How to Care for Your Dog After Tooth Extraction Surgery

How to Care for Your Dog After Tooth Extraction Surgery

Caring for your dog after tooth extraction surgery is essential to ensure a smooth and comfortable recovery. Dental extractions are recommended if the health of the tooth or teeth has a poor prognosis. Dogs have 42 teeth, that’s ten more teeth than humans and 12 more than cats. Dog teeth have a primarily pointed cusp on most of their teeth due to their carnivorous diet.

Dogs can do very well without teeth, especially if those teeth are in the advanced stages of periodontal disease, as they are a source of persistent infection and discomfort. Dental extraction surgery can be a significant procedure depending on the number of extractions completed. Your dog will need your help to heal correctly.

Here are some steps to follow:


1. Follow Veterinary Instructions

Your veterinarian will provide specific post-surgery care instructions tailored to your dog’s needs. Follow these instructions carefully, as they might include medication administration, feeding guidelines, and activity restrictions. 


2. Pain Management

Tooth extraction surgery can be painful, and your vet might prescribe pain medication for your dog. NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and gabapentin are commonly prescribed. Administer these medications as directed to keep your dog comfortable. 


3. Antibiotics

Antibiotics are not routinely prescribed after dental extraction surgery. Extracting infected teeth is commonly the only treatment needed, as the infection source has been removed with extraction. If your veterinarian believes your dog requires antibiotic therapy after dental extraction surgery, follow the dosing guidelines as instructed. It is best to administer most antibiotics with food to minimize GI upset. 


4. Existing Medications

If your dog is on medications prescribed before the surgery, check with your veterinarian to ensure they can continue to be administered as previously directed. If your dog has an existing condition, such as diabetes, renal disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and others, check with your veterinarian to determine if a dose adjustment of the current prescriptions is needed.

Diabetic dogs may need a decreased insulin dose after dental care due to a reduced appetite post-surgery. Chronic inflammation, which is seen with periodontal disease, can cause an increased insulin need. If your dog is diabetic, monitor their blood glucose closely after dental extraction surgery as their insulin requirements may decrease. 


5. Nutrition

After a dog undergoes dental extractions, it’s important to provide them with a proper diet to aid their recovery and ensure their overall health. Dental extractions can cause discomfort and require some adjustments to their regular diet. 


  • Soft or Wet Food: Immediately after dental extractions, your dog’s mouth might be sore and sensitive. Opt for soft or wet food that requires minimal chewing. A softened diet will make it easier for your dog to eat without causing further irritation and discomfort. If dental extractions have been completed near the front of the mouth (incisors and canine teeth), hand-feeding your dog small ‘meatballs’ of canned food will make it easier for them to prehend the food and bypass the extraction site(s). A cookie dough scooper is a good option for making ‘meatballs’ with softened food.


  • Wet dog food, canned dog food, or soaked kibble can prevent irritation to the surgery site. Avoid hard treats until oral healing is complete. 


6. Water

Some dogs may only drink a little water the evening of a procedure and even the day after a procedure. Decreased water consumption is primarily due to IV fluids that help keep the patient hydrated peri-op. Regardless, provide fresh water for your dog that is easily accessible. 


7. Elimination

Decreased or increased elimination may be present. 


  • Decreased elimination: Some dogs may not urinate or defecate on the evening of a procedure. Certain anesthetic drugs may cause transitory urine retention and constipation. The urge to urinate is powerful, and it is commonly okay if decreased urination occurs for the first 12 hours or so post-op. Your dog may also not defecate for 24 hours post-anesthesia. If you believe your dog is constipated, you may add a spoonful of canned pumpkin to their food. Canned pumpkin provides soluble fiber, allowing stool to pass more quickly. If you believe your dog is straining to urinate or defecate, please notify your veterinarian promptly. 


  • Increased elimination: Occasionally, the opposite can occur. Your dog may have an increased need to urinate from IV fluids. This is normal. Transitory soft stool may appear. Adding a veterinary probiotic to the diet will help maintain a healthy gastrointestinal flora. If a soft stool progresses to diarrhea and blood is present in the stool, please bring this to your veterinarian’s attention. 


8. Activity Restrictions

Limiting your dog’s physical activity for a certain period may be recommended. Grogginess after anesthesia may remain for 1-2 days. Avoid rigorous play, running, and jumping to prevent injury to the surgical area. We do not recommend giving your dog any chew toys or dental chews until the extraction sites have healed. Use a leash when taking your dog outside for bathroom breaks to avoid exertion. 


9. Oral Hygiene

Depending on the type of tooth extraction, your vet may recommend avoiding brushing your dog’s teeth around the surgical area for a few days. After the initial healing period, you can gradually reintroduce gentle brushing.


  • OraVet, a waxy polymer, may be applied to the surface of your dog’s remaining teeth during oral surgery. A professional application of OraVet minimizes plaque and tartar accumulation for up to 2 weeks. OraVet application reduces the need for tooth brushing during the healing period.


10. Monitor the Surgical Site

Monitor the surgical area for signs of infection or complications. Redness, swelling, discharge, or an unpleasant odor might indicate a problem. If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian. Sutures placed in oral extraction sites are absorbable and typically will fall out after 30 days. If you notice significant oral malodor develop during the initial 2-week healing period, please bring it to your veterinarian’s attention. They may want to check to ensure that infection is not present, nor that dehiscence is present at the extraction sites. 


11. E-collar (Elizabethan Collar)

If your dog shows interest in pawing or rubbing their face along the ground, you might need to use an E-collar to prevent them from irritating the area and removing any sutures, leading to surgical site dehiscence. An e-collar may be essential to avoid infection and ensure proper healing for some patients. However, not all patients with dental extraction will need an e-collar. Your veterinarian will instruct you if they want an e-collar worn. 


12. Follow-Up Appointments

Schedule any recommended follow-up appointments with your veterinarian. They will assess your dog’s healing progress and make any necessary adjustments to the care plan. They will likely also want to discuss oral home care for your dog. Oral home care involves tooth brushing, oral rinses, and dental chews. Recommendations are often specific for a pet due to the level of completed extractions and the health of their remaining teeth. 


13. Comfort and TLC

During the recovery period, provide your dog with comfort, attention, and love. Spending quality time with your pet can help reduce anxiety and stress, which is beneficial for healing. 


Contact Your Vet

Remember that every dog’s recovery process can vary, so close communication with your veterinarian throughout the healing is essential. If you have any questions or concerns, please get in touch with them for guidance.


Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (8/25/2023). Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash