Pet owners are becoming more attentive to the benefits of keeping their pets’ mouths healthy—and the repercussions that can occur if oral care is neglected. Manufacturers are taking note, and owners have access to a variety of dental care solutions, from chews and treats to toothpastes, toothbrushes, wipes, powders and other water additives, and more.
James Brandly, associate trade marketing manager for Wentzville, Mo.-based TropiClean, which makes a variety of pet dental solutions, noted that despite dental products’ popularity, the company seeks to drive awareness that dental chews alone will not replace brushing.
"For some, brushing is hard if not impossible," he said. "That’s why we created a complete portfolio of no-brushing solutions. Pet parents seek dental products that are safe, effective and that their pet enjoys."
Most consumers don’t notice dental issues until their pets’ breath begins to smell unpleasant, said Emily Stein, Ph.D. and CEO of Minneapolis-based Primal Health, maker of the Teef! Animal Oral Care brand.
"They feel guilty that they are not doing enough to help their pets as they struggle with dental disease," she said.
She noted that her company is focused on oral dysbiosis and explained that this is the root cause of dental disease, while plaque and tartar are merely symptoms.
The brand’s flagship product, Teef!, is a daily dental care product for dogs that comes in a powder formulation and is designed to be added to the dog’s water dish.
"Our big focus is to educate the market about dental disease, the root cause and the clinically proven mechanism of our technology," Stein said. "We only have the bioactive prebiotic ingredients—no fillers or preservatives—that are added directly to dogs’ drinking water for better oral health.
"We change what the microbiome eats," she added. "The soluble fiber stops bacteria from eating carbohydrate. The amino acid plus vitamin stimulate beneficial bacteria to start eating protein. The sodium bicarbonate neutralizes bacterial acid. The result of this combination is stopping growth of bad bacteria, stimulating growth of beneficial bacteria, and decreasing things that cause gum inflammation and tooth conditions."
Scott Reinhardt, vice president of sales and marketing for SwedenCare USA, a Poulsbo, Wash.-based manufacturer of oral health care products for pets, said the dental products category is growing as pet owners continually look for more effective ways to ensure their pets’ dental health.
He added that consumers are asking for better methods of cleaning their pets’ teeth in between regular dental cleanings, and that the number of cat owners interested in this is increasing.
"Rather than wait for scheduled cleanings, they are now looking for options to maintain year-round dental health," he said.
Denise Strong, co-owner of Pawz on Main, a pet supply store in Cottonwood, Ariz., agreed that cat owners worry about dental health too, especially those with elderly cats, for whom the anesthesia procedure needed for a dental cleaning is often considered high risk.
For both dogs and cats, keeping up with the available options is important, she said.
"I stay up-to-date on trends by continually researching all new products launched. It’s not so much providing ‘what the customer wants,’ as they often don’t know what to use," she said. "It’s providing what works to the customer. I have carried SwedenCare PlaqueOff dental products, both bones and powder, since opening my store six years ago, and the product speaks for itself for both dogs and cats."
Strong added that she talks with customers about what dental care products she carries and why, and recommends that all owners use some sort of dental care product for their pets.
On the Market
Chewing Their Way to Dental Health
Manufacturers are offering dental care products for pets in a variety of formats.
Pet’s Best Life recently launched the high-protein Yummy Combs, flossing treats for dogs that come in a shape reminiscent of a honeycomb.
"We’ve conceived a shape striving to floss and scrub completely around teeth simultaneously while also massaging the gums," said Doug Pendley, executive vice president of the North Kansas City, Mo.-based company. "This allows the product to deal with downstream impacts of gingivitis and periodontal disease—the ‘real killers’ of oral health issues."
Pendley said that the top three ingredients in Yummy Combs are all animal proteins—chicken is the top ingredient, gelatin is the second and casein milk protein, which he noted is very low lactose, is the third. The fourth ingredient is dried honey for the immune system.
"This is followed by cellulose fiber for gut health, maltodextrin for highly digestible quality carbohydrates, xanthan gum for soluble fiber and gut health, glycerin as a processing aid, natural liver as a palatability enhancer, salmon oil for omega-3 and -6 fatty acids for joint and mobility health, and clay to help clean teeth," he said.
The company also plans on releasing a formula with lower protein but more fruits and vegetables.
Since the launch of its Fresh Breath line, TropiClean in Wentzville, Mo., has introduced more than 50 Fresh Breath oral care products, including Fresh Breath by TropiClean Dental Sticks in two sizes—for dogs weighing 5 to 25 pounds and for dogs weighing 25 pounds and up.
James Brandly, associate trade marketing manager, said the chewy texture and unique "T" shape design provides ridges to reach all surfaces of the teeth, simulating brushing with each bite to help brush away plaque and tartar.
"We have a constant desire to develop new products that are different than what is available in the industry," he said. "Our innovation team is working on expanding our line, and we look forward to introducing quality products to our Fresh Breath line in the near future."
SwedenCare USA recently introduced PlaqueOff System Mini Dental Care Bones, which are designed specifically for toy and small-breed dogs. The mini bones are available in two flavors: Vegetable Fusion and Vegetable Fusion & Blueberry. Both are grain and gluten free.
The company’s PlaqueOff products, which are made with natural sea kelp, also come in powder, bite and larger dental bone formats, and Swedencare offers products to assist both dogs and cats with dental care, said Scott Reinhardt, vice president of sales and marketing for the Poulsbo, Wash.-based company.
"ProDen PlaqueOff Powder is a natural product which is suitable for both cats and dogs," he said. "It comes in a granulated form which is easily added to food every day. It is free from artificial colors, preservatives, gluten and sugar."
Emily Stein, Ph.D. and CEO of Minneapolis-based Primal Health, maker of the Teef! Animal Oral Care brand, said that trends in the dental care space include yak cheese chews and cannabidiol (CBD) toothpaste, but noted there is not much proof that they are effective.
"Both are not backed by heavy science, but there is quite a bit of excitement surrounding these," she said. "There are some probiotics in the market, but they don’t seem to be taking off as much as CBD."