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Dog Marketplace: Amp Up Sales With Dental Aids

Posted: Dec. 13, 2012, 3:45 p.m. EST

Promoting convenient, natural products can lead to success in the canine dental category.
By Audrey Pavia

As dog owners become more aware of the importance of dental care, an ever-expanding variety of products are appearing on the market. Retailers can now offer everything from toothbrushes to dental chews to help customers take good care of their dogs’ teeth.

Just Add Water
One of the categories that is growing in dog dental care is water additives.

“Supplement therapy has been growing in popularity over the past five to 10 years,” said Brian Collier, creative marketing and public relations coordinator for Tropiclean in Wentzville, Mo. “Our products deliver supplements in an easy and effective fashion. It permits pet owners to promote oral health and complete pet wellness in one product.”

Dog brushes and dental chews
When it comes to battling canine dental disease, dog toothbrushes and chews are two options available to pet owners. Sherri L. Collins/BowTie Inc. at Dogma in Irvine, Calif.
The company’s water additives are formulated to provide pet owners with a safe, effective and natural way to establish an oral care routine, while also promoting overall health, Collier said.

“Like all consumers, pet owners lead busy lives,” he said. “Their lifestyle calls for products that are safe, easy and effective.”

The convenience of water additives for dental care is the greatest draw when it comes to these products, agreed Michelle Austin, director of marketing and purchasing for Ryan’s Pet Supplies, a manufacturer and distributor in Phoenix.

“Dog owners are more aware of the importance of dental care in maintaining pet health, yet many still struggle with daily tooth brushing,” she said. “Products that can be added to a pet’s drinking water offer a great convenience to pet owners. These products reduce plaque and tartar, promote healthy gums and freshen breath.”

Paw Brothers Dental Solution Complete Water Additive is the company’s newest addition to the Paw Brothers line of dental products.

“The product comes in an economical gallon size,” Austin said. “It is perfect for boarding facilities and kennels, and even households with bigger or multiple dogs.”

Convenience matters when it comes to selling dental care products to customers, noted Teresa Miller, owner of Treats Unleashed, a retailer with locations in St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City, Mo.

“Dental products that make dental care convenient are the most popular among our customers,” she said. “People are busy, and regular dental maintenance isn’t usually as high a priority as it should be. So solutions that are quick and easy are more likely to become routine.”

Water additives are in-demand at Beast Buffet in Monroe, Wis., stated Eric Jerdee, store owner.

“The newest dental care product we see that customers go crazy for is Dental Fresh by Synergy Labs,” he said. “It’s an additive you mix with water. Dogs like the taste, and it helps protect teeth and gums. It removes plaque and tartar, brightens teeth, and keeps breath a bit fresher, too.

Spray On
Dental sprays and gels are another product type developed to help keep dogs’ teeth clean. These products work by reducing bacteria that leads to plaque buildup.

The products help to easily remove plaque and tartar from pets’ teeth, said Dean Triandafellos, CEO of Nutri-Vet in Boise, Idaho, manufacturer of Tartar-Defense Spray and Tartar-Defense Gel for dogs.

“Veterinary-formulated products such as these help to reduce bacteria that promote plaque and tartar buildup,” he said. “They come in a convenient spray or gel that provides a natural way to keep pets’ teeth clean and bright while maintaining fresh breath.”

Spray-on and gel dental care products that reduce the need for brushing are often the only choice for busy dog owners who just don’t have time to brush their pets’ teeth, according to industry sources.

“Our Oral Care Spray and Oral Care Gel are formulated to eliminate plaque, remove tartar, reverse gum disease and freshen breath immediately,” said Andrew Groth, director of operations for PetzLife, a manufacturer in Spring Park, Minn. 

The value of the Oral Care Spray has been improved as the size of the container has been almost doubled while the price has remained the same, Groth noted. The Oral Care Gel has also been improved with the addition of a pump top.

Still Chewing
The dental chew category is also alive and well in the area of canine dental care. Chews containing all-natural ingredients are getting the most attention from dog owners.

Selling Dental Care
Promoting canine dental care and reminding customers that their dogs’ teeth need attention is a sure way to move products in this category. Retailers who call attention to dental care products in unique ways have been especially successful.

“We promote dental health in general all year round with articles in our newsletters, notes on our website and information in the stores to educate customers,” said Teresa Miller, owner of Treats Unleashed, a retailer with locations in St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City, Mo. “We educate our customers and work with their vets to help them understand that dental health is important not only for their pets’ teeth, but for their overall health.”

Treats Unleashed celebrates National Pet Dental Health Month in February with special offers on dental products and continuing education for both staff and customers, Miller noted.

There are several techniques that can help sell canine dental aids, said Susan Weiss, president of Ark Naturals, a pet dental care products manufacturer in Naples, Fla.

“Be sure to use the products you stock,” she said. “Make sure your key employees use the products, too. It’s hard to get excited about something you have never used.”

Weiss also recommended offering customers selection without going overboard.

“Not enough choice isn’t good, but offering every dental product under the sun discourages purchases as well. Too much of a good thing confuses the customer.”

“We sell Greenies, Artvark products and GumBone dental chews, as well as Buckarooz Antlers and Paragon dental treats,” said Eddie Maldonado, store supervisor for Global Pet Food Outlet in Culver City, Calif. “A lot of our customers like these products because they’re gluten-free and wheat-free. People want as many natural products as possible, and veggie-based ones are especially desirable.”

GumBone chews are one example of an all-natural, fully digestible dental treat designed to help prevent dental issues in dogs, according to the manufacturer.

“Seventy to 80 percent of all dogs develop some sort of periodontal disease by the age of three,” said David Pang, president of Artvark in Van Nuys, Calif., producer of GumBone. “Plaque surrounding the teeth could allow bacteria to enter the blood. This could result in a bacterial infection in the heart and liver.”

The new Gumbone formulation includes chicken and fish as the protein sources, with no gluten or protein substitute, Pang noted.

“Dog’s love meat much more than grain,” Pang said. “And the texture of the product allows the dog to chew the treat thoroughly without it breaking.”

Another new product in the dental chew category is Virbac Animal Health’s C.E.T. VeggieDent Tartar Control Chews for Dogs.

“VeggieDent Chews reduces plaque by 37 percent and calculus by 70 percent, and also reduces halitosis,” said Meredith Busch, brand manager of dental of the Fort Worth, Texas, company. “The chew has a unique Z-shape to help remove the plaque and calculus from the teeth.”

The chews are also protein- and wheat gluten-free, she added. 

Basic Brushing
The traditional way of cleaning a dog’s teeth is to use a toothbrush, and manufacturers are producing brushes that are easier to use while being more effective.

“We developed a brush that completely surrounds the tooth to maximize results and efficiency,” said Collier of Tropiclean’s TripleFlex toothbrush. “Brushing can be a difficult task because you are introducing a foreign object into a dog’s mouth. Our design allows pet owners to enhance the results of brushing and speed up the process by covering more of each tooth.”

The most common cause of canine dental disease and the accompanying bad breath is tartar buildup that results from small particles of food remaining after a meal, according to Nutri-Vet’s Triandafellos.

“Brushing teeth daily is the most effective means of preventing dental disease and eliminating doggie breath,” he said.

The company’s toothbrush was developed to maintain healthy teeth and gums in dogs of all ages.
“It easily and rapidly removes food debris with ultrasoft bristles that don’t irritate gums or aggravate the pet,” Triandafellos said. “Two different-sized brushes make for flexibility of use on both large and small teeth as well as any sized dog.”

Whether water additives, spray on products, gels, chews or toothbrushes, dental products are a winning category for retailers.

“Our dental care products are very popular,” Global Pet Food Outlet’s Maldonado said. “They almost sell themselves.” 


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