February is National Pet Dental Health Month. While having a month dedicated to highlighting the significance of pet dental health is good, it is wise to remember just how important it is to keep up with pets’ dentistry needs year-round.
According to Chad Kocur, PetEdge’s director of product development, an animal’s oral health is important to its overall wellbeing. Because of this, “retailers can expect the oral-care category to continue to grow as consumers learn more about the importance of routine dental care.”
“Pet oral care is a significant market segment that pet retailers should look to for potential profit,” Kocur said in an email. “Offering oral care products in your retail store can provide outsized benefits.”
The Rise of Dental Disease
While the number of owners who understand the importance of pet dental care has increased, so has the number of cases of dental disease in pets.
According to Banfield Pet Hospital’s “State of Pet Health Report 2016,” the prevalence of dental disease in dogs and cats has risen over the last 10 years, with steady growth each year. Since 2006, there has been a 23.3 percent rise in the prevalence of dental disease in dogs and a 23.1 percent rise in the prevalence of dental disease in cats, the report says.
“The most common disease in dogs and cats continues to be dental disease, affecting 68 percent of cats and 76 percent of dogs,” Banfield wrote in its report. “Dental disease has increased by 8 percent in dogs and 9.6 percent in cats since our initial report five years ago.”
Dental problems can lead to other complications, as well. For example, Banfield notes that periodontal disease has been linked to chronic kidney disease, especially in cats.
To avoid poor dental health and its harmful effects, such as fractured teeth, tooth extractions or diseases in other parts of the body, it is imperative that owners make pets’ dental care a regular routine—and your store can be the go-to place to allow owners to do just that.
PetEdge recognizes the need for at-home dental care and so offers several types of dental products that will meet customers’ differing needs.
“There’s likely more than a few guilt-ridden parents who strive to brush their pet’s teeth at least thrice a week but fall short of that goal,” Kocur said. “That’s why we work year-round to develop products to make dental care as easy as possible. We carry a wide assortment of dental products for pets, offering consumers choices to meet their individual preferences and goals.”
According to Kocur, the items that are ordered most often from PetEdge are toothbrushes, toothpastes and dental gels. Last year, PetEdge launched its peppermint-flavored Top Performance ProDental Disposable Finger Wipes, and that is now one of the company’s most popular items.
“The finger wipes are a unique product that help to freshen breath without the use of water or rinsing,” Kocur said.
PetEdge also offers a water supplement that reduces plaque and tartar buildup and whitens teeth in its Top Performance ProDental Solution, while its Top Performance ProDental Spray can be sprayed directly into a pet’s mouth—no rinsing or brushing required. To sample a range of its dental products, Kocur says that PetEdge has dental kits available.
Of course, PetEdge is not the only company that creates pet dental products. There are many manufactures from which to choose when deciding which products to keep in stock for your customers. But, with so many types of products available, how can retailers help customers choose which is best for their pets?
Making the Best Selection
Dr. Taylor Truitt, medical director at The Vet Set, New York’s in-home/office pet care service, says that whatever pet dental item the pet will accept should be the product an owner uses, especially when it comes to cats.
“With cats, it’s all about how you can get the product into the cat and have everyone survive the experience,” Dr. Truitt said. “If the cat doesn’t want to accept something, it’s not going to happen… Most people understand that a cat is a cat.”
Because it might be harder for people to get a cat to cooperate for a toothbrush or finger wipe, Dr. Truitt suggests using a water supplement, such as Oratene water additives, to help with pets’ at-home dental care.
However, Dr. Truitt points out that, like nail trimming, if started at a young age, a cat can be trained to tolerate having its teeth brushed.
And to ensure your customer is buying the most effective product, Dr. Truitt says to sell them something they will use every single day, for the most effective product is the one that people will actually continue to use. In her experience, Dr. Truitt has found the water additives to be most effective simply because people will use it every single day.
According to Dr. Truitt, “administration is the biggest indicator of success when measuring oral health in pets.”
Dr. Truitt also recommends looking for products that have the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval. The VOHC is a board of veterinary dentists who evaluate products and recommend the ones they deem best for maintaining good oral care.
Besides the easy-to-administer water additives being considered an effective product for cats, Dr. Truitt also recommends Greenies treats as a product for cat owners to give their pets.
“There’s Greenies treats for cats that I think are good that help, but people are always looking for the magic product that can do everything for them and there’s no such thing,” Dr. Truitt said. “There’s things that can be of use and of help.”
N-Bone Cat Chew Treats is another treat cats will easily take. Made in the USA, the chew treats remove plaque and tartar while the cat chews, helping to maintain healthy teeth and gums. And with a resealable bag, the natural chicken-flavor cat treat sticks, which are about 4 inches long and ¼ inch wide, stay fresh.
Other treats that can help maintain a healthy mouth are Drs. Foster and Smith’s Daily Dental Treats for Cats, which have a crunchy texture that helps scrape cats’ teeth clean as they chew, and Smart n’ Tasty Feline Dental Treats by Emerald Pet, which are available in chicken, salmon, tuna and turducky and have fewer than two calories per treat.
Drs. Foster and Smith also offers the peppermint-flavored Dental Clens Pad to clean cats’ (and dogs’) teeth and gums.
“Dental Clens Pads are saturated with just the right amount of chlorhexidine solution to destroy harmful bacteria that leads to plaque,” according to the company’s website. “A gentle, easy way to clean your cat’s teeth without irritating the gums. Simply wrap pad around your finger, and you’ve got complete control while cleaning.”
Like she did for cats, Dr. Truitt recommends Greenies for dogs, too.
“Greenies are good; they’re a nice supplement to brushing, but they’re not a replacement,” she said. “Especially for overweight dogs, you have to be careful with them, and some dogs do have food allergies.”
Water supplements, like Oratene, can also be used for dogs. Another type of water additive in which dog owners might be interested is BREATH-LESS Plaque-Zapper by ArkNaturals. The formula “helps neutralize the pH level of saliva, deter the growth of bacteria, and control plaque, tartar, and bad breath,” according to the company’s website.
But since dogs might be a little more willing to have their teeth brushed than cats, Dr. Truitt also recommended the toothpaste Petsmile, which has the VOHC seal of approval.
With a natural London broil flavor, Petsmile is clinically proven to remove and inhibit plaque, and no toothbrush is needed. Instead, the toothpaste is applied either by finger or by an Applicator Swab. Activated by saliva, the formula is put to work by your dog licking the paste around in its mouth.
“It’s tasty,” Dr. Truitt said. “The dogs like it, they’ll happily lick it off your finger. If you can’t brush your dog’s teeth, at least you can get it on their teeth and it has some level of efficacy toward it.”
When it comes to deciding between using a finger brush and a toothbrush, Dr. Truitt says she prefers a finger brush—especially if you have a dog who thinks the toothbrush is a toy or stick and will chew on the brush. However, if owners are worried about getting bitten while using a finger brush, a finger brush should not be used, Dr. Truitt said.
There is also a variety of dental chews that freshen breath, whiten teeth and reduce tartar and plaque that retailers can stock, including Fido Naturals Doozie Bone, Barkworthies chews, Natural Balance Dental Chews, BREATH-LESS Chewable Brushless-Toothpaste from ArkNaturals, SmartBones Dental Formula Chews and Merrick’s Brush Bones.
Fresh Smileezz by Emerald Pet is another type of all natural dog dental chews. These are designed to “promote dental health using a wide shape to clean the entire surface of the tooth and massage the surrounding gum line,” according to the company’s website. Available in four sizes, ranging from mini to large, Fresh Smileezz freshens breath from the inside out, with its real parsley, dill and mint that “eliminate bad breath at the source.”
WHIMZEES by Paragon Pet Products is a dental chew treat that comes in fun shapes, a main selling point for the company.
“We have unique selling propositions—vegetarian, limited ingredients, natural, GMO free, gluten free, corn free, no artificial colors or preservatives. Pet parents love our whimsical shapes—alligators, hedgehogs, veggie sausages—so we can provide an emotional satisfaction while at the same time providing a functional oral care chew,” said Jeff Camosci, vice president of Marketing and Sales North America for Paragon Pet Products.
There is also a dental treat in Loving Pets‘ Totally Grainless Fresh Mint.
TropiClean, maker of natural pet products, offers a slew of different types of products to help owners maintain their pets’ oral health, including gel, water additives, fresh breath drops, dental chews, fresh breath mint foam and oral care kits. The company also has a toy to help clean dogs’ teeth and gums in the Tri-Floss Ball. Spray the toy with TropiClean’s Liquid Floss Dental Spray and “the unique design” of the Tri-Floss Ball “absorbs the Liquid Floss, massages (dogs’) gums and flosses their teeth while they play.”
There is also a product that can help clean a dog’s mouth as it eats. The DentaDish by R2P Pet is a slow feeding bowl that cleans your pet’s teeth as they eat. The “bowl is clinically proven to reduce the formation of plaque, tartar and gingivitis. DentaDish helps prevent doggy dental and gum disease, which is the leading cause of bad breath,” states the company’s website, adding that the product’s soft bristles gently clean the pet’s teeth.
Small Animal Dental
Small animals also have oral health issues. Similar to what can happen to dogs and cats if their dental needs are neglected, neglecting a small animal’s teeth can lead to health complications.
Many small animals’ “teeth are open-rooted, which means they are always growing. Since their teeth aren’t slowing down, give your small animal plenty to chew on to keep that growth under control,” the Hartz website says. “Without proper tooth care, your pet could develop ulcers on his cheek or tongue or may not be able to eat at all.”
To make sure small animals’ teeth are kept at a proper length, the animals should be provided with a balanced, healthy diet and plenty of toys, chews and treats on which to chew.
The Smaks line by American Pet, a manufacturer of small pet supplies, offers treats that will wear down the animals’ forever growing teeth. For example, the company’s Cookie Smaks Treats combine all-natural, wholesome fruits and vegetables with hay and flax into a baked cookie treat and gives your critter something to chew. American Pet’s all-natural apple sticks accomplish the same task of ensuring your pets’ teeth stay strong and healthy.
In addition to its many chew treats, Ware Manufacturing Inc. has mineral-based chews to help file small animals’ teeth. For example, rich in natural minerals, the Lava Star is a natural pumice tooth trimming lava chew. Ware Manufacturing Inc. also offers Mineral Candy Chews that cleans and trims teeth at the same time.
The company also has a variety of toys available to aid in keeping pets’ teeth healthy, strong and the appropriate length. Its naturally safe Loof-A-Bunny is a crispy playtime chew that promotes clean and healthy teeth while the Atomic Nutball is a “gnawsome” playtime natural wood toy with a nutty surprise inside.
Offering Dental Products
Maintaining pets’ oral hygiene is a necessity in order for them to live a happy, healthy, long life, and Kocur believes stores can help mitigate animals’ dental problems by understanding the root of the problem and then offering dental products to their customers to help fix it.
“Pet retailers and consumers need to understand that in domesticating dogs and cats, we’ve compromised some of their needs,” Kocur said. “The wild ancestors of pets avoided plaque buildup by chewing on rough food and bones. Once animals were domesticated, their teeth weren’t given the same challenge, and so pets today are prone to risks caused by plaque. Not all consumers know this. Pet retailers can offer solutions to this problem in a straightforward way—by raising awareness of the issue and by offering pet-dental products to prevent serious plaque problems in pets.”
Companies that manufacture dental products understand the importance of oral hygiene to an animal’s overall health, and Kocur stresses this.
“The action a consumer takes, or doesn’t take, toward their pet’s dental health actually creates long-term impact on the health of their pet within its life’s trajectory,” Kocur said. “In consulting with practicing veterinarians in the development of our products, our company has learned a lot about the importance of oral care.
“While dogs don’t get cavities, plaque makes them susceptible to other, more fatal risks,” he added. “Pet dental disease has been linked to heart disease, liver and kidney diseases, pancreatitis and even cancer. Therefore, preventative care in pets is every bit as important as it is in humans.”
Paragon Pet Products sees the importance retailers play in making sure customers know the importance of dental care as well as the products that can be bought to upkeep pets’ health.
“Retailers play a critical role in helping educate pet parents about the importance of daily oral care, and helping customers choose the best products that complement a healthy lifestyle. Periodontal disease influences a dog’s total health, and not taking proper care of oral health can even shorten a dog’s lifespan. Just like humans, oral/dental care is tied to heart health, so please share with your customers why proper care is critical,” Camosci said. “Retailers can express the necessity of at-home dental care to the customers, and according to Kocur, because February is Pet Dental Health Month, now is as good a time as ever to start encouraging customers to buy your store’s dental products.”
“Because the attention is already focused on pet dental health (many hospitals offer discounted dental cleanings during this window to raise awareness), retailers should take advantage of the work already in place to educate consumers about pet dental health while offering consumers products that can be used for preventative measures,” Kocur concluded.