That hold-your-nose-or-keel-over breath you smell when your dog comes to greet you is more than an eye-watering nuisance—it’s a health issue, and one that should be addressed promptly.
"Bad breath or halitosis can be a sign of dental disease," according to officials from the American Veterinary Dental College, who added that pet owners should seek veterinary advice if they notice bad breath in their pet. "Healthy mouths do not have an odor. ‘Doggy breath’ is so common that many people do not realize it is a sign of dental disease."
A bad odor coming from the mouth could signify a serious health risk with the potential to damage not only pets’ teeth and gums, but also their internal organs, according to American Veterinary Medical Association officials. Bacteria in the mouth enters the bloodstream, potentially affecting the heart, liver and kidneys, which can be life threatening, officials said.
Prevention is key, industry insiders note. Veterinary organizations recommend regular dental exams and professional dental cleanings on top of routine care at home, such as brushing. However, many pet owners admit to being lax when it comes to brushing their dogs’ teeth, said Tony de Vos, president of Cardinal Pet Care in Azusa, Calif.
"A study by the market research firm Ipsos found that more than three-quarters (76 percent) of pet parents think it’s important to brush their dog’s teeth regularly, but only 8 percent do so daily, while 43 percent said they never brush their pet’s teeth at all," de Vos said. "Clearly, there’s a need for oral hygiene solutions that offer an alternative to tooth brushing."
Not just any alternative, though, but an easy one, insiders assert.
"People are looking for the easiest way to keep their dog’s teeth clean," said Nancy Guinn, owner of Dog Krazy, which has locations in Virginia.
In addition to dental chews, Guinn carries ProDen PlaqueOff, a product made by Swedencare USA.
"That’s one we use for our own dogs and recommend quite a bit," Guinn said. "We have a hard time keeping it in stock."
However, "easy" does have limits, according to Melissa Gulbranson, vice president of marketing at Oxyfresh in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
"One of the biggest issues we see is companies taking a human product and repurposing it for pets," Gulbranson said. "There are some ingredients that are great for people but can be dangerous for pets. A great example of that is xylitol."
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has warned consumers about the dangers of xylitol, a class of sweetener known as sugar alcohol found in human mouthwash and toothpaste.
"When dogs eat something containing xylitol, the xylitol is more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and may result in a potent release of insulin from the pancreas," said Martine Hartogensis, a veterinarian at the FDA in a statement. "This rapid release of insulin may result in a rapid and profound decrease in the level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia), an effect that can occur within 10 to 60 minutes of eating the xylitol. Untreated, this hypoglycemia can quickly be life-threatening."
Pet owners want products that are safe, effective and liked by their pets, said James Brandly, associate trade marketing manager of TropiClean Pet Products in Wentzville, Mo.
As for specific product trends, Emily Stein, Ph.D., CEO of Minneapolis-based Primal Health, maker of the Teef! Animal Oral Care brand, pointed to water additives and products that offer different combinations of plaque-fighting enzymes added to toothpastes. Chew toys with enzymatic dental gels have surfaced, but they don’t seem to be picking up traction, she said.
On The Market
A MouthFul of Innovation
Manufacturers are taking the pet dental market head-on through new product launches, and by enhancing old ones and even creating a whole new subset within the dental category.
"Our company recently introduced a new category of dental product, a prebiotic for oral bacteria to improve dental and overall health," said, Emily Stein, Ph.D., CEO of Minneapolis-based Primal Health, in reference to the Teef! Animal Oral Care brand. "Our initial offering is Protektin42, an optimized dental prebiotic for dogs. Our goal is to keep all 42 teeth in a dog’s mouth for their life span. Just like humans, dogs lose life span with every tooth lost."
Cardinal Pet Care has turned its focus on providing alternatives to tooth brushing, one of the biggest pet dental product trends the company is seeing, according to Tony de Vos, president of Cardinal Pet Care in Azusa, Calif.. Two products recently hit the market: Remedy+Recovery Hemp Breath Spray and Remedy+Recovery Plaque Re-Lease Easy Pinch Tablets for Dogs.
"Both of these new products were designed to provide pet parents with easy-to-administer oral care alternatives to tooth brushing," de Vos said. "They address the needs of the large number of consumers who are concerned about their dogs’ oral health but say they rarely or never brush their pets’ teeth."
Some manufacturers are finding that starter and trial kits help bring in customers. For instance, Oxyfresh has expanded its nontoxic, eco-friendly dental line by creating a starter kit for new pet owners.
"It is crucial to get the pets started at a young age," said Melissa Gulbranson, vice president of marketing at Oxyfresh in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
The Pet Dental Kit includes Unflavored Pet Toothpaste, a Pet Fingerbrush and a Pet Dental Spray. The company’s fast-acting Pet Dental Spray and Pet Dental Gel Toothpaste are formulated to deliver cleaner teeth, remove plaque, condition and deodorize the gums, and provide the freshest pet breath possible, the company stated.
TropiClean Pet Products recently introduced its Fresh Breath by TropiClean Dental Trial Kit. The kit includes a two-week supply of Fresh Breath by TropiClean Gel that helps remove plaque and tartar, and a bottle of Fresh Breath by TropiClean Oral Care Water Additive that helps provide up to 12 hours of fresh breath, according to James Brandly, associate trade marketing manager of TropiClean Pet Products in Wentzville, Mo.
And there’s more to come.
"In 2020, we’ll be introducing two new Fresh Breath by TropiClean products to our no-brushing portfolio that will help remove plaque and tartar and freshen the pet’s breath," Brandly added. "We’ll also be making changes to our Fresh Breath by TropiClean Advanced Whitening line. Our Fresh Breath by TropiClean Advanced Whitening Oral Care Gels and Kits will be getting a new look, switching to Fresh Breath by TropiClean Total Care. This switch helps clarify product offerings and benefits."
Teef! is currently working on feline and equine dental care formulas, as well as a new format of dental care treat for dogs, Stein said.
Oxyfresh is in the midst of launching a new pet professional webinar educational series, which was slated for a January launch at press time.
Behind the Scenes
New oral hygiene products for dogs continue to hit the market, and several factors are driving the development process for manufacturers in the category.
Emily Stein, Ph.D., CEO of Minneapolis-based Primal Health, maker of the Teef! Animal Oral Care brand, sees natural products as an influencer.
Teef! uses only 100 percent safe, human-grade ingredients that naturally function like a molecular toothbrush when added to drinking water, according to company officials. Teef!’s patented formula, Protektin, is "powered by science that’s been clinically proven to stop bacteria from causing dental disease in both humans (tested for eight years) and dogs (tested for four years)," officials said.
To help refine the formulas for both humans and dogs, the company conducted in vitro testing using oral swab samples from each. The product was then tested to assess shelf life, safety and activity, according to Stein.
"Once we established all of those, we performed dosing studies to make sure we understood how much of the product to administer on a daily basis to get the desired activity," Stein said. "To do all of this work, we partnered with about 150 pet parents in several states to understand dogs’ needs, product usage, dosing and efficacy. Lastly, we performed clinical testing with a veterinary clinic to validate our products claims for improved breath, reduction in plaque and tartar, and gum health."
Primal Health is now turning its focus to perform in vitro testing on oral swab samples from cats and horses to find the most optimal approaches for these groups, Stein said.
James Brandly, associate trade marketing manager of TropiClean Pet Products in Wentzville, Mo., said that the company continually invests in research to understand the needs of consumers and their pets.
"This investment helps drive innovation in products and messaging," Brandly said.
Customer feedback and demand are driving forces in Cardinal Pet Care’s product development process, said Tony de Vos, president of the Azusa, Calif.-based company.
"Our research and development team works closely with our customer service and sales teams to monitor customer feedback and study market trends," de Vos said. "Many ideas for new products come from our customers themselves. We also constantly look at market data and trends in areas such as sourcing and ingredients. For example, our sales team saw that customers were asking for dental products that would help them care for their pets’ teeth. Market data was showing a surge in hemp products, and the combination launched our Remedy+Recovery Hemp Breath Spray."
The company’s research also found that pet owners seek convenience and cost-savings. With that in mind, Cardinal’s team developed the Remedy+Recovery Plaque Re-Lease Easy Pinch Tablets for Dogs, de Vos said.
Driving factors for Oxyfresh are science and customer feedback, according to Melissa Gulbranson, vice president of marketing at Oxyfresh in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
"We utilize customer loyalty surveys to help gauge what our consumer is looking for, what their concerns are, etc.," Gulbranson said. "Our vice president of product development, Tom Lunneborg, is always studying new ingredients as the market is constantly changing and doing the due diligence behind ingredients is very important."
Merchandising & Marketing
National Pet Dental Health Month Can Help
To help emphasize the importance of dental care, the American Veterinary Medical Association sponsors National Pet Dental Health Month every February. The observance was launched to help veterinarians educate their clients about the importance of dental care. It has gained so much traction, however, that many pet retailers have incorporated it into their business in some shape or form.
For example, Nancy Guinn, owner of Dog Krazy, which has locations in Virginia, advertises 20 percent off all dental products the entire month of February. Her groomers also hand out dental chews with any tooth brushing add-on service.
Retailers can turn to manufacturers for ideas on how to best market oral healthcare products.
"We find that placing multiple in-store placements like counter displays and endcap displays can help drive awareness of the dental category," said James Brandly, associate trade marketing manager of TropiClean Pet Products, noting a 2017-2018 American Pet Products Association (APPA) study revealing that 58 percent of pet owners become aware of new pet products by browsing a store. "TropiClean offers educational merchandising and displays that highlight product features and include ‘how to use’ graphics, helping pet parents choose the right dental product for their pet."
Tony de Vos, president of Cardinal Pet Care in Azusa, Calif., suggested that retailers host an in-store clinic during National Pet Dental Health Month demonstrating how to provide at-home oral hygiene and dental care for dogs.
"Retailers could invite a veterinarian or vet tech to the store to give a demo on how to introduce dogs to tooth brushing and properly brush their teeth," de Vos said. "The clinic could also discuss pet dental care products that offer options other than tooth brushing … Not only will having a pet dental care clinic result in added sales in the category, you’ll also be helping your customers give their dogs the oral care that’s so vital to their health."
Dental product giveaways and contests are another way to attract customers, said Emily Stein, Ph.D., CEO of Minneapolis-based Primal Health, maker of the Teef! Animal Oral Care brand.
Above all, have some fun, said Melissa Gulbranson, vice president of marketing at Oxyfresh in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
"Pet parents are looking for solutions, and this is a perfect time to grab their attention with something easy for them to start with," Gulbranson said.