Pet dental health in the pet food industry

Increasing consumer education continues to expand the dental health subset of pet products.

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cynoclub.Image from | Pet dental health continues to be a primary concern for pet owners, and variety is vital for the pet food industry to remain on top of the trend.
cynoclub.Image from | Pet dental health continues to be a primary concern for pet owners, and variety is vital for the pet food industry to remain on top of the trend.

In February of each year, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and other veterinary organizations celebrate National Pet Dental Health Month—a time to raise awareness of and educate on the importance of pet dental health. According to AVMA, there are still significant barriers to overcome in preventive dentistry for dogs and cats: a perception that care is unnecessary, the difficulty of home care, the cost of professional care and a fear of putting pets under anesthesia. In spite of the acknowledged challenges, the pet food industry knows that the various facets of pet health, including dental health, are of top priority to pet owners. Where, then, can the industry step in to bridge the gap?

“[Pet product manufacturers] are making products or trying to come up with products that will provide hygiene, essentially prevent tartar and calculus buildup,” said Dr. Curt Coffman of Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists in a recent Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association article on preventive dentistry in dogs and cats. “Manufacturers are helping veterinarians educate their clients that dental health is important, and I think that’s been as big as anything in the last 10 years.”

Consumers are demanding more than ever from off-the-shelf dental care products such as specialized pet treats, according to David Sprinkle, publisher and research director at Packaged Facts and the author of Petfood Industry magazine’s monthly Market Report column. “The continuing premiumization of the pet market, which includes a heightened focus on pet wellness and on human-style products for pets, has had a marked impact on availability and characteristics of products designed to address pet dental hygiene and oral health,” he said in November 2015’s Market Report, Upside potential for canine oral care products. “Today’s consumers are willing to pay more for pet products and to pay for more types of pet products, but they are also more demanding about product qualities and performance.”

According to AVMA, oral health is one of the top three concerns for companion animal owners, and a recent Packaged Facts survey would seem to bear that out. When asked how they felt about the statement, “I am concerned about the dental hygiene/breath odor of my pets,” 59% of dog owners and 48% of cat owners said they either strongly or somewhat agreed with it. And of the various types of pet treats purchased in 2015, 36% of dog owners and 23% of cat owners purchased treats touting dental or oral care, outstripping other popular categories such as joint or digestive health (see Figure 1).

Pet Treat Purchasing 1602 Pe Tdental Fig1

Dental health and oral care products purchased in 2015 outstripped all other popular functional formulas in pet treats, including those for digestive health, skin and coat health, and joint health.

Anecdotal evidence on the pet specialty side concurs with statistics, according to Indigenous Pet Products. “We [are seeing] an expansion in the dental chews category,” said the company. “Consumers are looking for dental chews that offer functional benefits in addition to great taste. One of the biggest concerns in the dog community today is oral health. Most people are living very active and busy lives, so they do not always have the time to take their dog to a vet for a dental cleaning. This is why pet treats focused on improving oral health are in high demand.”

Naturally, the pet food industry continues to step up to the challenge of providing specialty dental- and oral care-focused products to meet consumer needs.

In addition to expanding its Dental Health Bones line to include potato and lamb flavored treats, Indigenous Pet Products recently reformulated its Pegetables Nature’s Dog Chews to include dental benefits on top of improvements in taste and texture. Pegetables now contain the PlaqueOff system and focus on reducing plaque and tartar build-up while keeping breath fresh, according to the company. The premium dental dog chews are made with natural vegetables, including carrots, sweet potatoes and peas.

Indigenous Pegetables 1602 Pe Tdental

Courtesy Indigenous Pet Products

Pegetables have been recently reformulated to focus further on pet dental health.

Petsmile USA offers a Veterinary Oral Health Council-approved toothpaste for dogs containing Calprox, a proprietary formula clinically proven to improve oral health, according to the company. Petsmile toothpaste uses food-grade ingredients and contains no parabens, silica, sulfates or dyes, and is gluten- and soy-free. It comes in a natural London broil beef flavor.

Petsmile 1602 Pe Tdental

Courtesy Petsmile USA

Toothpaste products for pets are a specialty within a specialty, and include options like this beef-flavored toothpaste from Petsmile.

ProDen PlaqueOff offers both a natural powder additive for pet food and dental chews for pets. The powder, which come in formulations for dogs and cats, is made from seaweed and can be added to food daily. It’s free from additives and artificial preservatives and contains no gluten or added sugar, according to the company. The dental bites, also formulated for both dogs and cats and also containing seaweed, provide an alternate method of dental care in case a powder isn’t desirable.

Proden Plaqueoff 1602 Pe Tdental

Courtesy ProDen PlaqueOff

ProDen offers a powder that can be added to pets’ food for dental health. Products are formulated with seaweed and contain no artificial preservatives, gluten or sugar.

Smart Fido USA and Smart Kitty USA branded products include options for both dogs and cats. Smart Fido offers dental sticks, which are gluten-free and contain all natural ingredients. Smart Kitty will soon offer dental treats in chicken, beef, bacon and salmon flavors, as well as a dental spray.

The options for dental health treats and products in the pet food industry are constantly expanding, and with consumer needs becoming more educated—and therefore more demanding—variety will continue to be key.


More on pet dental health and industry trends

Research: Study identifies bacteria in feline plaque,

Current trends: Upside potential for canine oral care products,

Historical trends: Pet dental health: An important market for the pet food industry,

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