As manufacturers and retailers continue to drive home the importance of dental health care for dogs and cats, pet owners are turning to natural solutions that are also simple and cost-effective.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, TropiClean Fresh Breath dental care products saw a 15 percent increase in sales between 2020 and 2019, said James Brandly, trade and marketing communications specialist for Saint Peters, Mo.-based Cosmos Corp., maker of TropiClean Pet Products.

Sales of natural dental products are also up for Pure and Natural Pet, a manufacturer in Norwalk, Conn. Vice president of sales and marketing Julie Creed said the uptick is thanks to rising awareness of the importance of dental care and retailers creating additional shelf space for the dental category.

“Consumers are looking for natural and healthy products that improve their pets’ health, and this includes dental care,” Creed said.

They want convenience, too.

At Just Dog People, a pet store in Garner, N.C., owner Katie Ast said TropiClean’s Fresh Breath Oral Care Gel is a category best-seller. The brushless gel comes in Peanut Butter, Vanilla Mint and Berry, with formulas for cats and puppies, too.

“Customers love this because it is low maintenance,” Ast said. “You just put a glob on the molars ... No brushing or fighting the dog.”

Other popular sellers at Just Dog People include TropiClean’s Fresh Breath Dental Health Solution water additives, Primal Pet Foods’ raw bones, Benebone Dental Chews and Whimzees’ chews.

At Animal Connection, a pet store in Charlottesville, Va., good old-fashioned toothbrushes and toothpaste win out, said owner Pattie Zeller.

Using a toothbrush and enzymatic toothpaste is the most cost-effective teeth-cleaning method and an excellent way to maintain dental health, said Rachel Cloutier, field training manager for Wag N’ Wash Woodmen, a groomer and pet store in Colorado Springs, Colo. Both Wag N’ Wash and Animal Connection offer teeth brushing as a walk-in service.

Brandly agreed that brushing is key.

“Brushing our pet’s teeth is the most effective strategy to achieve optimum results when it comes to dental health,” Brandly said.

Chews are the most widely used dental products for pets, though not necessarily the most effective, according to David Levy, executive vice president of Minneapolis-based Primal Health and founder and CEO of Pet Product Innovations in Des Plaines, Ill. Levy said chews help pet owners address a problem and feel like they’re treating their pets at the same time.

“The issue, in my opinion, is that the majority of chews are made of carbohydrates, which actually feed the bad bacteria that live below the gum line that cause periodontal disease,” he said. “All the other options often only mask odor and cover up the underlying problem, or only work to minimize plaque on the tooth surface, but do not act below the gum line, where help is really needed.”

Primal Health’s Teef for Life brand focuses instead on improving the whole oral microbiome for better oral health with a water additive that limits bad bacteria while feeding good bacteria with a prebiotic, Levy said.

Regardless of which dental care method pet owners choose, the biggest obstacle is making it a part of the household routine, Cloutier said.

“The biggest hurdle is just doing it—not making excuses that it’s difficult, costly or time-consuming,” she said. “Oral hygiene isn’t just a one-and-done thing. It has to be consistent.”

Freshening Up the Dental Category

Both TropiClean Pet Products and Pure and Natural Pet made changes to their dental product lineups in January.

TropiClean redesigned its entire Fresh Breath portfolio to freshen up its look, strengthen cohesiveness across its brands, and provide greater transparency for retailers and customers, according to the company.

The products formerly known as Fresh Breath Water Additives have been renamed Fresh Breath Dental Health Solutions. They now carry the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) Quality Seal and the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal. The NASC Quality Seal “identifies products from companies that are committed to quality, vigilance, and continuous improvement to promote the well-being of companion animals and horses,” according to NASC’s website, while the VOHC seal recognizes products that meet standards to help control plaque and tartar in pets.

“While our Fresh Breath products now have a new look—and in the case of our Dental Health Solutions, a new name—they still provide the same fresh breath our customers have come to trust and are made with naturally derived ingredients,” Brandly said.

Pure and Natural Pet launched its Organic Dental Solutions Bamboo Kits. Each kit features organic Canine Tooth Gel and an environmentally friendly bamboo toothbrush. The kits use eco-friendly packaging and benefit the environmental charity One Tree Planted.

Based on early ordering of the kits, Creed anticipates that they will become one of the company’s top sellers.


Recipes for Pearly Whites

Many manufacturers focus on offering pet oral care products made with natural ingredients.

The entire TropiClean Fresh Breath line is made with naturally derived ingredients.

“TropiClean defines ingredients to be naturally derived if they are either naturally occurring raw materials or are adapted from naturally occurring plant- or mineral-based raw materials,” explained James Brandly, trade and marketing communications specialist for Saint Peters, Mo.-based Cosmos Corp., maker of TropiClean Pet Products.

Two active ingredients featured in the Fresh Breath line are zinc chloride, which helps reduce and control plaque growth, and green tea leaf extract, which has antibacterial properties and helps prevent plaque and tartar formation, Brandly said.

Rather than focusing on eliminating oral bacteria altogether, Teef for Life, made by Primal Health in Minneapolis, aims to target harmful bacteria under the gum line while supporting beneficial bacteria in the mouth.

The brand’s Protektin 42 powder water additive uses just four ingredients:

1. Soluble fiber to neutralize bad bacteria.

2. Amino acids to prevent plaque buildup and odor from bacteria.

3. Vitamins to support beneficial bacteria.

4. Sodium bicarbonate to strengthen and whiten teeth.

“We go beyond to source human-grade, plant-derived, unadulterated ingredients that specifically work to improve the oral microbiome by growing the beneficial bacteria that will help your pet’s health,” said David Levy, executive vice president of Primal Health and founder and CEO of Pet Product Innovations in Des Plaines, Ill.

Norwalk, Conn.-based manufacturer Pure and Natural Pet uses ingredients that many people can find in their own kitchens. Its Plaque and Tartar Fighting Gel and Plaque and Tartar Fighting Spray are made with peppermint; grapefruit essential oils, which kill microbes and fungi; and grape seed oil, which helps reverse tooth decay, strengthen teeth and reduce inflammation, said Julie Creed, vice president of sales and marketing.

The company’s new Organic Dental Solutions Bamboo Kits for dogs feature a sweet potato and cinnamon gel.

“Sweet potato is packed with vitamin A and helps digestion, while cinnamon is naturally antimicrobial, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory,” Creed said.

Other ingredients in the gel include coconut oil to reduce bad breath and plaque, olive leaf extract to soothe gum inflammation, fennel extract to fight gingivitis, kelp extract to reduce plaque and tartar, and thyme leaf oil to help reduce tooth decay.

Consumer Education

Emphasizing Nutrition and Prevention

By the time many pet owners start paying attention to the dental health of their dog or cat, problems may have already set in.

“The first thing we notice in our pets is bad breath, but by then the dental disease has already started,” said David Levy, executive vice president of Minneapolis-based Primal Health, maker of the Teef for Life brand, and founder and CEO of Pet Product Innovations in Des Plaines, Ill.

If left untreated, periodontal disease can affect the kidney, liver and heart, said James Brandly, trade and marketing communications specialist for Saint Peters, Mo.-based Cosmos Corp., maker of TropiClean Pet Products.

Dental health has its roots in nutrition and preventive care.

“We strongly encourage foods that don’t put tartar on the teeth in the first place, like raw or gently cooked or better kibble without all the carbohydrates,” said Pattie Zeller, owner of Animal Connection, a pet store in Charlottesville, Va.

Zeller said the marketing claim that crunchy kibble cleans teeth doesn’t hold water. Raw bones and dental chews are better ways to maintain dogs’ teeth. For cats, she recommends canned and raw foods.

“The ingredients used and the manipulation in production to make a big kibble that ‘cleans teeth’ really compromises the quality of ingredients, in the opinion of many holistic veterinarians we respect,” she said.

Product samples can encourage customers to try new dental solutions, and kibble should be paired with digestive enzymes, raw bones, and chews for both dogs and cats, Zeller said. Stores can also offer teeth-brushing services to help reduce some damage to the teeth.

Just Dog People in Garner, N.C., finds creative ways to draw attention to dental hygiene. The store swaps out two of its tables monthly and features February’s National Pet Dental Health Month as one of its themes. Owner Katie Ast recommends demoing water additives in a store water bowl or fountain, as well as positioning dental kits near pet food and at the checkout.

Because there are so many options to choose from even within the natural dental product subcategory, shoppers may feel overwhelmed, Brandly said. TropiClean’s Fresh Breath line includes both brushing and brushless options, but for best results, the brand recommends a three-step process, consisting of the use of the company’s water additive, along with the nightly application of the brushless oral gel and once weekly brushing.

Recommendations need to be tailored to each pet and pet owner’s comfort and confidence levels, said Rachel Cloutier, field training manager of Wag N’ Wash Woodmen, a groomer and pet store in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“A big key is understanding how much effort your guest is willing to put in to their pet’s dental care,” Cloutier said. “If you sell a toothbrush and toothpaste to a guest who struggles with actually doing it, no favors are being done for either the companion or the guest.”

Retailers should also keep cats in mind when educating customers on preventive dental care.

“Dental health in cats is a request we don’t often hear about until it is too late, and the pet parent is looking for soft food after a number of teeth had to be pulled,” Cloutier said. “Dental health is just as important for your cats as it is for your dogs.”