Most people consider their companion animals as members of the family, and for anyone in the family, oral care is considered a lifelong priority. But unlike with humans, tooth brushing is often not a realistic option for many dogs, cats and exotic animals. Many pet owners try this option and fail, while the need for other ways to take care of their pets’ oral health needs remains.
Manufacturers have responded to the call for products that make it easier for pet owners to address pets’ oral health care.
Chews are among one of the most popular methods that owners use for their pets’ oral health. C. Leigh Broadhurst, Ph.D., nutritional chemistry and food safety research scientist for Tampa, Fla.-based Ark Naturals, which manufactures natural pet products, including those that address oral health, anticipates that dental chews will continue their momentum in the market.
However, chews are not the only product that consumers are turning to for an easy-to-use dental solution.
"Another trend stemming from the difficulty with tooth brushing is the development of sprays, gels, wipes and water additives," Broadhurst said. "None of these are as effective as tooth brushing, but since that is such a limited option, all are welcome. Natural antibacterial ingredients are the keys to success of these products; the deep botanical knowledge the natural products industry has makes development fairly simple and inexpensive."
The dental category has evolved year after year due to the awareness and importance of maintaining a healthy oral care regimen. Along with this evolution, pet owners have become more aware that natural dental products are safer and better for their pets, according to industry insiders.
"Pet parents want products that are safe, effective and liked by their pets," said James Brandly, associate trade-marketing manager for Wentzville, Mo.-based TropiClean Pet Products, which makes the Fresh Breath brand of dental care solutions for pets. "We understand that, like people, all pets are different, and we need to create products that fit the lifestyle of both pets and their people."
David Levy, executive vice president of Teef!, a pet dental care brand produced by Minneapolis-based Primal Health, noted that the oral care category for pets still faces some big challenges.
"Today’s method of cleaning a dog’s teeth and breath are broken down into chews, water additives and some food additives, but we are still having to extract teeth because of dental disease, which starts below the gum line, where these methods do not work," he explained.
The solution, Levy added, needed to be something to stop the bad bacteria from growing and help the good bacteria grow, which led to the development of the company’s patented Teef! Protektin for dogs.
"We found a combination of a fiber that blocks bacteria from feeding on carbohydrate and added it to prebiotic nutrients that encourage growth of beneficial bacteria, so they can protect our dogs’ mouths," Levy said. "This is a very differentiated approach, and we are very excited by all of our customers’ and veterinarians’ feedback. Dogs deserve safe and effective dental products, not toxic chemicals or carbohydrates that don’t help."
Pet owners often prefer natural dental products to traditional products, according to industry insiders, and there are numerous formats available within the oral care category.
Wentzville, Mo.-based TropiClean Pet Products provides a complete portfolio of oral care solutions that fit the lifestyle of both pets and their people.
"TropiClean offers multiple formats, from our Fresh Breath by TropiClean Oral Care Kits to our no-brushing solutions like our Fresh Breath by TropiClean Gel," said James Brandly, associate trade-marketing manager. "Our Fresh Breath by TropiClean oral health products are made with natural ingredients that help ensure your pet’s mouth is healthy and breath fresh."
David Levy, executive vice president of Teef!, a pet dental care brand produced by Minneapolis-based Primal Health, noted that the company currently has one format available, which is a powder that is added to the dog’s water bowl daily.
"It’s a prebiotic water additive that safely and naturally targets the root cause of bad breath and dental disease, every time your dog drinks," he said. "Teef!’s Protektin formula contains just four human-grade ingredients FDA [U.S. Food & Drug Administration] approved as GRAS [generally recognized as safe]—soluble fiber, amino acid, vitamin B6 and sodium bicarbonate."
Dogs and cats don’t brush their teeth with a tiny bit of toothpaste and spit; nor do they rinse with mouthwash and spit. Whatever they are given to clean their teeth normally gets chewed and eaten, is added to their drinking water or is otherwise swallowed. This very important aspect means that offering products based wholly on safe, natural ingredients is paramount, industry insiders noted.
"It is much safer and more effective to use a mild, natural product daily or a few times a week for life than to wait until teeth and gums are swollen and infected, whereupon expensive dental work and harsh pharmaceutical antibiotics and antimicrobials are required," said C. Leigh Broadhurst, Ph.D., nutritional chemistry and food safety research scientist for Tampa, Fla.-based Ark Naturals, which manufactures natural pet products, including those that address oral health.
Though the market is chockfull of alternative ways to care for pets’ oral health, Norm Shrout, owner of Long Leash on Life, a pet store in Albuquerque, N.M., is still a firm believer in daily brushing, which he noted is the most effective way to divert the growth of insidious plaque.
"Just like in human brushing, there is prolonged, abrasive contact time with the teeth that disrupts the plaque’s growth," Shrout said.
"Enzymatic, abrasive, sanitizing and herbal ingredients in each pet-specific toothpaste can enhance the overall effect."
Educating pet owners about the importance of their pets’ oral care needs to be an everyday topic for pet specialty retailers, industry insiders said.
"Retailers need to talk about it every day," said David Levy, executive vice president of Teef!, a pet dental care brand made by Minneapolis-based Primal Health. "I think right now retailers and consumers know something needs to be given to their pet but don’t recognize the actual damage to the entire body [that results from poor oral health and that the] health of their pet depends on good oral health ... About 80 percent of dogs have gum disease, so we need to be vigilant on a daily basis, early in a dog’s life, because the bacteria do not take a day off."
While the category is on the rise, retailers and manufacturers need to work together to ensure that customers understand the natural difference and why these products are important to pets.
The staff at My Pet Naturally, a pet store in Santa Monica, Calif., often fields questions about natural dental products because most people who come in don’t have much of an inkling of how these products work, said Brett Newton, assistant manager.
"A lot of people have a lack of understanding of how these products clean a dog’s teeth, because they only know the toothbrush and toothpaste that they use and don’t understand how chewing on a stick is cleaning," he said. "We try to explain the function of cleaning and how it all works. We then go into our sales pitch as to what they should be buying."
Displays can also help retailers convey the message of how these products work.
"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 for Wentzville, Mo.-based TropiClean Pet Products, which makes the Fresh Breath brand of dental care solutions for pets.
The company offers educational merchandising and displays that highlight product features.
Retailers also need to explain how dental health is about more than just fresh breath, said C. Leigh Broadhurst, Ph.D., nutritional chemistry and food safety research scientist for Tampa, Fla.-based Ark Naturals, which manufactures natural pet products, including those that address oral health.
"For example, the sales staff should all be fully trained and be able to explain that when gingivitis progresses, ligaments in the jaw and the tooth sockets deteriorate as well as teeth," she said. "Chewing can become so painful that, unfortunately, bones and dental-cleansing chews are no longer options."
On the Market
What’s New and What’s Been Improved
In order to meet the varying oral care needs of today’s pet owners and their pets, manufacturers are introducing new products to the market, and some are making improvements to existing products.
In 2020, Wentzville, Mo.-based TropiClean Pet Products will introduce two new Fresh Breath by TropiClean products to its no-brushing portfolio that will help remove plaque and tartar and freshen a pet’s breath, according to James Brandly, associate trade-marketing manager.
"We’ll also be making changes to our Fresh Breath by TropiClean Advanced Whitening line," Brandly said. "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."
David Levy, executive vice president of Teef!, a pet dental care brand made by Minneapolis-based Primal Health, said the company’s Teef!
Protektin for dogs has been on the market since May 2019, but the products are just getting into the major independent stores.
"Our current product seems to work on cats as well, but since bacteria in all mammals are different, we are in the early stages of [developing] a specific formula for them," Levy said.
Tampa, Fla.-based Ark Naturals launched its Sensitive Gums formula of Brushless Toothpaste dental chews last March, said C. Leigh Broadhurst, Ph.D., nutritional chemistry and food safety research scientist.
"The product has toothpaste mixed throughout and was designed to be gentle enough for sensitive or bleeding gums," she said. "Sensitive Gums Brushless Toothpaste is great for dogs with cracked teeth, pulled teeth, soreness, from aging or surgery, or teething (puppies). It’s also recommended for breeds that are especially prone to tooth troubles like pugs, Yorkies, Italian greyhounds, Chihuahuas, shelties, dachshunds and others."