Dog Dental Prophylaxis: Is It Safe?

Dog prophylaxis includes many hygienic measures aimed at preventing disease.
Dog Dental Prophylaxis: Is It Safe?

Last update: 30 August, 2020

Dog prophylaxis is a way to meet all hygienic measures to protect an animal against disease. One of the measures that, although necessary, scares many homeowners is dog dental prophylaxis. This includes regular dental cleanings at the vet.

However, the fear associated with this technique is due to the use of general anesthesia. This is necessary during dental cleaning for both dogs and cats.

Dog dental prophylaxis under general anesthesia

Many dog owners wonder why you need to use general anesthesia to clean your pet’s teeth. The truth is that using anesthesia is necessary to perform a complete cleaning to remove tartar from teeth and gums.

Even if your dog is very tolerant of strangers handling them, the vet would only be able to clean the most visible areas of the teeth while your pet is awake. This would leave most of the tartar behind, which is located under the gums.

In addition, there are other important reasons to only do this type of cleaning with anesthesia:

  • Animal movements. There is a risk of your pet moving during the cleaning. This could cause a cleaning instrument to wound the gums or another part of the dog’s oral cavity during the cleaning.
  • Stress. In a procedure without anesthesia, the conscious animal would suffer a high level of stress, caused by the immobilization of their limbs, the noise of the machines, and the sensation of the instruments in their mouth. This technique would be very dangerous, especially if the pet has a respiratory or heart condition.
  • Water left over from cleaning. Dental tools remove water as the vet cleans the animal’s mouth. The vet will use a small tube inserted into your dog’s mouth to suck up the excess water. However, if your animal were to stay awake, it would very difficult to prevent them from swallowing the tartar-filled water. In fact, they could even choke if the water were to be aspirated via the lung.
Dog dental prophylaxis is a preventative measure.

Dog dental prophylaxis: Is it safe to use anesthesia?

It’s true that anesthesia involves risks, but these are minimized by previously performing pre-surgical tests. While these are not mandatory, they’re highly recommended by any veterinarian.

For example, presurgical tests include a complete blood test and an x-ray, in some cases.

By knowing these parameters in advance, your vet will determine whether it’s safe to perform a normal cleaning or whether any special care is necessary while your dog is under anesthesia. For example, it’s important to inform your vet if your dog suffers from heart or respiratory disease.

The risk of periodontal disease

Some breeds are more prone to dental problems than others. Small breed dogs, such as Yorkshire terriers, Pomeranians, or chihuahuas are more likely to accumulate tartar. These dogs are most likely to need a dental cleaning before they are five years old.

Periodontal disease is one of the most common conditions that occur in dogs’ mouths. First, it begins with the proliferation of bacteria in the mouth. Then, this bacteria, together with food remains and saliva, generate dental plaque.

This causes the teeth to become yellow and creates a hard layer of tartar on them. As a result, the gums can become inflamed, leading to gingivitis. Also, dogs with this condition can have bad breath.

A person examining a dog's teeth.

As the disease progresses, plaque destroys tissues that hold the root of the tooth. This can cause teeth to become loose and, ultimately, result in teeth falling out. In addition, once the root is exposed, bacteria can get into the bloodstream. This can cause heart, respiratory, or digestive problems.

Considering the consequences of letting this disease progress, dog dental prophylaxis is a safe option, as long as you follow your vet’s recommendations.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Vitalcan Centro Veterinario. (2018). ¿Por qué la limpieza bucal de las mascotas se realiza con anestesia?
  • Zoetis. Enfermedad periodontal.
  • Animalshealth. (2018) Enfermedad periodontal, una amenaza para los perros pequeños.
  • World Small Animal Veterinary Association (2019) Guías Dentales de la Asociación Mundial de Veterinarios de Pequeños Animales. Recuperado el 11 de febrero de 2022, disponible en:

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.