Pet dental health: Pet owners turning to treats

Perhaps seeking to minimize the costs of veterinary dental treatments, pet owners look to functional treats as their pets’ first line of defense in dental health.

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New pet dental treats are focusing on innovation and functionality to appeal to both pet owners and their animals. |
New pet dental treats are focusing on innovation and functionality to appeal to both pet owners and their animals. |

February is National Pet Dental Health Month, and the push to improve dog and cat dental health is in full force. From regular veterinary visits to teeth brushing to dental-focused pet treats, pet owners have access to significant resources so they can take proper care of their pets’ teeth.

How are pet owners using those resources? According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA)’s 2017–2018 National Pet Owners Survey, in 2016 only 16 percent of dog veterinary visits and only 8 percent of cat vet visits focused on dental care products or services. Banfield Pet Hospital released a “State of Pet Health” report in 2016 that focused partially on pet dental health, and it found a 10-year trend of increasing dental disease in both dogs and cats (a 23.3 percent increase for dogs and a 23.1 percent increase for cats). The report also said that dental disease is the most common disease in dogs and cats, affecting 76 percent of dogs and 68 percent of cats.

Pet treats and dental health

Veterinarians recommend regular check-ups and routine cleanings as the best offense against pet dental disease, but pet owners seem to be focusing on cheaper, at-home options for their pets, and veterinarians know that. Dental treats are a significant part of the discussion and, alongside brushing teeth, are a fairly common recommendation for daily pet dental health. “At-home dental care, such as teeth brushing and offering dental chews, can help slow the progression of dental disease,” said the Banfield report.

Pet owner purchasing data shows that a significant portion of dog and cat owners are taking that advice. According to the Packaged Facts report “Pet Treats and Chews in the US, 2nd Edition,” the vast majority of pet owners buy pet treats, and multi-functional treats and chews are among the most popular items. The most popular category within those functional treats? Dental treats, which according to Packaged Facts make up 25 percent of treat and chew market sales.

Pet food industry response

Innovation is the name of the game in capturing pet owners’ attention when they’re out looking for a functional, dental-focused treat for their pets, and the industry has responded accordingly.

Isle of Dogs offers functional dental chews as part of its nourish line that serve multiple purposes. The outer layer is grooved and made with a proprietary blend of finely ground pecan shell, kelp and turmeric extract for breath freshening and abrasion, while the inner layer focuses on either skin and coat health, hip and joint health, or fresh breath, according to the company.

Whimzees offers Brushzees, engineered specifically for the ways dogs grip and chew with grooves and ridges to help remove plaque and tartar, according to the company. The treats come in three colors and multiple sizes, providing pet owners with the opportunity to customize their pet’s experience.

As the pet treats market continues to grow, and functional treats in particular continue growing in popularity, such multifunctional options will likely catch the eye of customers who walk the daily line between ensuring their pets’ dental health and remaining pragmatic with regards to the costs of maintaining that health. It’s a problem the pet food industry is perfectly positioned to solve.

Briefly: How pet owners spend their money

Source: The American Pet Products Association (APPA) 2017–2018 National Pet Owners Survey

Dog owners

  • Food: US$235/year
  • Food treats: US$72/year
  • Vitamins/supplements: US$58/year

Cat owners

  • Food: US$235/year
  • Food treats: US$56/year
  • Vitamins/supplements: US$46/year

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