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Is Your Dog Whimpering After Teeth Cleaning? 5 Causes & Solutions

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Dogs whimper after getting their teeth cleaned because of the effects of anesthesia, the discomfort of having an open mouth for an extended period, and the potential pain of a manipulated jaw. Symptoms include dry mouth, dry throat, and jaw pain. 

Can you imagine dogs going to dentists as humans do? 

Dogs can’t lay patiently still with a wide-open mouth while the dentist pokes, prods, and cleans. This is why vets have to anesthetize dogs for any dental procedure, including teeth cleaning. 

Dogs under anesthesia don’t feel or remember anything about the procedure. So why is your dog whining and whimpering after? 

To answer your question, let’s take a look at what happens during the canine teeth cleaning procedures, what causes dogs to whimper afterward, what you can do about and when to call a vet. 

What Happens During a Canine Teeth Cleaning Procedure? 

During a canine tooth cleaning procedure, a dog’s teeth are examined before anesthesia is administered. After the anesthesia is administered, x-rays of the teeth are taken. The teeth are then scaled to remove plaque and tartar, polished, and sealed with anti-plaque sealant. 

Here’s a rundown of the canine teeth cleaning procedure: 

Step 1: Visual examination

Dog Teeth Visual examination

the dental vet looks at a dog’s teeth before administering anesthesia to assess the extent of periodontal disease (gum disease).

Step 2: X-ray

Once the dog is anesthetized, the dog’s mouth is x-rayed to better assess the health of the teeth.[1] 

Step 3: Scaling

Dog Teeth Scaling

Plaque and tartar, a form of hardened plaque, are removed from above and below the gum line using an ultrasonic scaling machine and hand scaling tools.

Step 4: Polishing

After scaling, teeth are polished. 

Step 5: Sealing

The dentist applies an antiplaque sealant to slow down plaque buildup. However, sealants do not prevent plaque – good home oral care is still important.[2] 

What The Vet Looks For While Cleaning a Dog’s Teeth

While cleaning, the dentist assesses each tooth and the gums surrounding them. 

A veterinary assistant can contact you during the procedure if there are teeth that need to be extracted. [3]

The vet also looks for abnormal growths and takes biopsies of them to be tested by a pathologist.  

5 Reasons for a Dog Whining After Dental Cleaning 

Dogs whimper after a dental cleaning due to the anesthesia, prescribed medication, jaw discomfort and gum sensitivity after the procedure, and pain from possible tooth extraction. 

Here are five common reasons why dogs whine after dental cleaning: 

  1. Effects of anesthesia. 
  2. Medication. 
  3. Discomfort in jaws, mouth, and throat. 
  4. The scaling process can make gums feel sensitive. 
  5. Pain associated with tooth extraction. 

1. Anesthesia

Anesthesia

Anesthesia works by depressing brain function and taking control of the nervous system so dogs don’t feel or remember the pain[5]. 

While it allows for surgery without pain or recollection, it does have side effects that can make a dog whimper after the procedure.

Common side effects of anesthesia:

  • Sleepiness.
  • Whimpering, whining, and barking when waking up.
  • Confusion and anxiety. 
  • Temporary memory loss.
  • Feeling cold. 

It is not unusual for dogs to feel sleepy for 12 -24 hours after sedation[6] and some whine and bark when waking up in reaction to the anesthesia.[7]

Dogs can feel confused and anxious when waking up from sedation. The anxiety of waking up in an unfamiliar environment makes them whine. 

Dogs can also experience a post-sedation temporary memory loss. This condition is called dysphoria. It can make dogs unable to recognize their owner until the condition has worn off. This adds to their anxiety and results in increased whimpering. 

Since the anesthesia took over the nervous system, dogs have to regain body temperature control as the drug wears off. As a result, they can feel cold.[8]  

How To Help Your Dog Recover

Offer reassurance by treating your dog with extra tender loving care. Let your dog rest in a warm bed at home. 

2. Medication Side Effect

Medication Side Effect

Continuous whimpering after surgery can be a side effect of the pain medication prescribed for dogs that have had teeth extracted. 

How To Help Your Dog Recover

Call your vet if you think the pain medication isn’t working or if your dog has a negative reaction to it. The vet can offer a different dosage or medication.[9]  

3. Discomfort in Jaws, Mouth, and Throat 

Discomfort in Jaws, Mouth, and Throat 

Whether a canine or a human, having dental work is often followed by discomfort. Your dog won’t understand why it has a dry mouth and throat and an achy jaw, which happens when the mouth is open and the jaw stretched for a prolonged period. 

Until the discomfort is gone, dogs may whimper and whine now and then. 

How To Help Your Dog Recover

The discomfort will fade, but it helps to give your dog water when you get home and soften its food at dinner time. 

Contact the vet if you think your dog is in pain. The vet can prescribe painkillers.

4. Gum Sensitivity

Gum Sensitivity

During teeth cleaning, the process of scaling includes scraping plaque and tartar from below the gum line. During this process, the dog’s gums are pushed back a little. 

Your dog won’t understand why its gums feel sensitive. Add this confusion and sensitivity to the discomfort of an achy jaw, and you have a whimpering dog.

How To Help Your Dog Recover

The gum sensitivity is short-lived, but it helps to soften your dog’s first meal after teeth cleaning. If the vet has instructed you to start teeth-brushing the same day, be mindful to brush gently. 

5. Tooth Extraction

Tooth Extraction

If your dog has rotten teeth, the vet can recommend removing them during the cleaning procedure. Dogs that have had teeth extracted are more likely to whimper than dogs that have had their teeth cleaned without tooth extraction.

It takes between 48 to 72 hours for a dog to recover from extraction. It takes about two weeks for the incision to heal completely and for the stitches to be absorbed. 

How To Help Your Dog Recover

The vet will give you post tooth extraction care instructions. This includes a soft food diet, keeping the chew toys locked away, discouraging rough play, and not brushing your dog’s teeth for a few days to a week.[10] 

The vet can also prescribe painkillers and antibiotics. Follow the vet’s instructions to ensure that the incisions do not tear or become infected. 

If your dog is whimpering excessively despite following all the instructions, contact the vet. The vet can check for possible infection, medication reaction, or increase the dosage of painkillers given. 

Related: Why Dogs Whine After Surgery

Whimpering Dog After Teeth Cleaning: When to Contact the Vet 

Complications after teeth cleaning are rare. Contact an emergency vet if your dog is whimpering after teeth cleaning and shows signs of an adverse reaction to the anesthetic: 

  • Excessively sleepy 24 hours post-surgery. 
  • Seizures.
  • Vision problems. 
  • Heart failure symptoms like coughing, panting, and a distended abdomen). [11]  [12] 

Related: Dog Making Weird Mouth Movements

Conclusion 

Many dog owners put off professional canine teeth cleaning because they are scared of their dog going under anesthesia, but getting your dog’s teeth cleaned is important to their health. 

Untreated gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, can cause pain and infection that negatively impacts a dog’s health and quality of life. 

Gum disease doesn’t only affect old dogs, as some people assume. According to the America Animal Hospital Association, most dogs have some stage of periodontal disease by three years old. [13]

A little whimpering after teeth cleaning is expected, but don’t hesitate to call the vet for advice if your dog is crying excessively. 

FAQ

My Dog Won’t Stop Crying After Teeth Cleaning. What Can I Do? 

It’s common for dogs to cry after teeth cleaning due to the anesthesia, jaw and mouth discomfort, and feeling cold, confused, or anxious. Contact your vet for advice if your dog is crying excessively. The vet can prescribe sedatives or pain medication if required. 

About Monique Warner

Monique is an avid dog lover who grew up with dogs, cats, and budgies as pets. She has worked as a pet sitter and dog walker. With her passion for dogs and pets alike, she writes articles with the intention of helping pet owners solve their biggest struggles.

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