Retailers can prepare early to help guide dogs’ dental hygiene.
By Jacqueline Bodnar
February is National Pet Dental Month, sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
Retailers can use the month as a springboard for stocking their stores and introducing related products to their employees and consumers alike. Good dental hygiene is essential to the long and healthy life of a dog.
Why Dog Dental Care?
According to the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC), the most common disease in dogs is periodontal disease (gum disease). Just as with people, it is an infection created by a buildup of soft dental plaque around the gums and on teeth surfaces. If the plaque (which comes from food particles, bacteria and debris) accumulates, it can lead to infection in the bone surrounding the teeth. In fact, this is so common the AVMA reports more than 85 percent of dogs at least 4 years old have periodontal disease.
Bad breath is the most common sign of gum disease. Additionally, a dog can be in pain from irritated gums, which can lead to appetite loss. The key to beating gum disease is prevention.
“As bacteria grow inside the mouth, the plaque turns to tartar. If not treated, plaque and tartar buildup can result in gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums,” says Candice Veloce, junior vice president of CanCor Innovations Inc., an Orono, Ontario, Canada-based company that created a dog-dental chew toy.
“An even worse situation would result in periodontal disease,” she says. “Other severe infections can affect a dog’s heart, liver or kidneys.”
Stocking the Shelves
Signs of Dog Dental Disease
- Bad breath
- Discolored or loose teeth
- Dog uncomfortable with owner touching its mouth
- Dropping food or drooling
- Bleeding mouth
- Loss of weight or appetite
From special food to chews, treats, toys, water additives, and toothbrushes and toothpastes, there are plenty of stockable items available to help pet owners address the issue. Offering a wide variety is important, since what works for one consumer may not work for another.
“If they [retailers] are not selling an oral-care product, they should be,” says Bud Groth, owner of PetzLife Products Inc., a Rockford, Minn., company that has a line of spray oral-care products. “People are concerned worldwide about pet oral care. Proper tooth care is an important issue.”
Most pet owners are readily willing to help take care of their dog’s bad-breath problem.
“They spend a lot of time with the dog, and if the dog has bad breath, it’s not a good experience,” says Martin Shimko, managing partner of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based International Dental. “Retailers need to appeal to what the owners care about, which is bad breath, quality of life and extending the pet’s life.”
Getting pet owners involved in routine at-home dental care for their dogs is not a substitute for visiting the vet. Shimko points out those pet owners who regularly take measures to care for their dog’s teeth may also reduce their veterinary bills.
“Any dental care pet owners do may extend the time before the dog needs to be taken in,” he adds.
Promoting the Products
“By offering a well-stocked dental section in their stores, retailers are well on their way,” Veloce says. “Make the dental section stand out, direct people to this section and offer knowledgeable answers for any questions customers have.”
Additionally, retailers need to include pet dental-care information on their websites. By providing information about the importance of a dog’s dental health, and presenting various care options, retailers encourage consumers to either make a purchase or seek more information. Once pet owners learn how user-friendly some of the oral hygiene products are, they will no longer rely only on visits to the vet.
“Their [the customers] biggest concern is whether or not their dogs or cats will like having their teeth brushed,” says Richard Shiu, co-owner of the San Francisco-based retail store Best in Show. “They don’t want to take their pets to the vet just to have their teeth cleaned. They don’t want their pets put under anesthesia for an elective procedure. I have found that customers really do care about their pets’ oral hygiene and health. We sell a lot of toothbrushes and toothpaste to dog and cat owners.”
As with most pet health-care issues, informing the customer is crucial. To do this, retailers can use a multitude of tools at their disposal, many of which come from the product manufacturers.
“Retailers should place the merchandise in an area that is highly visible,” says Orlando Miguel, CEO of Pet Kiss Inc., a Palmdale, Calif.-based company that has created a line of pet oral-care products. “They should also deal with manufacturers that have taken the time to design packaging that will get the customer’s attention.”
Additionally, Miguel recommends retailers get samples from manufacturers to hand out to customers. Retailers can also increase their sales with brochures, videos and fliers that promote the concept.
To celebrate the month, stores can also achieve success by announcing a dog dental-demonstration day. They can set up products, have staff on hand to explain the importance of dental care, demonstrate how related products work and provide samples.
“Pet owners are busy, but still want what’s best for their pets,” says Kathy Ahearn, co-owner of Four Your Paws Only, a North Conway Village, N.H.-based retailer. “Some still brush their dog’s or cat’s teeth, or give them something to chew on, but many are looking for a quick and easy solution to help prevent diseases. To help accommodate their needs, we have brought in several different brands of dental solutions that you add to the pet’s water.”
Ahearn also offers and encourages the use of safe chew toys and treats that help promote good dental hygiene and prevent boredom. Liz Sand, owner of St. Louis Park, Minn.-based retailer LuLu & Luigi, carries toothbrushes as well as spray and toothpaste.
“The number-one question we get is ‘Do you have to brush your dog’s teeth?’” Sand says. “It is amazing what some people don’t know. I let them know that keeping their dog’s teeth clean is essential in maintaining a healthy pet. Ease of use is the main concern, and how to do it is the second.”
Chuck Costello, marketing director of Golden, Colo.-based Kong Co., says providing proper dental care is an important aspect of pet ownership.
“By practicing routine dental care, most dental problems can be prevented,” he says. “Toys can be effective in removing food debris and reducing tartar formation.” <HOME>
Industry Professional Site: Comments from non-industry professionals will be removed.