Never let it be said that I don't know how to take my lumps or right my wrongs. It's in this spirit that I offer you this post on dental products for pets.

Last summer, in an entry on water additives for pets' dental health, I complained of an overenthusiastic acceptance of these products in light of little evidence to back them up. In this post I am revising my opinion based on the cache of evidence that was there all the time.

So yes, I rescind my former curmudgeonly stance on ALL pet water additives. When I first bemoaned the lack of evidence behind this one particular product category, I was not in possession of the fine performance records of some of the anti-plaque water additives that are available for pets.

I learned of the proven effectiveness of several dental products after complaining bitterly to a dentally-obsessed colleague that I couldn't make head or tails of which dental products did anything or not.

"They all claim effectiveness," I whined, "and what am I supposed to do when none of them include peer-reviewed papers on the side of the box?"

To my grateful surprise, my lament was quickly interrupted by the assertion that an evidence-based process of sorts does exist, specifically for showing us which dental products actually work. It's like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval for dental products — something I wish I'd known about years ago.

The Veterinary Oral Health Council is the organizational body that's been working hard, for at least twelve years now, to ensure that dental products meet stringent evidence-based standards before receiving the "VOHC Seal of Acceptance."

From their website at vohc.org (which, btw, I will caution the periodontally squeamish not to visit):

VOHC exists to recognize products that meet pre-set standards of plaque and calculus (tartar) retardation in dogs and cats. Products are awarded the VOHC Seal of Acceptance following review of data from trials conducted according to VOHC protocols. The VOHC does not test products itself.

Sure, that means a product's maker must spend mucho cash in order to meet these persnickety standards, so that only the most monied manufacturers need apply, but look at it this way: Do you really want to spend your funds on a product that hasn't been really well tested? Some of you might, but I certainly wouldn't want to recommend one.

Which brings me back to my original point: I stand corrected.

So there are water additives that have been proven to help prevent plaque. But that leaves a noisy marketplace that’s crowded with tartar-control products and plaque busters that have not yet shown they deserve your dollars. Think about that the next time you eye anything pricier than the most effective item ever proven to exist in this space: the lowly toothbrush.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: "Ms. Lucy" by melgupta