Teeth and Tails: Teeth reduction
Piglets are born with very sharp teeth in the front corners of their mouth, which are used for fighting to access the best teats for feeding.
These teeth can:
- damage the sow’s teats when suckling, which can make them tender and result in her refusing to suckle,
- cause face, ear and tail wounds among littermates as a result of normal fighting behaviour, which can become infected.
To prevent these wounds, it is sometimes necessary to blunt the tips of the corner teeth by clipping or grinding. Legislation states that it is illegal to perform teeth reduction routinely – it should only be a last resort when other measures to prevent injuries have been tried. Certain circumstances warrant the procedure and these should be detailed and reviewed in the Veterinary Health Plan. It is not always necessary to clip the teeth of the whole litter.
When it is necessary to clip or grind teeth, it must be carried out by a vet or by someone trained and competent in the procedure. Legislation states that teeth reduction may only be carried out on piglets less than seven days old. Farm Assurance Schemes do not permit it on animals more than three days old.