Teaching pet parents that preventative pet oral care can add years to their pets' lives and save them money in the future is an imperative message for the petfood and treat industry to spread.
On April 8, 2013

Nutrition focus: Pet dental health

Preventative oral care for pets can start in the pet's food bowl, but consumers need to get the facts

According to VPI Pet Insurance, by the age of three years old, eight out of 10 dogs and seven out of 10 cats are already showing signs of oral disease. In 2012 alone, VPI Pet Insurance policyholders spent US$9.8 million on pet dental conditions. Of those claims, periodontal disease accounted for 52% of all dental conditions treated. According to VPI, the average cost for a pet teeth cleaning is US$166, while the average claim amount for treating tooth-related disease is US$227. Teaching pet parents that preventative pet oral care can add years to their pet’s lives and save them money in the future is an imperative message for the petfood and treat industry to spread.

“Periodontal disease is  the most common problem veterinary health care teams see in dogs and cats,” said Susan Jones, D.V.M., director of veterinary affairs at Hill’s Pet Nutrition Canada. “Unfortunately, oral health issues often lead to more systemic health issues and our pets then end up facing more serious problems that could have been prevented."

Hill’s Pet Nutrition Canada launched the 2013 Pet Dental Health Awareness campaign to increase awareness of the connection between oral and overall health. Pet owners can visit the website to learn more about their pets' oral health. The campaign offers a kit for pet owners through local veterinarians, which contains a brochure on proper dental care, a pet toothbrush, a human toothbrush and a guide for brushing pets' teeth. Along with the Pet Dental Health Awareness campaign, Hill's launched the Smile Sweepstakes. Pet owners can register online to win a year's supply of Hill's Prescription Diet t/d Oral Health petfood, as well as other daily prizes.

In conjunction with February’s  National Pet Dental Health Month, Banfield Pet Hospital released results from its survey of pet owners, which found the majority of pet owners are unaware that a pet’s bad breath could be an indication of a greater health problem. According to the survey, conducted by The Pert Group, more than half (59%) of pet owners did not know that dental disease is the most common disease in cats and dogs.

Despite bad breath, 62% of dog owners surveyed said they are not planning to take action to alleviate their pet’s bad breath, and 38% of dog owners and 29% of cat owners surveyed said they have taken their pet to the veterinarian for a professional teeth cleaning. Preventative oral care petfoods and treats seem like a simpler and less costly alternative for pet parents and some companies are already leveraging this fact in their favor.

According to Greg Aldrich, PhD and Ingredient Issues columnist, today there are a number of dog foods and treats promoted as beneficial for dental health. Some sport the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal (VOHC Accepted) for having passed a rigorous product test. Others use the limited claims that are allowed: "cleanse, freshen or whiten teeth."

PetSafe, for example, offers its Indigo line of superpremium dog treats including the fresh family four-step dental system and triple chews. The fresh family four-step dental system includes a fresh gel in peppermint or eucalyptus flavors that can be squirted into a dog's food dish; a fresh biscuit treat; fresh sticks long-lasting chews that clean down to the gums; and fresh floss bones. Triple chews are infused with immune-system-boosting antioxidants, have a chewy texture that helps clean gums and teeth, and include a moist strip packed with probiotics for proper digestive health, according to PetSafe.

Nylabone Products offers Nutri Dent Complete dental treats for dogs, clinically proven to clean teeth and freshen breath better than weekly brushing, according to the company. The treats' 360 degree scrubbing nubs are designed to fight built-up plaque and tartar. Nutri Dent Complete treats are available in Regular, Grain-Free and Puppy varieties, and come in a range of sizes for every age and breed.

Find more dental care products and ingredients online

To compare current oral health products for dogs and cats, go to and search 'dental health' or 'oral care' to get started. To learn more about sodium hexametaphosphate, a petfood additive and leading dental health aid, read Dr. Aldrich's Ingredient Issues column on the topic at .

The fresh family four-step dental system from PetSafe includes a gel, biscuit treat, long-lasting chews and floss bones.
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