek teeth. It is also situated slightly towards the palate which lessens the likelihood of it interfering with either the bit or bridle pressure. Image courtesy of Dr. Kim Allshouse.

Reasons for Removing Wolf Teeth in Horses

The reason most people want to have wolf teeth extracted is because they think that the teeth will interfere with the bit. The truth is that while this can sometimes be the case, more often than not, wolf teeth don’t cause any problems. It is best to discuss this with your veterinarian so you can come to a decision based on your horse’s individual oral conformation.

Some reasons why your veterinarian may recommend extraction include when the wolf teeth are:

  • Exceptionally large
  • Set forward on the bars of the mouth
  • Growing at a slightly sideways angle
Wolf tooth pointing toward the horse’s cheek that should be removed from the horse's mouth.
This wolf tooth is located several centimeters in front of the cheek teeth and is somewhat buccoverted, meaning that it’s pointing toward the horse’s cheek. Extraction of this tooth was recommended. Image courtesy of Dr. Kim Allshouse.

Ask the Vet Video on Whether Wolf Teeth Removal is Necessary

Wolf Teeth Extraction and Recovery

Occasionally, wolf teeth will erupt by the time a colt is ready to be castrated. If that’s the case, your veterinarian may elect to extract them at the same time.

If this isn’t the case, wolf teeth extractions are performed as a standing procedure. This is a medical procedure and should only be performed by a veterinarian. Sedation, a speculum, head lamp or speculum light, and a head stand or dental halter are just a few of the tools your vet may use. You can also expect them to administer some form of local anesthesia, just like your dentist would give you before a similar procedure.

Radiographs (x-rays) may also be necessary, as wolf teeth can vary greatly in both size and shape. This applies to the tooth’s root as well. Radiographs can help guide the extraction and help in avoiding complications, such as a root fracture. If a tooth does fracture, radiographs can also aid in removing the remaining root fragments.

Occasionally, especially if the wolf teeth have not yet emerged from the gum line or are blind, your vet may elect to place sutures following the extractions. A day or two of NSAIDs, such as Bute or Banamine® (phenylbutazone or flunixin meglumine, respectively), may also be prescribed. Usually, your horse will be back to working within a week. Some veterinarians recommend no bitted work for about a week, but this may vary on a case-to-case basis.

Factors That Affect the Cost of the Procedure

The cost of wolf teeth extractions can vary as greatly as the teeth themselves. A few of the factors that may affect the price include:

  • Amount of sedation required
  • Difficulty and length of extraction
  • Radiographs
  • Size, location, and general shape of the tooth, etc.


It is important to remember that even though veterinarians may consider this a common, minor procedure, it is still a surgery with potential complications. Excessive bleeding, tooth fractures, damage to a neighboring tooth or to a developing tooth in horses under 3 years old should be taken into consideration.

It is important to discuss your horse’s dental care with your veterinarian. This will allow you to make an informed decision just as you would with any other aspect of their health and well-being.


  1. Easley, Jack, et al. Equine Dentistry and Maxillofacial Surgery. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2022.
  2. Hole, S. L. “Wolf Teeth and Their Extraction.” Equine Veterinary Education, vol. 28, no. 6, Apr. 2015, pp. 344–51, https://doi.org/10.1111/eve.12360.

SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian regarding specific questions about your horse's health. This information is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease, and is purely educational.