Oral health products for home dental care

Research has shown that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats will develop some form of periodontal disease by the age of 3.1 Up to 90% of dogs already show signs of periodontitis by the age of 2 years.2 Since most pets only get a professional dental cleaning once or twice a year, at-home oral health products can play a role in fighting periodontal disease for the remaining 363 days of the calendar. .

Client adherence to home dental care is important to the oral health of pets. “When I did dental work [care]I always like to provide a home dental kit because…just in a matter of weeks…plaque and tartar can build up, and pet owners want to be proactive,” said Adam Christman, DVM, MBA, chief veterinarian for dvm360® in an episode of The Vet Blast Podcast. “They actively want to do something.”

Here, dvm360® highlights 3 categories of dental products designed to make it easier for pet owners to help their furry friends maintain a healthy mouth.

Water additives

Pet water additives are not a substitute for regular toothbrushing, but rather serve as additional care analogous to the use of mouthwash in humans. Many water additive products available today are designed to freshen breath and reduce plaque-causing bacteria in the oral cavity.

Owners simply add the usually liquid solution (although a few brands offer powder or gel) to their pet’s water bowl. Most water additives are colorless and tasteless to ensure that pets will not refuse treated water. However, some brands offer flavors, such as peanut butter, that can add an extra incentive for pets that enjoy it. The goal is that through regular consumption of antimicrobial-fortified water, pets will ultimately accumulate less bacteria, thereby slowing the progression of periodontal disease.

Speaking to Christman on The Vet Blast podcast, Emily Stein, PhD noted the key role of water alone in oral health, emphasizing the importance of effectively hydrating pets. “I know…some breeds…especially on a raw diet, don’t drink a lot of water, but water does a great job of flushing out harmful waste products that bacteria secrete,” she said.


Regular tooth brushing is cited by the American Veterinary Medical Association as the most effective way to keep a pet’s teeth healthy between dental cleanings.3 Ideally, a pet owner would brush their teeth daily to reduce plaque on the surface of their pet’s teeth, as well as below the gumline. Pet-friendly flavors such as poultry, beef and more are available to help with adhesion.

Christman noted that regular tooth brushing can be the cornerstone of a multimodal home approach. “If you can brush your teeth, that’s great. If you can give probiotics, [that’s] even better. Whether [possible]keep maintaining it [with] physical exams, every 6 months, to make sure the teeth are good, because… some dogs are more prone to dental disease than others,” he said.

Chewed up

Pet dental chews are another option for at-home removal of plaque and tartar buildup. In an article in the August 2021 issue of dvm360®, Jan Bellows, DVM, DAVDC, DABVP, FAVD, wrote: “Administering [a particular brand’s dental chew] is one of the easiest ways to reduce plaque and tartar.4

There are many chews available on the market that make a wide range of claims. A useful tool for recommending dental chews – and all oral health products – to customers is to consult the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) list of approved products. There, the VOHC maintains a list of products approved by its tests, with an indication of the claims verified by the VOHC.5

Peer recommendations on which oral health products to choose were made through a survey of veterinary professionals and can be found in the Best Recommended Veterinary Products guide.


  1. Niemiec BA. periodontal disease. Top Companion Anim Med. 2008;23(2):72-80. doi:10.1053/j.tcam.2008.02.003
  2. Niemiec B, Gawor J, Nemec A, et al. Global dental guidelines from the World Association of Small Animal Veterinarians. J Little animation practice. 2020;61(7):395-403. doi:10.1111/jsap.13113
  3. Dental care for pets. American Veterinary Medical Association. Accessed July 2, 2022. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/pet-dental-care
  4. Bellows J. Improve customer pet dental care compliance with practical solutions. dvm360®. July 20, 2021. Accessed July 2, 2022. https://www.dvm360.com/view/boost-client-pet-dental-care-compliance-with-practical-solutions
  5. Products accepted. Veterinary Oral Health Council. Accessed July 2, 2022. http://www.vohc.org/all_accepted_products.html

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