Dishing on Dental Health
As pet owners learn about the benefits of maintaining good oral health for their dogs, many are looking for products that are easy to use.
Many dog owners do not realize the importance of incorporating regular dental hygiene maintenance as part of their dog’s health care plan until the pet has developed dental issues. Dental disease can show up early in a dog’s life, often around three years of age for many dogs, according to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). What’s more, the AAHA reports that poor dental health can lead to serious health issues and infections.
“I believe most people don’t seem to really think about dental [health] until it’s too late,” said Pattie Boden, owner of Animal Connection in Charlottesville, Va. “People want their dental care to be easy. It’s a small group who are inclined to brush their pet’s teeth on a regular basis.”
Fortunately, a variety of new oral care products for dogs has become available on the market, giving concerned consumers more options in caring for their dogs’ teeth.
As with many pet care product categories, simplicity is key with oral hygiene, according to industry insiders—and brushless options have become an appealing option for pet owners.
“No-brushing solutions offer pet parents an easy, safe and effective alternative to brushing, which can be a hassle for pet parents and their dogs,” said Michelle McPherson, director of marketing for TropiClean Pet Products in Wentzville, Mo.
Boden has noticed an increase of sales in dental bones with enzyme benefits at her store. Wipes or products that go into drinking water are also highly sought-after dental solutions, Boden said.
“Toothbrush/paste combinations seem to be the last on the list,” Boden said.
Start a Conversation
Dental hygiene for dogs is becoming more of a concern for pet owners, leading consumers to seek more information about maintaining healthy mouths for their dogs. Sales staffs at pet specialty stores as well as manufacturer websites are often the first points of contact for pet owners seeking more information about oral care.
Both manufacturers of dental hygiene products for dogs and pet specialty retailers are emphasizing the importance of diet when it comes to dental health for dogs.
“Our conversations are weighted on how kibble is actually the worst thing for your pet’s teeth,” said Kim McCohan, chief happiness officer of Bend Pet Express, which has two stores in Bend, Ore. “Tartar and plaque feed on sugars, and sugars are found in starches and carbohydrates, which make up the majority of kibbles and dental chews.”
Similarly, at Animal Connection in Charlottesville, Va., owner Pattie Boden educates customers on better-quality foods that don’t cause tartar to form on teeth. The store’s sales program proactively encourages “food products that don’t put tartar on the teeth in the first place,” Boden said.
The store steers clients away from kibble and instead toward raw, dehydrated or freeze-dried high-protein, low-carb kibble or good canned options.
“We encourage bones and chews, and if someone is using kibble, a digestive enzyme product to keep the teeth in better shape,” Boden added.
Inevitably, these conversations spark an “ah ha” moment for customers, who then ask more questions about proper nutrition and its relationship to dental hygiene. Ultimately, the discussion leads to the importance of properly caring for dogs’ teeth, according to industry insiders.
The information available on manufacturer websites is also a great tool for retailers to use when educating their customers about proper oral hygiene for their dogs.
Techmira, a Swiss company that has U.S. headquarters in Canton, Mass., will soon release an e-book that will be available to those who sign up on its website. The book contains detailed and easy-to-understand information on how to use the company’s ultrasound toothbrushes and toothpastes for pets, said company officials.
Wentzville, Mo.-based TropiClean Pet Products offers educational merchandising and displays for its retail partners that highlight product features and include “how to use” graphics that help pet owners choose the right products, according to the company.
Oral Care Made Easy
Manufacturers of oral care products have introduced a variety of products that make caring for dogs’ oral hygiene easier than ever for pet owners.
Espree Oral Care, a subsidiary of Manna Pro Products in Chesterfield, Mo., has released several new brush-free oral care products for dogs, including gels, sprays and dental chews that remove plaque and tartar without the use of a brush, according to company officials.
In keeping with the brush-free trend, Wentzville, Mo.-based TropiClean Pet Products recently introduced dental sticks to the market. They are available in two sizes, and the chew texture and unique “T-shape” design reaches all surfaces of the teeth, simulating brushing with each bite, said company officials.
TropiClean is also adding a Dental Trial Kit to its line of products soon, officials added. The trial kit will include a two-week supply of the company’s Fresh Breath Clean Teeth Gel and Fresh Breath Water Additive, as well as a dental chew. The company hopes that the trial kit will encourage dog owners to add a dental hygiene regimen to their dog’s health care.
Even with brushing products, manufacturers keep simplicity in mind.
Techmira, a Swiss company that has U.S. headquarters in Canton, Mass., manufactures ultrasound toothbrushes and toothpaste for pets. The company’s Mira-Pet toothbrushes quickly and effectively remove tartar by using ultrasound to deep clean the gums and remove bacteria, according to company officials.
“That’s surprising dog owners because the only alternative to clean gum pockets to avoid inflammation and health issues has been the treatment under anesthesia at the vet,” said founder Peer Blumenschein.
Marketing & Merchandising
Taking Advantage of Dental
In an effort to spread awareness about proper oral hygiene for dogs, many pet specialty retailers take full advantage of National Pet Dental Health Month, which is in February. Retailers can utilize the opportunity to promote oral care products for dogs by highlighting them in point-of-sale locations, introducing new options or offering promotions.
Animal Connection in Charlottesville, Va., includes dental hygiene products in the store’s total care section.
“Occasionally, we’ll do a separate promotion, like during dental care month,” said owner Pattie Boden.
Bend Pet Express, which has two locations in Bend, Ore., offers free teeth gel to dog-washing customers. According to chief happiness officer Kim McCohan, the promotion sparks the conversation about dental care in dogs.
At Bend Pet Express, kibble buyers purchase the majority of dental hygiene products. As such, the company places its dental products on the display shelf, right next to the kibble.
“So walking into the kibble section you don’t see it, but walking out to get back to the POS you can’t help but see it and walk around it,” McCohan said. “We also have impulse dental items that rotate at the front POS, be it chews, finger toothbrush or toothpaste, for example.”
The store also finds that its customers wait until February to come in and see what is new in the dental hygiene market.
“Staff are better able to facilitate selling something new with not much feedback when it’s already 20 percent off,” McCohan said.