For many dog owners, the thought of their furry companions undergoing anesthesia during dental cleanings can evoke a mixture of concern and uncertainty. It’s a common apprehension, considering that any procedure involving anesthesia carries its inherent risks.

However, maintaining dental hygiene in dogs is crucial not only for their oral health but also for their overall well-being, preventing diseases ranging from gingivitis to complications that could affect the heart, liver, and kidneys.

Anesthesia plays a critical role in these procedures, ensuring that dogs remain still and pain-free, allowing veterinarians to perform thorough cleanings.

The purpose of this blog post is to delve into the potential side effects of anesthesia in dogs following dental cleanings.



Understanding Anesthesia in Veterinary Dentistry

What is Anesthesia and Why is it Used in Dental Cleaning Procedures for Dogs?

Anesthesia is a state of controlled, temporary loss of sensation or awareness that is induced for medical purposes. In veterinary dentistry, anesthesia is used to immobilize dogs to safely conduct a dental examination and cleaning.

It ensures that the procedure is stress-free and painless for the animal, while also providing the veterinarian the ability to perform a thorough cleaning, which might otherwise be impossible in an awake and potentially uncooperative pet.

Types of Anesthesia Typically Used in Veterinary Dentistry

In veterinary dentistry, two main types of anesthesia are used:

General Anesthesia:

This renders the dog unconscious. It is most commonly used for dental procedures to ensure that the dog remains still and does not experience any pain. The medications can be administered via injection or inhaled through a gas.

Local Anesthesia:

Occasionally used alongside general anesthesia, local anesthesia numbs specific areas of the mouth if extensive dental work is needed. This can help reduce the overall amount of general anesthesia required and minimize pain after the procedure.


Assessing Risks and Deciding on Anesthesia Protocols

Veterinarians take multiple factors into account when assessing the risks associated with anesthesia. These include:

Pre-procedure Health Screening:

This includes a thorough physical examination and possibly pre-anesthetic blood tests to evaluate the dog’s liver and kidney function, which helps in selecting the safest anesthetic drugs and protocols.

Age and Breed Considerations:

Certain breeds and older dogs may have specific risks associated with anesthesia. For example, brachycephalic breeds (like Bulldogs and Pugs) are more prone to respiratory issues under anesthesia.

Anesthesia Monitoring:

Throughout the dental procedure, a trained veterinary technician usually monitors the dog’s vital signs (heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and oxygen level) to ensure safety and immediate intervention if any issues arise.

Common Side Effects of Anesthesia in Dogs

While anesthesia is a crucial tool in veterinary dental procedures, it is not without its potential side effects. Understanding these side effects can help dog owners know what to expect and how to best care for their pet post-procedure.

Here’s a detailed look at common side effects ranging from mild to severe:

1. Nausea and Vomiting


Nausea and vomiting are some of the most common side effects observed after anesthesia. These symptoms typically occur shortly after the procedure and can be attributed to the type of anesthesia used, as well as the dog’s individual reaction to the drugs.

While generally temporary and mild, persistent vomiting can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances if not addressed.

Management Tips:

  • Provide a quiet, comfortable space for your dog to recover.
  • Offer small amounts of water initially and gradually reintroduce food.
  • Consult your vet if vomiting persists beyond 24 hours post-procedure.

2. Drowsiness or Lethargy


Drowsiness or lethargy is expected after receiving general anesthesia. This can last from a few hours to potentially a day or two.

While this is generally not a concern, it is important to monitor the recovery progress, as prolonged lethargy can sometimes indicate other underlying issues such as hypothermia or respiratory difficulties.

Management Tips:

  • Allow your dog to rest in a comfortable, warm, and safe environment.
  • Monitor their energy levels and ensure they gradually return to normal.

3. Hypothermia (Low Body Temperature)


Hypothermia during anesthesia occurs because the drugs used can reduce the dog’s ability to regulate body temperature. Additionally, the operating room environment and prolonged immobility can contribute to a drop in body temperature.

Monitoring and managing body temperature during and after the procedure is critical for preventing complications associated with hypothermia.

Management Tips:

  • Keep your dog warm with blankets or a heated recovery area.
  • Continue to monitor their temperature and consult your veterinarian if it remains low.

4. Respiratory Issues


Respiratory depression is a potential risk with some anesthetic agents, particularly in dogs with pre-existing respiratory problems or in brachycephalic breeds. Immediate and continuous monitoring during anesthesia is essential to manage and mitigate this risk.

Management Tips:

  • Observe your dog’s breathing post-procedure to ensure it is steady and unlabored.
  • Keep your dog calm and quiet during recovery as excitement can exacerbate breathing difficulties.
  • Report any abnormalities in breathing patterns to your vet immediately.

5. Behavioral Changes


Incidence and Impact: Behavioral changes post-anesthesia can include confusion, anxiety, or agitation as the anesthesia wears off. These behaviors are typically temporary but can be distressing for both the dog and the owner.

Management Tips:

  • Maintain a calm environment to help soothe your dog as they recover.
  • Avoid too much stimulation until they are fully coherent.
  • Gradually reintroduce routine activities as your dog returns to normal.

Understanding these side effects and knowing how to address them can greatly ease the recovery process for your dog.

Always follow your veterinarian’s advice and report any concerns you might have during the recovery period.

This proactive approach ensures your dog’s health and well-being, minimizing the stress associated with dental cleanings and anesthesia.

How to Minimize Risks Associated with Anesthesia

Anesthesia is an integral part of veterinary dental procedures, but it is not without risks. However, these risks can be significantly minimized through careful preparation and vigilant post-procedure care.


Pre-Procedure Assessments and Tests

To ensure the safest possible experience for your pet, veterinarians typically recommend several assessments and tests before administering anesthesia:

  • Complete Physical Examination: This helps identify any existing health issues that could complicate the use of anesthesia.
  • Blood Work: Essential for assessing the function of organs like the liver and kidneys, which process anesthesia drugs.
  • Cardiac Evaluation: In some cases, especially with older dogs or those with a history of heart problems, a thorough cardiac evaluation may be necessary.

These tests provide a baseline health snapshot that can guide the vet in choosing the safest anesthesia protocol.

Questions to Ask Your Vet Before the Procedure

Being well-informed can help you feel more confident about your dog’s safety during dental cleanings. Here are some important questions to ask:

  1. What type of anesthesia will be used and why?
  2. How does my dog’s health affect anesthesia risks?
  3. What are the emergency protocols in case of an anesthesia reaction?
  4. What should I expect during my dog’s recovery period?
  5. How can I prepare my dog for the procedure?

Guidelines on Post-Procedure Care

  • Environment: Keep your dog in a quiet, comfortable place away from other pets and active family members.
  • Food and Water: Follow the vet’s instructions regarding reintroduction of food and water.
  • Monitoring: Keep an eye on your dog’s behavior, appetite, and wound (if any) for signs of infection or distress.

Alternatives to Anesthesia and Non-Anesthetic Dental Cleanings


While anesthesia is crucial for thorough dental procedures, there are non-anesthetic options available that might be suitable for certain dogs:

Non-Anesthetic Dental Cleaning (NAD)

  • Description: This method involves a trained professional cleaning your dog’s teeth without the use of anesthesia.
  • Pros: Lower risk compared to procedures involving anesthesia, less stress for dogs who handle handling well, and potentially lower cost.
  • Cons: May not be thorough, only suitable for dogs with mild dental issues, and can be stressful for dogs uncomfortable with handling.

Brushing and Dental Diets

Regular brushing and specially formulated dental diets can help reduce the need for frequent professional cleanings.

When to Seek Help – Post-Procedure Complications to Watch For

Recognizing signs of complications early can be crucial in managing potential risks associated with anesthesia:

  • Excessive Fatigue: While some lethargy is normal, if your dog is unusually tired for more than 24 hours, it might be a sign of a problem.
  • Difficulty Breathing: Any signs of respiratory distress should be addressed immediately.
  • Persistent Vomiting or Diarrhea: These could indicate gastrointestinal upset or a reaction to anesthesia.
  • Seizure Activity: Though rare, seizures can occur and are an immediate cause for concern.

Advice on When to Contact a Veterinarian:

If you notice any of the above symptoms or if your dog’s behavior seems off in any way, contact your veterinarian immediately. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to the health and well-being of your pet.

This guide provides a comprehensive understanding of the use of anesthesia in veterinary dental care, including how to prepare for it, alternatives available, and steps to take if complications arise. Your vet is your partner in ensuring the safest and most effective care for your pet.



In this blog post, we have explored the side effects of anesthesia in dogs following dental cleanings, how these can be managed, and the preventative measures to minimize risks. While the potential for side effects such as nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, hypothermia, respiratory issues, and behavioral changes does exist, understanding these risks and knowing how to address them can significantly ease the process.

We’ve also discussed the importance of pre-procedure assessments, including physical exams and blood work, which play a crucial role in tailoring anesthesia protocols to each individual dog.


How common are side effects from anesthesia in dogs after dental cleaning?

Side effects from anesthesia are relatively common but usually mild and manageable. Most dogs may experience some level of drowsiness or lethargy post-procedure, with less common side effects including nausea or temporary behavioral changes.

What should I do if my dog experiences side effects after anesthesia?

Monitor your dog closely and maintain a comfortable, quiet environment for them to recover. If your dog shows signs of distress or if symptoms like vomiting or lethargy persist for more than 24 hours, contact your veterinarian for further advice.

Are certain breeds more at risk from anesthesia complications?

Yes, some breeds, especially brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds like Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston Terriers, are more susceptible to respiratory complications under anesthesia. Older dogs and those with pre-existing health conditions also face higher risks.

How can I prepare my dog for anesthesia?

Ensure your dog is healthy and discuss any existing medical conditions with your vet. Follow the fasting instructions provided by your vet before the procedure, and make sure your dog is calm and stress-free upon arriving at the clinic.

Are there any signs that immediate veterinary help is needed after my dog has undergone anesthesia?

Yes, immediate veterinary help is needed if your dog exhibits extreme lethargy, difficulty breathing, prolonged vomiting, seizures, or any behavior that suggests severe discomfort or pain.

Doctor Xeeshan

Doctor Xeeshan

I am Doctor Xeeshan, located in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. In this blog, I am providing authentic information about dog breeds, diseases, medications, etc.


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