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Dog Acting Strange After Teeth Cleaning [Why & What To Do]

Has your dog recently had their teeth cleaned by a veterinarian? Have you noticed they are acting differently since returning home? It can be alarming when our dogs behave strangely after a teeth cleaning procedure but is it a cause for alarm? Well, you’ll be pleased you checked. Here’s why. 

So, why is my dog acting strange after teeth cleaning? The main reason a dog acts strange after teeth cleaning is that they were sedated during the procedure and are still groggy from the medicine. Otherwise, your dog may still be feeling anxious from the experience, the ride in the car, or the procedure itself. Lastly, your dog’s teeth may be sensitive after a deep cleaning which can cause strange behavior. 

Let’s look more closely at these strange behavior causes, how long you should expect them to last, and how you can comfort your dog after its teeth have been cleaned.

Reasons Why Dogs Can Act Strange After Teeth Cleaning

Use of Anesthesia During Cleaning

The most common reason a dog may act strange after having their teeth cleaned is due to being sedated during the cleaning process.

Just like people, most dogs will need professional dental care at some point in their life in order to keep their teeth and gums healthy, mouth free from pain, and bad breath at bay.

Unlike people, dogs can’t easily follow directions to sit still with their mouth open while their teeth are cared for.

This means that many dogs must undergo anesthesia to have their teeth fully cleaned.

General anesthesia, where a dog is put into a sleep-like state for dental procedures, is a common and relatively safe practice.

Anesthesia prevents the dog from experiencing stress or fear while getting its teeth cleaned, it keeps veterinary workers safe from a dog who may bite if they are awake, and it allows all of the teeth to be reached easily.

Anesthesia is not without side effects and is often the reason a dog may act strange after teeth cleaning.

Some dogs are slower to wake from anesthesia than others and may be groggy and tired for the 12 to 24 hours following a teeth cleaning.

Tiredness may lower your dog’s appetite or make them move slower than normal.

Post Cleaning Tooth Pain

After making the decision to have your dog’s teeth cleaned for their health, it can be frustrating to hear, but your dog may experience some tooth pain after its teeth are cleaned. 

Tooth pain and sensitivity can cause a dog to avoid eating and slightly increased drooling, and your dog may whine or yelp when they first chew on their toys at home.

Tooth or jaw soreness after a teeth cleaning does not mean that anything went wrong with your dog’s procedure. 

Some dogs may need extra work done to remove years of built-up plaque, or their jaw may have been opened wider than usual during the procedure, which can make their mouths temporarily sore.

If your dog has a limited appetite, is drooling or licking more than normal, or lets out a whimper during its first play session after a tooth cleaning, it is often due to lingering soreness after the procedure.

Your Dog Is Processing Stress And Anxiety

We hate thinking of our dogs being stressed, but it’s often part of a long day at the vet’s office.

Just like a person takes time to relax and wind down after a stressful event, your dog may need some time to recover once it gets home.

If your dog is pacing, whining, or not as interested in a favorite activity right after returning home from a teeth cleaning, they may be showing signs of stress from the long day. 

Dogs that are feeling anxious may also lick at their owner or paws, shed more than normal, and be very restless.

It’s natural to be concerned when our dogs don’t act like their normal loving selves, and changed behavior after a tooth cleaning is important to monitor.

Let’s look at when you should expect your dog to be acting more like themselves and what you should do if their strange behavior continues.

How Long Does It Take For A Dog To Return To Normal After Teeth Cleaning?

The length of time it takes for a dog to return to normal after a teeth cleaning depends partly on the reason for their strange behavior. Behavior differences after anesthesia should be gone within a day; anxiety should also settle over the course of several hours, while tooth sensitivity may last longer.

Understanding a time frame for these behaviors can help you determine when to wait things out at home and when to call a veterinarian.

Anesthesia Recovery After Teeth Cleaning

A dog who is slow to recover from anesthesia may need 12-24 hours to return to their normal coordination and energy levels.

The first few hours at home after a teeth cleaning, many dogs need a quiet space to relax and finish waking up from their sedation.

With each passing hour, you should notice your dog’s coordination and energy level improving.

A dog that has trouble walking or shows no interest in movement after being home for a few hours should be seen by a veterinarian.

If your pup is eating, drinking, and walking fine but simply seems extra tired or groggy, monitor them for 24 hours and call if there is no improvement in their energy levels.

Anxiety Recovery After Teeth Cleaning

A long day at the vet can be a trigger for anxiety. If your dog is restless, whining, or extra clingy after a tooth cleaning, they may just be feeling anxious about their day.

Typically this behavior should diminish in a couple of hours if you have been able to get your dog home to a familiar environment, provided their usual food, water, and comfort items, and have kept other stressors (new people and animals/loud and unusual noises) away.

If your dog is panting excessively, shedding much more than normal, or pacing without rest for more than 12 hours after a tooth cleaning, call and check in with your veterinarian.

Pain Recovery After Teeth Cleaning

The one cause of strange behavior which may linger a bit after a teeth cleaning is soreness or sensitivity of the teeth, gums, or jaw.

Dogs who have a lot of buildup to be removed may have teeth that ache or gums that are slightly inflamed after cleaning.

Also, a dog’s jaw may be sore from being kept open during the procedure. 

While this can be alarming to you as an owner, it is usually a temporary inconvenience when compared to the improvement in a dog’s health from having clean teeth.

Although many veterinarians prescribe gentle pain medication after a tooth cleaning, it isn’t unusual for some soreness to last up to a week post-cleaning.

During this time, your dog may not be as interested in chewing or eating large bones and treats or may at first avoid hard food.

Over the course of a week, your dog’s appetite and chewing habits should return to normal. If your dog is whining or yelping when using their teeth more than a day after their cleaning, ring your vet. 

If your dog is not eating and chewing like normal within a week, it is wise to schedule a follow-up tooth inspection.

How To Support Your Dog After Teeth Cleaning

A few things you can do to support your dog after having its teeth cleaned are to provide a calm home environment, keep up with any prescribed pain medications, provide them with soft canned foods, and stay nearby your dog, giving them company and as a way to monitor their behavior.

Calm Home Environment

Make sure that your dog returns home to a calm and comforting environment. 

The day of a heavy tooth cleaning is not the best choice to fill your home with unusual guests, bring home a new pet, or expect your dog to romp and play like normal.

A calm and quiet environment will help them sleep off any lingering grogginess and reduce anxiety.

Provide Medications On Time

Some dogs may not have any pain with a dental cleaning, while others may.

Dogs also do not all show their pain in the same way.

The best thing you can do to manage this side effect is to give your dog any medications your vet has prescribed right on schedule.

Do not withhold medication if your dog ‘seems fine.’ Stick with the plan your veterinarian recommended.

Provide Soft Foods

To help with the transition back to eating after anesthesia and prevent pain, consider feeding your dog a few small meals of soft canned food.

If that is not available, consider soaking their kibble in water to help make it easier to chew.

Remain Nearby

Most importantly, be your dog’s best companion during their recovery period. Make yourself available for petting and cuddling (if your dog likes it!), and keep a watchful eye on your dog.

Monitor their behavior over the next 24-48 hours, and don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian with concerns.


Reading this may make having your dog’s teeth cleaned seem like something to fear, but the reality is that many dogs get their teeth cleaned without a single lingering side effect. 

At the same time, if your dog is one who acts strange after teeth cleaning, it isn’t cause for panic. 

Patience and monitoring are key to helping your dog bounce back to normal, and the benefits of clean, healthy teeth far outweigh a day or two of unusual behavior.