Pet dental health: An important market for the petfood industry
As consumers become more and more aware of their pet’s oral health needs, the petfood industry must be prepared to step in with answers.
February is National Pet Dental Health Month, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and if giving this subset of pet health its own month doesn't underline its importance to the petfood industry, perhaps this will: the AVMA says that periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition in cats and dogs. However you look at it, pet owners are becoming increasingly aware of their pets' teeth and mouths as part of overall animal health, and the petfood industry is taking steps to capitalize on that awareness.
Oral health is, in fact, one of the top three concerns for companion animal owners, according to Sarah-Jane Godfrey of DSM Nutritional Products. Approximately 70% of cats and 80% of dogs develop some form of periodontal disease by the time they're three years old, and pet owners are looking for effective product solutions from the pet industry to help them maintain their furry companion's oral health.
Naturally, this concern and these numbers beg the question, what can be done to improve pet health? There's always daily tooth brushing, and the AVMA and other organizations, as well as individual veterinarians, provide tutorials and encouragement that focus on just that. However, according to a DSM pet owner survey only 16% of dog owners clean their pet's teeth every day, driving the need for pet products that provide a more complete approach to oral care. The most effective way for the petfood industry to play a part in the issue is through pet treats focused on improving oral health.
Various treats are recommended by veterinarians for pet oral health: Rawhide, rubber and rope chew toys that incorporate treats, and treats that don't break down easily and encourage chewing. Each of these promotes chewing and mechanical action on the teeth, key for animal oral health.
The petfood industry has these areas covered. Nylabone products, for example, offers Nutri Dent Complete dental treats for dogs, clinically proven to clean teeth and freshen breath even better than weekly brushing, according to the company. The treats have 360Ëš scrubbing nubs 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.
PetSafe offers its indigo line of super premium dog treats, including the fresh family four-step dental system. The 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. With this four-pronged approach, multiple avenues of potential oral health are addressed.
Indigenous Pet Products Dental Health Bones are natural edible chews for dogs of all breeds and sizes, according to the company. ProDen PlaqueOff, an all-natural, clinically tested product, keeps bones free from artificial colors and preservatives. The bones fight plaque and tartar build-up, keeping the dogs' teeth clean and breath fresh. A unique shape allows the bone to be snapped in half for small breeds. Dental Health Bones are available in smoked bacon, roasted chicken, carrot, pumpkin and original fresh breath formula.
TropiClean's Fresh Breath +PLUS Dental Treat line includes Skin & Coat, Hip & Joint, Advanced Cleaning System and Digestive Support treats.
Getting at the science behind pet oral health is another way to promote industry success. DSM, for example, has studied the effectiveness of vitamin C in the maintenance of oral health as an ingredient with high and positive recognition by consumers. The company has come up with STAY-C 50, a specialized form of vitamin C that is clinically proven to provide nutritional support to oral health in cats and dogs.
Vitamin C, says DSM, is needed in the body for formation of collagen, a fact which confirms its importance to the maintenance of oral health, supporting gum structure and the integrity of tooth placement. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant in the body and supports the immune system, subsequently supporting phagocytic leukocyte function. Vitamin C is also needed for regeneration of vitamin E, another important antioxidant.
The active ingredient in STAY-C 50 is a purified, highly bioavailable and stabilized form of vitamin C. Although initially developed for the human dental care market, the action of STAY-C 50 is clinically proven in dry petfoods, treats and edible chews, according to DSM. The solubility of this specialist form of vitamin C is vital for its effectiveness in pet oral care products as it rapidly dissolves in water-an important feature of STAY-C 50 when considering the short period of time the food or treat remains in the oral cavity and the time available for it to dissolve in saliva. Studies have been conducted with both cats and dogs to affirm STAY-C 50's efficacy (see Sidebar).
Anton C. Beynen, PhD, studied the pet oral health effects of cellulose fiber in pet treats. The Arbocel BWW40 preparation of cellulose is a natural, highly purified product, forming a completely insoluble fiber network, according to Beynen. This cellulose-based fiber is made by a special technique to achieve a very fine and defined particle structure.
In a 2010 study headed by Beynen, for eight weeks 16 test dogs daily received a chew treat to which 4% of the cellulose preparation was added. Fifteen control dogs were given a chew treat with identical formula, but without added cellulose. During the trial, all dogs were fed the same, complete dry food. When compared with the baseline values, the administration of the treats improved group mean scores of the clinical signs. The score changes over time for all 10 clinical signs were added to acquire an index of improvement of periodontal disease. Based on the index, the test group showed a 17% greater amelioration than did the controls.
The addition of the cellulose preparation to treats leads to a resistant and elastic texture which promotes chewing in dogs, according to Beynen. Thus, cellulose-containing treats appear to intensify contact with the tooth surface, thereby providing effective mechanical cleansing. This results in improvement of periodontal disease in dogs.
Whichever ingredients a company decides to use in its quest to carve out a piece of the pet dental health market, it's clear that the opportunities are wide and growing-and not likely to slow down any time soon.