Gift Horse Part II

...and on the eighth day God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.

Continuing our discussion on equine teeth, this week is a short one, since the baby foal is still nursing on his mama, and will eventually lose the ones that erupt at this time.

Baby foals will soon have their teeth erupting within the first week of life. These are deciduous or milk, or temporary teeth. (1)

The Central Incisors are the first to appear, and there are 2 in the lower jaw and 2 in the upper jaw. The letter “I” is used in abbreviation to indicate Incisor. (2)

At two weeks, 3 Premolars erupt. The letter “P” is used in abbreviation to indicate Premolar.

Then the second Incisors appear at one month and the third Incisors appear at age 6 to 9 months.

When the foal is around 9 months of age, it will have a complete set of deciduous or milk teeth, for a total of 24 in number. (3)

Remember that there are 2 jaws when counting teeth and that each jaw has two dental arches for a total of four dental arches.

The mathematic dental formula for foals is: Milk Teeth: 2 x I 3/3 P 3/3 = 24 (4)

Sequence of teeth, and absence of teeth that haven’t appeared when the animal is older, help determine the age of a horse younger that one year. Adult molars (“M”) begin to appear around 9 months to one year of age. (5)

The dental arcade is very round in foals, similar to an orange in appearance. The teeth are small or short in length, tend to be somewhat wide, and show little or no wear. The gum line is small, also.

As the horse ages, the incisors will protrude in an outward appearance and the gum line will start to shrink.

Teeth that fail to grow, or absent teeth can be fairly common in horses, and this can be due to failure of normal development of a tooth bud. No treatment is required unless a blockage is detected.

Supernumerary teeth can also occur, although this is not common. Sometimes the tooth bud will split and one or two extra teeth, usually cheek teeth or incisors, will grow, in addition to the regular number. A horse can have an extra row of teeth, but this is very rare. Crowding and gaps can occur, causing infection or decay. (6)

More next time.

Leaving you with thoughts of Spring to the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails to You.”

1-6: “Horse Owner’s Veterinary Handbook,” by Tom Gore, DVM and James M. Giffin, MD