For many cat owners, brushing a cat’s teeth ranks alongside giving a cat a pill on the list of impossible tasks. One way retailers can grow the category is by adopting an educational role and highlighting the importance of feline dental health and the options available to their cat-owning customers.
Toothy Health Problems
“The general rule of thumb is that, by three years of age, both dogs and cats have some evidence of periodontal disease,” said Kurt Venator, DVM, Ph.D. and director of veterinary strategy and programs for Purina. “Every cat and household is different. Some cats accumulate tartar faster than others.”
Apart from periodontal disease, more than 50 percent of felines have at least one feline odontoclastic resorption lesion (FORL) by the time they are three years-old. Like human cavities, they are extremely painful and can cause difficulty in eating.
In humans, tooth decay causes the tooth to disintegrate from the outside inwards so that the cavity is visible to the dentist. However, the exact opposite happens in cats. FORLs cause the tooth to decay from the inside outwards. Consequently, the damage isn’t visible until it’s very advanced and irreversible, which means the tooth has to be extracted. FORLs are said to be even more painful than human toothache because the decay attacks the nerve.
Dental Health Solutions
Because dental disease is a veterinary issue and the bacteria in the mouth can cause other medical issues, most dental food formulas are exclusive to veterinarian offices.
However, according to Dr. Brent Mayabb, director of corporate affairs at Royal Canin USA, that company makes a product sold in specialty retail stores called Oral Care that offers the same oral health benefits as the company’s veterinary prescription dental formulas.
“Oral Care is for adult cats with dental sensitivities,” Mayabb said. “The cube shaped kibble has a special texture that encourages chewing and promotes a brushing effect that helps reduce plaque formation. We have seen an improvement in the reduction of dental plaque formation in seven days with Oral Care kibble size, shape and texture when compared to the same recipe with a standard kibble size, shape and texture.”
There are also a variety of over-the-counter products that can help promote dental hygiene from water additives to chew toys.
According to Alexa Taddeo of Ark Naturals Products for Pets, the company’s Plaque Zapper is a brushless toothpaste for cats. The product is a water additive that can be added to a standard water bowl or sprinkled onto wet food.
New from Tropiclean is their Fresh Breath Cat Drops designed to keep a cat’s mouth healthy and promote fresh breath. It comes in a bottle with a simple pump action. The dosage is three drops added to the water bowl every time it is refilled.
“Our Clean Teeth Gel for cats works fast and naturally to help reduce plaque and tartar, no toothbrush required,” said Brian Collier, the company’s marketing and key accounts manager. “The product contains a proprietary blend of natural, holistic ingredients formulated to produce a healthy oral environment. It kills the germs that cause bad breath, plaque and gingivitis. It also soothes minor gum irritations.”
According to Lucia Wagnerova, a marketing specialist for SynergyLabs, the company’s Dental Fresh Original Formula for Cats is also a water bowl additive and is the company’s top selling feline dental product.
“It kills bacteria that causes bad breath, reduces plaque and tartar, prevents gingivitis and periodontal disease, and whitens teeth,” Wagnerova said.
“One teaspoonful added to eight ounces of drinking water daily is designed to properly manage your cat’s oral care,” Wagnerova said. “However, we are also working on new oral healthcare products including toothbrushes, a dental spray and a dental gel. The plan is to introduce them towards the end of this year.”
The Sentry Petrodex VS (veterinary strength) Dental Care Kit from Perrigo Animal Health contains a hydrogen peroxide-producing enzymatic toothpaste formula to help reduce plaque and tartar, a toothbrush developed by a veterinarian with ultra-soft bristles for gentle application and a finger toothbrush that gently removes plaque and food debris while simultaneously massaging the gums.
The Virbac Corporation’s feline dental products that include toothpastes, brushes and dental chews are sold primarily in veterinary offices. However, according to Michael Albo, Virbac Corporation’s vice president of communications and customer service, they can also be stocked by pet specialty retailers who wish to expand their feline (and canine) dental care range.
According to Jennifer Crotty, director of product development and marketing for Petstages, toys designed to promote dental health—namely, the Catnip Plaque Away Pretzel and Fresh Breath Mint Stick—have been on their bestseller list for the past several years.
The chew toys are designed to help clean teeth and massage gums to improve dental health and have a unique net covering that removes soft tartar and will not unravel when chewed. The pretzel is filled with catnip and fibrous catnip stalks to satisfy the natural desire to crunch and chew. The Fresh Breath Mint Stick is filled with sweet smelling mint leaves to freshen feline breath. As cats press and play with the stick, this action releases the minty scent. The dental toys are part of the company’s pledge to producing products with a purpose.T