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The Root of Pet Dental Problems

Megan Jander//February 5, 2020//

The Root of Pet Dental Problems

Megan Jander //February 5, 2020//

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February is Pet Dental Month, and many brands are seizing the opportunity to bring forth awareness to pet oral health. But some are looking deeper into the issue, whether that’s enhancing awareness methods or recognizing that the biggest concerns lie beneath the surface.


C&E Animal Health was established 30 years ago with a focus on large animals. Its BriteNamel was conceived by Dr. Casey Haught, DMD, about six years ago. As a product that regulates the bacteria in the mouth that causes bad breath and other oral health issues, it was put out about a year ago to dive deeper into oral health issues in dogs.

“BriteNamel is setting out to help address some of those issues naturally, go beyond just masking the bad breath or just basic debridement,” said Dr. Haught.

According to Dr. Haught, there are no trends when it comes to oral health. It comes down to controlling the bacterial level in pets’ mouth, both at and below the gum line. This year, C&E Animal Health is doing commercials, educational training videos and expanding its marketing for BriteNamel to address this issue. And while the products on the market are not harming pets, Dr. Haught encourages looking deeper into the components of a product and whether or not it will truly benefit pets.

“Take oral health seriously. At the end of the day, we’re all in this thing because we care about dogs and cats,” Dr. Haught said.

Merrick Fresh Kisses provides a double benefit. The innovative treat has a double-brush design to clean teeth by removing plaque and tartar during the chewing action, with all-natural ingredients such as coconut oil and mint oil that freshen breath.

“Pet parents are beginning to understand the benefits of dental hygiene with regard to maintaining perfect teeth and healthy gums and reducing bacteria in the mouth that could cause further health complications,” said Jilliann Smith, director of communications for Merrick Pet Care. “We consider it less of a trend and more of a pet health necessity.”

That’s why this year, Merrick is continuing to focus on raising awareness for Fresh Kisses and educating pet parents. Since veterinarians nationwide offer discounts for dental-related services to make them more affordable as well as draw attention to the benefits of a healthy mouth, Merrick encourages retailers to jump on the opportunity and offer free dental treats to customers, discounts on products or even host in-store educational events to highlight the necessity of a good pet dental routine.

“Be sure to take photographs and share them on social media channels because a picture of a healthy and happy, smiling dog is still worth 1,000 words!” Smith added.

WHIMZEES provides “Triple Care Dental Health” by helping to reduce tartar, plaque and bad breath. Its treats are specifically engineered for the way dogs chew and equipped with innovative grooves and ridges for effective cleaning. And because it knows pet parents are increasingly cognizant of ingredients and sustainable practices, all WHIMZEES dental chews are made with six all-natural, sustainably sourced, hypoallergenic ingredients.

“We continue to focus on how we create our products. But the main challenge we see with consumers is addressing awareness on the importance of pet dental health,” said Rob Ashworth, senior brand manager at WHIMZEES. “We’re focused on educating on the need to care for our dog’s teeth and showing them that it doesn’t need to be difficult by providing easier solutions.”

To WHIMZEES, a well-rounded oral care routine includes regular brushing of dog’s teeth, a visit to the vet each year for a dental check and one WHIMZEES dental chew per day. So this year, WHIMZEES is striving to double down on the importance of daily dental care for dogs, and retailers are a key asset in delivering this message. WHIMZEES encourages retailers to try new items at lower price points so consumers can try products to understand the benefits firsthand.

“We think it’s vital for retailers to engage with consumers to understand where they and their dog are in their dental health journey,” Ashworth said.

After her newly adopted 10-year-old dog, Tinzley, needed emergency extractions of 21 teeth due to years of dental care neglect, Emily Stein, PhD, CEO of Primal Health at TEEF!, worked for five years to try and find a naturally safe approach that can target the root cause of gum disease.

“Dogs can lose up to 30 percent of their lifespan due to poor dental health, and I found that many dental chews contain carbohydrate, which actually feed the disease-causing bacteria,” Dr. Stein said.

Like Dr. Haught, Dr. Stein agrees that the most significant part of the disease process occurs below the gumline. According to her, the incidence of gum disease is increasing in dogs and cats, which means that current approaches are not built in a manner that work on the root cause of gum disease. That’s why TEEF! is in the process of educating consumers, retailers and veterinarians. This year, TEEF! is working to solve oral care needs for cats, horses and zoo animals. It also encourages that oral disease and oral care products be an everyday conversation.

“Our goal is to keep all 42 teeth in a dog’s mouth for their entire life so they can live a better life. We all love our animals and want to do the best we can for them. It is time for us to build a movement and encourage more companies to spend the time and money developing effective and safe products,” Dr. Stein said.

Toothpaste and Toothbrushes

Techmira Corp. was established January 2018 in Basel, Switzerland, securing North America and Latin America distribution rights for Mira-Pet product lines. Mira-Pet applies patented ultrasound technology to clean not only the surface of teeth but also inside the gum pockets. It’s vibration-free and offers silent cleaning.

“Groomers in Germany, the U.K. and Scandinavia are generating a significant income stream by cleaning pet teeth and gums with Mira-Pet. The same model is being established in the USA,” explained Stephen Spector, president of Techmira Corp. “Oral care must be integrated into the weekly chores and into the education of pet owners.”

According to Spector, the biggest challenge is changing the behavior of pet owners. To help address this, Techmira Corp. creates digital content to provide education for pet owners. And this year, it plans to enhance the features of the Mira-Pet System for dogs and cats by providing its proprietary natural double-whitening product extension. But Techmira Corp. recommends that retailers take advantage of oral care in their grooming services.

“Retailers are constantly under pressure from rising operating expenses and shrinking gross profit margins. Create attention first for pet oral care amongst humans. [Then] creating a new highly profitable category/channel of profits [will be] critical to success,” Spector said.

Petsmile was founded by Dr. Irwin Smigel under the belief that it “should do no harm.” There are no parabens, animal by-products, BPA or silica that damages enamel in its toothpaste. It’s also allergy-free.

“Petsmile wants consumers to be educated on the choices they make for their pets,” said Ephraim Diament, vice president of Petsmile. “More pet owners are caring about their pets’ oral health, and they are asking amazing questions. I feel we are still very much at the beginning of the education stage.”

Petsmile designed its Calprox formula so that it can be used without a toothbrush. Petsmile also gives away a free e-book called “Petsmile’s Guide to Dental Care,” which is full of tips and tricks for taking care of pet oral health. And after the success of its patented 45° toothbrush last year, Petsmile is introducing something just as revolutionary for pets later this year. But until then, Petsmile is advising retailers to learn more about the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) and to take advantage of Pet Dental Month.

“It’s the perfect time to bring focus to oral care for pets. Because taking care of your pet’s oral health should not be a chore,” Diament said.

Dental Assortment

Pure and Natural Pet believes there are different solutions for every age pet. So it has three oral cleaning kits—for puppy, adult and senior dogs—as well as Plaque and Tartar Fighting Dental Gel and Dental Spray in Clean Mint flavor.

“More brands are providing natural options and going beyond traditional toothpaste and dental chews. There are many more healthy options now to choose from,” said Julie Creed, VP of sales and marketing at Pure and Natural Pet.

Pure and Natural Pet wants customers to know how brushing a pet’s teeth is just as important as brushing our own. It has dental-specific ads that have been adapted for flyers for retailers to use along with web banners and social media posts. It has also developed a shelf talker, education pieces and several dental-focused blogs on the website. This year it is also working on developing products driven by emerging trends, new organic ingredients and customer and retailer requests. Until these new products come around, Pure and Natural Pet suggests retailers try a variety of methods to draw in customers and educate them.

“Make sure customers know how products will aid their oral care needs. This can be done with in-store or window displays and signage, shelf talkers, check-stand flyers, HTML email blasts and promotions on your blog, website and social media. Some products could be sampled or demonstrated for customers,” Creed explained. “Be consistent with your message.”

Swedencare USA’s PlaqueOff brand is an easy-to-use, daily application to foods that helps prevent plaque and tartar in dogs and cats. It also helps eliminate bad breath. To provide consumers with more variety, PlaqueOff is also available in select chews.

“Consumers are looking for effective ease of use and natural products. Our products are designed to offer both benefits,” said Scott Reinhardt, VP sales and marketing at Swedencare USA.

Swedencare USA is going to continue expanding its PlaqueOff core brand with its PlaqueOff System Dental Care Bones and PlaqueOff System Crunchy Dental Bites. It encourages retailers and consumers to read the label on oral care applications and to choose products that help prevent expensive and painful alternatives to extensive dental vet visits.

“Ask the question, ‘How do you take care of your dog or cat’s teeth today?’ [For] most consumers this is an afterthought or only important when oral problems arise,” Reinhardt explained. “Understand the importance of dental health relative to not only the teeth and gums, but overall animal health implications of not attending to oral hygiene.”

Waggletooth started with the invention of a dog toothbrush. The toothbrush opened the eyes of Waggletooth founder Dr. Evie Sabet to dog dental products that only covered up bad breath without treating it. As a human dentist, Dr. Evie used her experience to create a line of products for dog dental care.

“The shocking reality is that approximately 80 percent of dogs develop some form of periodontal disease by the time they’re 3 years old. Waggletooth’s four-step system can help dog lovers with daily dog dental care. The toothpaste, toothbrush, water additive and dental chews all have probiotics, too. These products can be used together or mix and match to provide unmatched dog dental care!” Dr. Evie expressed.

This year, Waggletooth is exploring other flavors to add to the product line. It is also branching out from its website to start appearing in more specialty pet retail stores. Therefore, Waggletooth is focusing on the education of dental health and implores that retailers do the same.

“Retailers can become trusted source for information for their consumers. Waggletooth has various material to help retailers, including our countertop display box with talking points for employees to facilitate customer engagement and information videos for in-store or web marketing,” Dr. Evie said. “Education is key, [especially to] help customers weed out trends that are fleeting versus trends that have staying power.”

To Oxyfresh, dental care is as the top of the list when creating products that matter to pets. It believes in partnering with pet parents and offering solutions with ingredients they can trust and formulas that work.

“Our goal with our education is not to pitch products, it is to help provide the pet parents with valuable insight and awareness,” said Melissa Gulbranson, vice president of marketing at Oxyfresh.

Gulbranson’s biggest concern is the use of human ingredients and incorporating them into pet products, which can be risky and toxic to pets, as well as knowing which products are safe for multi-pet households. That’s why Oxyfresh offers non-toxic solutions that pet parents can feel good about. And this year, Oxyfresh launched a new pet dental kit and dental pet point-of-purchase display to make it easy for retailers to display dental care products.

“Fun dental displays in the front of the store are key to help bring awareness,” Gulbranson said. “Educate team members on asking customers great questions on what they really want out of a dental care product.”

Cardinal Pet Care has devoted much of its R&D resources to addressing pet dental health. Its two products introduced last year were developed to provide pet parents with easy-to-administer dental hygiene alternatives to toothbrushing.

“The demand for such alternative products is being driven largely by pet parents themselves, many of whom are aware of the importance of oral hygiene, but still aren’t brushing their pet’s teeth regularly,” said Tony de Vos, president of Cardinal Pet Care.

While Cardinal Pet Care encourages pet parents to learn how to introduce brushing into their pet’s routine, it also encourages retailers to inform consumers that giving their dog home dental care regularly is one of the biggest things they can do to make a positive difference in their pet’s overall health. To help address this, Cardinal Pet Care is offering customized educational webinars for retailers’ sales staff on demand. It also advises retailers to try methods that encourage a conversation about dental health.

“Consumers are looking for information on pet oral health. Invite a veterinarian to the store to conduct a dental care clinic,” de Vos said. “Even holding a contest asking people to post photos/videos of themselves brushing their dogs’ teeth can be a fun way to engage consumers and turn their attention to this very serious topic.”

TropiClean knows that dental health can compromise a pet’s overall health. That’s why it has created a complete no-brushing portfolio that makes caring for pets’ teeth easier.

“Pet parents want products that are safe, effective and liked by their pets. We understand that, like people, all pets are different, and we need to create products that fit the lifestyle of both pets and their people,” explained James Brandly, associate trade manager at TropiClean.

According to a Marketplace 2016 survey, TropiClean found that 55 percent of pet parents struggle to find effective oral care solutions. So this year, TropiClean is introducing two Fresh Breath by TropiClean products to its portfolio that will help remove plaque and tartar and freshen pet’s breath. It also will be making changes to its Fresh Breath by TropiClean Advanced Whitening line. TropiClean encourages retailers to learn as much as possible and become passionate about a brand.

“According to APPA 2017-2018, 58 percent of pet parents become aware of new pet products by browsing in a store. We find that placing multiple in-store placements like counter displays and end-cap displays can help drive awareness of the dental category,” Brandly advised. “When pet parents come in seeking a safe and effective dental care solution, you’ll be able to direct them to products that you’re knowledgeable about and trust.”