Proactive health care for pets can begin with universal topics
Editor’s note: The following responses are from Mars, Inc., makers of GREENIES Dental Treats
Vet-Advantage: What are some unique, creative things you’ve seen veterinary practices do to boost dental products and services?
Mars: One thing that is important in today’s veterinary practice business strategy is to focus on promoting health services. Veterinary dental health care is something that can’t be provided by online services and OTC channels. Three out of four pets show some kind of oral disease. By doing objective and subjective oral examinations during the wellness visit and making recommendations for follow-up procedures and care, we will be practicing good medicine and in turn providing good business strategy for the practice.
A great way to start this conversation is to focus on ‘doggie breath.’ Many consumers do not think of their dog’s oral care, and are not aware of how common oral disease is – but they are aware of bad breath! Starting the conversation with a more universal and relatable topic can be a great way to begin discussing proactive health care for pets.
We have also heard of consumers teaching their children healthy oral care habits and pairing those with feeding their dog an oral care treat. This way, the child learns to brush their teeth and their beloved dog also “joins” in the fun by getting an oral care treat as well. This can be a fun way to start healthy habits for the family and include the dog in the care routine.
Vet-Advantage: Are pet owners more receptive to dental procedures and using products than in the past?
Mars: Generally, yes, more pet parents are aware of their pets’ oral health needs. Probably one of the main reasons is the greater focus in the pet health industry as a whole with the increase in the number of oral care products. The increased focus on veterinary dentistry in the veterinary colleges and general practices also increases awareness in pet parents of oral care. This is because we know the veterinarian and their office staff are the No. 1 source that pet parents go to for their pets’ health recommendations.
Another key reason is the increase in consumers who consider dogs as part of the family, in some cases as the “baby” of the family. These pet parents are very invested in their dog, much as they would be their child, and are motivated to do the right thing to help keep them happy and healthy.
Vet-Advantage: Are there any best practices to pass on to veterinary clinics hoping to gain more compliance from pet owners on products they use at home?
Mars: We always recommend correct daily tooth brushing for all pets. Unfortunately, for various reasons compliance for pet parents to do this is very low. The next best thing we can recommend is use products that have a VOHC Seal of Acceptance. The advantage of using VOHC approved products is that you can be sure that those products have undergone stringent clinical testing and the results and statistics of the data have been reviewed and approved by the Veterinary Dentists that comprise the VOHC. VOHC gives credibility to pet products’ dental claims that did not exist before.
Vet clinics can also provide suggestions on how to create healthy routines with products like oral care treats whose efficacy is based on a daily feeding. Linking the treating moment with another event in the day, like leaving for work, brushing your own teeth, before you go to bed, etc. can be an effective way to drive more regular feeding. Similarly, you could also start a “30-day challenge” with clients to get them off to a good start with a healthy routine that can become rewarding for both pet and pet parent to complete.
Signs of trouble
Along with bad breath, there are a number of signs that dental disease may have already started in a pet’s mouth. AVMA listed several symptoms for pet owners to be aware of:
- Red swollen gums
- Bad breath (similar to the smell of a rotten egg)
- Teeth that are broken, loose, discolored or covered in tartar
- Abnormal chewing, drooling or dropping food from the mouth
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Shying away from you when you touch the mouth area
- Frequent pawing or rubbing at the face and/or mouth
- Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
- Weight loss