Dear Kara: Dental health (Sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition)

Dear Kara: Dental health (Sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition)

Welcome to Dear Kara, a Hill's-sponsored Q&A series designed to answer your questions about important—and sometimes perplexing—nutrition issues regarding your canine and feline patients. Through your astute questions and Kara's thoughtful answers, Hill's hopes to provide you with useful information to pass along to your clients for their pets' continued well-being.
Jan 01, 2009


Is it necessary to begin talking about dental health in pets less than a year old? It seems like tartar doesn't begin forming in most dogs and cats until after their first year.

The healthcare team should discuss dental health in pets at every age. At six months, most puppies and kittens have their full adult dentition and should have an oral examination to check for any abnormalities or problems, such as retained deciduous teeth. Plaque and tartar have started to form and will continue to accumulate without proper periodontal therapy and homecare. Also, it is best to start training pets to accept oral hygiene at a young age. Handling the mouth, introducing a brushing device, and application of oral hygiene products should be part of routine puppy and kitten training. Preventing and treating periodontal disease is important to the pet's overall health and may affect the length and quality of a pet's life.

In healthy dogs and cats with mild dental tartar, do you recommend Hill's® Prescription Diet® t/d® Canine or Feline pet food in combination with brushing, or is it only recommended for more severe cases?

Food for Thought
All your patients are at risk for periodontal disease! Don't wait until the disease is severe before you discuss the importance of effective, daily dental homecare. Hill's® Prescription Diet® t/d® Canine or Feline pet food is a great food for providing optimal nutrition and effective plaque and tartar control for adult and senior pets. Pets with grade 1 or higher periodontal disease should have appropriate professional periodontal care as determined by the veterinarian, and the healthcare team should work with the client to implement a homecare protocol. Effective homecare protocols must be tailored to each patient and client to support compliance. Tooth brushing is considered the gold standard, but owners may not have the manual dexterity or the time to implement an effective, consistent homecare brushing protocol. It is helpful to demonstrate brushing techniques. If daily tooth brushing does not fit into the client's lifestyle or ability, recommend another homecare protocol. Feeding t/d is a clinically effective, convenient, and efficient way for pets to obtain daily dental homecare.

There are a number of products with dental claims and this seems to confuse owners. What can I tell clients who are looking for a product with a dental benefit?

Tell your clients about the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC), a group established to provide an independent, objective, and credible way to recognize veterinary dental products that effectively control plaque and tartar. The VOHC system is recognized worldwide and is similar to the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance system in human dentistry.

The VOHC reviews results of tests performed in accordance with approved protocols set by the council and awards a seal for control of plaque, tartar, or both plaque and tartar. It is important to look for the seal controlling plaque or both plaque and tartar, as plaque is the first step in developing periodontal disease. The first dental products to receive the VOHC Seal of Acceptance were the Hill's® Prescription Diet® t/d® Canine and Feline pet food formulas. For more information and a complete listing of products that have been awarded the VOHC Seal of Acceptance, visit