What is the VOHC seal?
The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) concept was developed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Veterinary dentists recognized that there were many products being marketed to improve the dental health of pets. However, there was not an objective means of recognizing which products actually worked. As a result a panel of veterinary dentists and representatives from several veterinary organizations agreed upon a protocol for testing effectiveness of plaque and calculus retardants in dogs. (Note that some products have the seal for just plaque reduction or just tartar reduction, while others have the seal for both.) The official launch of the VOHC took place in 1997. A protocol for cats was added in 1998. You can now find the VOHC seal on a variety of pet oral health care products.
Why should you care about the VOHC seal?
You should care about the VOHC seal because the development of plaque and calculus are part of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is an inflammatory disease affecting teeth and their supporting structures. Importantly, it is the most common disease diagnosed by veterinarians in both dogs and cats. Every year, Banfield Pet Hospital publishes a “State of Pet Health Report” created by analyzing the medical data of 2.5 million dogs and 500,000 cats seen at their hospitals. In the 2016 report, is was reported that dental disease affected 68% of the cats in their study and 76% of the dogs.
I don’t know about you, but yikes, those are high numbers. As a small animal veterinarian, I fully agree with these figures. From mild amounts of tartar and gingivitis to teeth that are falling out of pets’ mouths, I diagnose dental disease on a regular basis. Just like people, the best treatment for dental disease is good preventative care. Brushing daily and regular teeth cleaning can prevent that mild tartar from ever developing into a more serious disease.
How serious is periodontal disease?
Just read some of the information from the American Veterinary Dental College:
Effects within the oral cavity include damage to or loss of gum tissue and bone around the teeth, development of a hole (‘fistula’) from the oral cavity into the nasal passages causing nasal discharge, fractures of the jaw following weakening of the jaw bone, and bone infection (‘osteomyelititis’). Bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and are carried around the body. Studies in dogs have shown that periodontal disease is associated with microscopic changes in the heart, liver, and kidneys.
Studies in humans have linked periodontal disease to a variety of health problems including poor control of diabetes mellitus and increased severity of diabetic complications. Additionally, it has been shown that diabetes is a risk factor for periodontal disease.
So why don’t we just brush our pets’ teeth and get them regular teeth cleanings?
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need a VOHC seal to help us determine which products are most efficacious. We would just treat our pets’ teeth the same way we treat ours. Except, don’t use the same toothpaste – you wouldn’t want your pet to swallow that. Realistically, however, this can be difficult for a couple of reasons.
First, all of our pets must rely on humans for their dental care. And lets face it, many humans are forgetful, busy, and struggle with training their pets to easily accept daily teeth brushing. Cat owners especially balk at brushing their pets’s teeth. They tend to tell me that it just isn’t worth the struggle of getting their cat to accept the brushing motion in the mouth. I personally have my dog trained to allow me to brush her teeth, but have opted for regular dental cleanings on my cat. The regular dental cleanings are worth it to me in lieu of training him to accept the tooth brush. Don’t let this paragraph dissuade you though. If you are interested in brushing your pets teeth, I highly recommend it! Check out this great article by the American Animal Hospital Association.
Secondly, routine dental cleanings in pets requires routine anesthesia. Many pet parents have realistic fears and financial constraints surrounding anesthesia. In a healthy pet, the risks of anesthesia are very small. However, I can understand the desire to attempt to reduce the amount of anesthesia an animal undergoes in his or her lifetime.
As a result, many pet parents look for alternatives to teeth brushing. They still want to reduce the build-up of dental plaque and tartar. After all, the slower the dental disease progresses, the less frequently a dental cleaning under anesthesia becomes necessary.
This is where the VOHC seal comes in handy!
For most of us, it is important to know that the product you purchase works. Especially when it comes to our pets health. When I pick out dental care products for my pets, the VOHC seal makes the process a lot easier. In the store, I always check for the seal. More often I will research products ahead of time. In that case I often check out the VOHC’s list of approved products to help me find new products that have been approved to bear the seal.
There are definitely products out there that have done research on their product but are not approved for the VOHC seal. Take Hill’s Oravet chews for example. I am hoping Hill’s takes the necessary steps to obtain the seal in the near future. However, if you want a quick reference to find good products that are backed by research studies, let the VOHC seal be your guide.
Glia’s favorite product with a VOHC seal
Glia is a heavy chewer with a stomach that tolerates most treats. We love the Purina Veterinary Diet Dental Chewz. They take Glia several minutes to consume and help reduce tartar build-up while she enjoys a low-calorie snack.
For my readers who have made it this far: Let us know how you care for your pets teeth in the comments section below.