How to Prepare My Dog for Teeth Cleaning

By Heather Vecchioni

Keeping a dog's teeth clean is an important part of her overall health, although it is often overlooked by many pet owners. Dogs can have the same types of dental disease as humans, and can also have many of the same complications that frequently occur, too. Bacteria from the tartar and plaque on your dog's teeth can enter into her blood system and travel to the heart and other vital organs, potentially causing serious problems. Therefore, having her teeth cleaned under anesthesia is a necessary component in keeping her as healthy as possible. Because this procedure is performed while your dog is under anesthesia, there are a few precautions to take before your dog's teeth are cleaned.

Visit your veterinarian for a thorough physical. Before your dog goes under anesthesia, it is important she receives an examination to ensure that she is healthy enough for the procedure. The doctor will listen to her heart to check for any murmurs or other abnormalities. If there are any cardiac concerns, the veterinarian may suggest chest radiographs or recommend that your dog have a cardiology consult. In addition, the veterinarian should also examine the mucous membranes for any signs of anemia.

Draw blood on your dog. Running tests on your dog's blood is the safest way to ensure her organs can handle the anesthesia. It is necessary to check her liver and kidney functions, as well as her red blood cell count. These values are good indicators as to whether or not it is safe for your pet to go under anesthesia. Blood work is especially important on older dogs, as it could detect early kidney or liver disease. A dog who is starting to experience these problems should definitely not go under anesthesia.

Give your dog antibiotics, if the veterinarian prescribed them. Dogs who have severe dental infections or gingivitis are often placed on antibiotics a few days before the procedure to avoid any complications and to try to clear the infection.

Fast your dog the night before the dental procedure. Your veterinarian should provide you with specific instructions, but the general rule of thumb is to withhold food and water from your pet for about 12 hours before the cleaning. The reason for the fast is to prevent your dog from vomiting while under sedation, which can cause serious problems.