The holiday shopping frenzy has settled in retail stores across the country. Seasonal merchandise has been marked down or packed away, and many retailers may look to the next big consumer holiday, Valentine’s Day, for a new seasonal promotion. Pet specialty retailers, however, will most likely have a different approach to in-store promotions during the month of February. Sure, seasonal merchandise like heart-shaped treats or toys can encourage impulse buys, but pet stores might want to focus on the oral care product category throughout February, as the industry honors National Pet Dental Health Month.
The pet health awareness event, sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association, aims to spread the word to pet owners about the importance of daily care for a pet’s oral health.
“Plaque, tartar, gingivitis, periodontal disease and the associated unpleasant breath can spread bacteria in the blood stream and to vital organs,” says Henry Dinneen, marketing director for PetzLife Products, which offers a variety of oral care products for dogs. “These can be damaging to a pet’s overall health, and this subject is being addressed more and more—especially by veterinarians.”
Manufacturers of oral care products have also joined the cause. “Fetch…for pets! and many other companies have been enlightening consumers on the dangers of poor oral hygiene and the ways in which they can prevent it,” says Steven Shweky, president of Fetch…for pets!, which offers a line of Arm & Hammer Canine Oral Care products. The message has been well received by pet owners, and as a result, Shweky says, the practice of maintaining dental health at home is becoming more common.
“Most pet owners understand they should brush their pet’s teeth, but the reality is very few, if any, do,” says Naomi Kirby, DVM, MS, and technical services manager at Pet King Brands, which offers the Zymox Oral Care product line. “The increased messaging that pet owners are receiving regarding the value of good dental hygiene, coupled with the reality that pet owners need easy-to-use products that provide added therapeutic benefits, [has been a boon to the category].”
As consumers become more educated on the importance of caring for their pets’ teeth, they are investing more in oral care products. Experts say consumers are looking for ways to make their pet’s oral care simple and convenient. Thus, more products like sprays, gels, water additives and chews have become available on the market.
“While some owners have the patience to brush their pet’s teeth, water additives and dog chews are an easy way to promote better oral care. Sprays and gels are more concentrated and are applied directly to the pet’s teeth and gums and are more effective,” says Dinneen. “The two key qualities [of an oral care product] high on [a consumer’s] list are ease of use and safety.”
In addition to the simplicity and safety of a product, pet owners also want oral care products that are formulated with natural ingredients and made in the USA, says Susan Weiss, president of Ark Naturals, which makes Brushless Toothpaste chews and the Plaque Zapper water additive. As with other consumable health products for pets—for example, food, treats and supplements—pet owners are vetting ingredients in oral care products more carefully.
“Products should not only be functional, but also healthy—with limited ingredients, highly natural, corn and wheat free, and free of gluten and GMOs. They should be made with first-class ingredients,” says Lion Houkes, marketing manager at WHIMZEES, which makes an all-natural dental chew of the same name. “Also important,” he adds, “the products should not interfere with or affect the dog’s regular diet.”
As such, customers are looking for products from a trusted source with ingredients listings they can understand, says Glenn Novotny, vice president of sales and marketing at Emerald Pet, which makes Smart ‘N Tasty dental chews. “Consumers continue to seek out products and companies they can trust,” he says. “They want reassurance that they are buying products for their pets from a reputable brand.”
Curating a selection of effective oral care products from reputable companies requires a pet retailer to do some homework. With savvier shoppers browsing pet store aisles for oral care products, retailers need to stay abreast of the latest trends in the category. “It is important that retailers are committed to a category. They must understand the products in the category,” says Weiss.
Shweky agrees and emphasizes the importance of understanding every product within the oral care category. “Retailers should educate themselves and their employees on the different dental products,” he says. “It’s even great to try them out. Doing this allows [retailers] to stay up to date on the category, so they can talk to the consumer about the different products and which would be most effective.”
Weiss adds that it would be worthwhile for retailers to look beyond manufacturer brochures and suggests reading about the causes, ramifications, solutions and benefits to pet oral healthcare. “Dental disease is a very serious issue that can potentially affect the life of a cat or dog. There’s a ton of information available,” she says.
“Pet dental health is not just about February, when it’s the theme—dental health is a 24/7 issue,” Weiss adds. “Being proactive is a team effort between the pet guardian, pet retailers who know what they are selling and the pet’s vet. Knowledge is the key to understanding.”
On the Shelf: Dental Destination
Ark Naturals (arknaturals.com) makes Breath-Less Brushless Toothpaste dental chews for dogs and Breath-Less Plaque Zapper for dogs and cats. The Brushless Toothpaste’s outer layer has breath-freshening ingredients, including cinnamon, vanilla, clove and chlorophyll, while the inside layer features the company’s patented toothpaste center with StayC50. The chews come in mini, small/medium and large sizes. The Plaque Zapper can be added to a dog or cat’s drinking water to help maintain saliva’s natural pH. The water additive contains natural enzymes, including lysozyme, lactoferrin and petizyme. It is odorless, tasteless and colorless. Ark Natural’s products are wheat, corn and soy free. They do not contain gluten, or artificial colors or flavors.
Ecowelldog’s Kissable Probiotic Anti-Plaque spray (kissabledog.com) keeps a dog’s mouth balanced and healthy by reducing plaque-causing bacteria, which can cause bad breath, gum disease, multiple infections and heart disease. The spray has 12 strands of probiotics that replenish the good bacteria in a dog’s mouth. The probiotics are produced through a natural fermentation process using only natural substances, and the spray is free of added fluoride, detergents, synthetic flavors, colors or preservatives. A mixture of herbs and botanics provides long lasting freshness. The spray comes in a 4-oz. bottle.
Emerald Pet Products (emeraldpet.com) offers Smart n’ Tasty Canine Dental Treats, which combine two treats into one. The outer layer is designed to scrape teeth clean, and the inner layer addresses specific needs. Two flavors are available. Fresh Breath Dental Treats include dill, parsley, mint and chlorophyll to eliminate bad breath at the source. Skin & Coat Dental Treats feature real cheese, salmon oil and sunflower oil for essential omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. The treats are easy to digest and come in small, medium and large sizes to suit a variety of dogs.
Fetch…for pets! (fetch4pets.com) partnered with Arm & Hammer to create its oral care line for pets. The Arm & Hammer Canine Oral Care line cleans and deodorizes using the power of baking soda. The line has two cleaning levels: Advanced Care and Clinical Care. Advanced Care products are meant for maintaining the oral health of dogs. The products whiten teeth, control tartar and eliminate bad breath. The line features sprays, gels, toothpaste, mints and rinses. The Clinical Care line is for more severe cases of oral disease and features products with maximum strength cleaning abilities for both gum and plaque control.
Pet King Brands (zymox.com) makes a line of Zymox Brushless Enzymatic Oral Care Therapy products. The products are designed to address the unique oral health needs of pets with special needs, such as geriatric pets or pets with health conditions like diabetes, arthritis, thyroid dysfunction or cancer. The therapeutic benefits of Zymox Brushless products include restoring the oral balance to replenish what is missing in saliva, inhibiting the odor-causing bacteria, as well as the removal of plaque biofilm. The products come in a gel, a breath freshener with a gentle mister and as a water additive.
PetzLife oral care products (petzlife.com) come in a peppermint-flavored spray or gel, and a salmon-oil-flavored gel. Both are formulated to eliminate plaque, remove tartar, reverse gum disease and freshen breath immediately. The gel comes in 4- and 12-oz. bottles, while the spray is available in 1- and 12-oz. bottles. The products are all natural and are 100-percent safe. The company also offers a three-sided toothbrush and a finger brush in packs of three.
Tropiclean (tropiclean.com) has added Fresh Breath + Digestive Support to its oral care line. The water additive is specifically designed to clean teeth and freshen breath, while also helping to promote a healthy digestive system. It uses natural probiotic sources from chicory root and larch trees to help feed the good bacteria to support a healthy body.