Imagine you are the dentist to get your teeth cleaned. You will have to stay still with your mouth wide open. Then, the dentist will poke around and use tools to examine your teeth. If you are squirming during the whole procedure, things will get difficult for both you and the dentist.
The same goes for your pet. If your dog does not stay still, it will be difficult for the dentist to evaluate its mouth. In addition, certain dental conditions can be painful, which makes anesthesia a necessity.
It is understandable for you to have queries about anesthesia. There are risks involved, but around 98% to 99% of the pets will have no issues to minimal side effects with anesthesia. There are tests available that can further minimize the risk.
So if you are faced with the situation of your dog acting strange after teeth cleaning, the article will take you through different aspects of anesthesia and how to best take care of your dog.
- Why is Dental Care Important for Dogs?
- Why is Anesthesia Required for Teeth Cleaning?
- What Are the Side Effects of Anesthesia?
- What Can be Done to Lower Anesthesia Risk?
- What Happens During a Typical Teeth Cleaning Procedure?
- How to Care for a Dog After Teeth Cleaning Procedure?
- Are Certain Dogs at a Higher Risk for Anesthesia Side Effects?
Why is Dental Care Important for Dogs?
A common misconception about canine dental care is that the act of chewing alone can help keep your dog’s teeth healthy. That is, though, untrue. Just like you, your pet also needs visits to the dentists.
Make a routine of regularly brushing your dog’s teeth. Opt for dog toothpaste. Do not use human toothpaste. It can contain the ingredient xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.
Even with regular brushing, plaque can accumulate on your dog’s teeth. If left alone, it can lead to inflammation, bad breath, and damage to the bone and gums.
Here are reasons why dental care is important for dogs:
- It can help prevent bad breath in dogs. Technically the term for the condition is halitosis. Bad breath is a symptom that your pet’s oral health is not in its optimal condition. A visit to the dentist and regular brushing can solve this issue.
- It can help prevent bacterial infections. The presence of plaque is an ideal environment for bacteria. In case of an infection, you will see bumps forming on your dog’s nose. It can lead to redness and inflammation.
- It can help avoid painful procedures like a root canal. If infections are left as is, they can lead to tooth loss. The dentist will perform procedures like a root canal to clean and save the tooth if possible. In severe cases, the tooth will be entirely extracted.
- It can help avoid pain due to dental issues. Cavities, infections, and broken teeth can be painful. Your dog may have difficulties chewing. The surrounding gum area can also get swollen and ache.
Dental issues are common in canines, but brushing and dental visits can help your pet’s oral health.
Why is Anesthesia Required for Teeth Cleaning?
A dentist is likely to poke and prod inside your dog’s mouth with sharp instruments for a thorough examination and cleaning. And expecting a dog to stay still, with its mouth wide open throughout, is too much. Thus, anesthesia becomes a necessity.
Let us look at other reasons why anesthesia is required for teeth cleaning.
- In dogs, 60% of their teeth lie below the gum line. So, a simple look through over the top will not help your pet. The dentist will have to use instruments that will push below the gum line, which can get uncomfortable. Thus, an anesthetized dog is a better candidate.
- Again, when it comes to teeth cleaning, the dentist will use instruments and tools to remove tartar, scale, and polish and get below the gumline.
- Procedures like a root canal can be painful for the dog. The infected part of the tooth can be sensitive. A slight touch or use of a tool can cause your dog to squirm. Procedures like tooth extraction can be more painful. And there is no way the dog will stay still or will it be able to bear the pain throughout.
- To understand the severity of a dental issue, the vet will need to take x-rays. A conclusive x-ray will not be possible if the pet is not still.
Without anesthesia, the scope of dental care in canines is limited. In addition, issues can be left undiagnosed, leading to painful and expensive procedures in the future.
What Are the Side Effects of Anesthesia?
According to studies, most pets react well to anesthesia. Some may have mild symptoms, but the condition can get life-threatening for a rare few.
According to VCA Animal Hospitals, 1 in 100,000 animals will react to anesthesia. Some mild reactions could be swelling at the injection site, vomiting, diarrhea, a mild drop in cardiac output, decreased appetite, and reduced activity level. Thus, you will find your dog acting strange after teeth cleaning.
Some severe reactions are anaphylactic shock, blindness, organ failure, aspiration pneumonia, seizures, or death. Such complications, though, are very rare.
Nowadays, pre-anesthetic tests are performed to minimize risks. Your pet’s vital signs are closely monitored right from when it is put under anesthesia.
If you have concerns about anesthesia, please feel free to consult with the vet. Understand what precautions can be taken to safeguard your pet’s health.
What Can be Done to Lower Anesthesia Risk?
A vet will first perform a physical exam, blood work, and electrolyte test to determine your pet’s overall health.
As heart and lung conditions can increase the severity of the reaction, chest radiographs and ECGs might be performed for older dogs.
The vet will ask you about your pet’s medical history. For example, if your dog has any allergies, has ever had a reaction to sedation, is suffering from an ailment, or is on medications, this would be the time to communicate all details.
This information helps the vet decide the safest anesthetic and dosage for your dog.
One essential aspect to take care of is to ensure the pet is well-fasted before the appointment. A risk associated with anesthesia is that pets can temporarily lose their swallowing ability.
So, if they vomit after waking from the procedure and in the absence of their swallowing capability, the vomit can enter their lungs. This condition can be fatal for dogs. So, ensure you follow all the vet’s instructions before the appointment.
An intravenous catheter is necessary to balance fluids and administer drugs in an emergency. Once anesthesia is administered, the below vital signs of your pet will be monitored throughout the procedure:
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure
- Oxygen levels
After waking up from the teeth cleaning procedure, the staff monitors your pet again. It may be placed in a crate, covered with warm blankets. Most pets will be sent home the same day.
What Happens During a Typical Teeth Cleaning Procedure?
Every clinic will have an anesthetic protocol in place. Once you book a dental cleaning appointment, the vet will order pre-anesthetic and physical tests.
Some vets may provide the option of checking in the night before the appointment. Depending on the appointment time, the dog needs to fast for a minimum of 10 to 12 hours. You can give it water but clarify the amount with the vet.
Before teeth cleaning, you will have to sign an anesthetic consent form. Signing the form indicates that you understand the risks of putting the dog under anesthesia and the subsequent procedure.
The attending vet will check the consent form and the results of the pre-anesthetic tests. In addition, your dog’s weight, temperature, heart, and lungs will also be checked. Then, depending on the results, the anesthetic protocol will be decided.
Once the pet is anesthetized, the teeth cleaning procedure will begin. The tartar will first be removed from the dog’s teeth. Then the teeth are evaluated. In case of any cavities or infections, dental x-rays will be taken to understand the extent of the condition and determine the treatment method.
If the dog’s teeth are in good condition, plaque removal is the next step. Then, the teeth below the gumline will also be cleaned. Next, the teeth will be polished. Lastly, a sealant will be applied to the teeth to prevent the accumulation of tartar and plaque.
The pet will be monitored as it wakes up from anesthesia. In case no reactions are observed, you can take the dog home the same day.
How to Care for a Dog After Teeth Cleaning Procedure?
If your dog is acting strange after teeth cleaning, do not panic. Most dogs will wake up fine before their discharge. In other cases, the pet may feel sleepy, tired, or exhausted for about 12 to 24 hours.
As the dog is not fully alert, you may notice it acting differently. For example, it may walk funny or have a reduced appetite. The dog may get irritated and become fussy or aggressive as it tries to make sense of its condition. Or it may doze off for a few hours after the treatment.
These side effects can be expected. And here is how you can manage them.
1. Make the Dog Comfortable
Ensure that your pet has a comfortable and quiet place to rest. If you have other pets in the house or children, letting them play with the dog right after anesthesia is not a good idea.
Ensure the dog is warm. Have a blanket around. Do not go overboard, though, or the pet will wake up feeling hot and flustered. If your dog has a thick coat and prefers the cold, it is ok to let them sleep in a cold room. Adjust the temperature according to your dog’s preference.
2. Food and Water
The first meal after anesthesia should be small and light. It should be something that the pet can easily digest. It may have mild vomiting even after eating a small meal.
Do not worry if the dog refuses to eat. A decrease in appetite is an expected side effect after teeth cleaning. However, your dog should regain its appetite within a day.
Ensure the dog has access to fresh water.
3. Limit its Movements
Keeping the pet indoors for the first 12 to 24 hours would be a good idea. They can trip, bang into furniture or go chewing on a stone if you let them wander on their own in the backyard.
There is no need to confine the dog to a crate. But keep it indoors where you can keep a close watch.
If the dog does not recover in 24 hours and the signs persist, please contact the vet immediately. The pro-longed side effects could indicate an issue with the procedure.
Are Certain Dogs at a Higher Risk for Anesthesia Side Effects?
Some breeds are at a higher risk of anesthetic side effects depending on their size and age. These side effects could range from mild vomiting to cardiac arrest.
It can be difficult to predict how the animal will react to the drug accurately. Your vet will take every precaution they can to administer anesthesia to the pet safely.
Here are some dogs that carry a higher risk of anesthesia.
- Dog breeds like Bulldogs and Pugs have a higher risk of developing airway-related problems after being anesthetized. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels may be prone to developing heart conditions. Breeds like Greyhounds may take a longer time to recover completely.
- A senior dog may be at a higher risk of side effects. The risk gets magnified if the dog already suffers from a health condition. For example, in cases where the heart is stressed, a healthy cardiovascular system can increase its functionality by three times. But, this ability starts decreasing when the dog starts aging.
- According to the American Animal Hospital Association, toy breeds are the ones that can get easily overdosed. Their body temperature can drop dangerously low. It also is difficult to monitor their vitals during the procedure.
- Obese pets also carry an increased risk of anesthesia. For elective services like teeth cleaning, the vet may recommend the dog lose some weight before going under anesthesia.
Regardless of the predisposition, it would be best if you sat with the vet to understand why anesthesia is necessary, what reactions to expect, and what pre-anesthetic tests will be performed for your pet’s safety.
Is your dog acting strange after teeth cleaning? Then, it could be having a reaction to anesthesia which is typically administered for dental procedures.
It would be unreasonable to expect the dog to stay still when the dentist is poking and prodding its mouth with sharp instruments. In addition, teeth cleaning requires the dentist to push past the gum line, which can be uncomfortable for the dog. Also, procedures like root canal and tooth extraction can be painful; thus, anesthesia is necessary.
The side effects of anesthesia can range from mild to severe. Drowsiness, vomiting, loss of appetite, and lethargy are some of the mild side effects. The severe ones could be seizures, organ failure, or death. These complications, though, are rare.
The vet will recommend pre-anesthetic tests and monitor the pet’s vitals during the procedure for its safety.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.