Oral Health by Hannah Rodriguez, DVM, MPH

This past week was the 24th annual Wild West Veterinary Conference held in Reno. Veterinarians from around the U.S. gathered to discuss the ins and outs of veterinary medicine from disease prevention to new surgical techniques to the latest pharmaceuticals on the market. I was lucky enough to be in attendance and took the opportunity to learn as much as I could about what more I can be doing to provide the best care for your beloved pets. I feel it is not enough for me to take what I learn and apply it in my practice, but I’d also like to share a bit of what I learned through continuing education and why we as veterinarians make certain recommendations regarding your pet’s health. The topic I found most interesting this week was a discussion on oral health and what more we can be doing to prevent the number one disease seen in dogs and cats today.

Most of us are aware that yearly health checks with your family veterinarian is the best way to make sure your pet is healthy and free of any obvious signs of disease. Currently, the most common condition seen in dogs and cats is periodontal disease, an inflammatory disease of the mouth. Oral health can be easy to overlook if our pets are eating well, in addition to looking and acting healthy, it may not be obvious to suspect that there could be something wrong. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque (a mass of bacteria) which not only can we not see but the damage it causes for our pets occurs below the gum-line. Bacteria begin to grow and cause damage to supporting structures of the tooth including the jaw bones. Veterinarians are seeing an increased number of patients with periodontal disease for several reasons. First and foremost, our pets are living longer than ever before. As with many disease processes, age is a risk factor and the older our pets are the more likely they are to develop disease. Additionally, small breed dogs are becoming increasingly popular which has also led to an increase in periodontal disease. Why you may ask? Simple. Genetics play a huge role in oral health and small breed dogs are genetically predisposed to oral disease. Consequently, our small breed friends may develop periodontal disease as early as one year of age. Yikes!

Let’s take a step forward with preventative care for our furry friends and stop relying on bad breath and discolored teeth as an indication to have our pets’ teeth cleaned. By the time we see these changes, the disease process has already caused damage, some of which may be irreversible. Maintaining good oral health is linked to longevity as poor oral health can lead to kidney, liver, or heart disease. I hope this brings attention to the need for oral health checks as my goal is to provide excellent dental care to your pets to prevent disease and increase the quantity and quality of life for your pets.
– Hannah Rodriguez, DVM, MPH

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