Periodontal or gum disease is the most common disease in pet dogs and cats, and it can have implications not only for oral health, but for systemic health as well. Daily tooth brushing mechanically removes the antigenic plaque biofilm that causes periodontal disease, and it is the gold standard for preventing or slowing its progression. Veterinary products such as dental diets, water additives, and treats augment the effects of daily tooth brushing and provide an alternative strategy for pet owners who cannot brush their pets’ teeth.
However, with the number of veterinary dental health products available, how is it possible to know which can be trusted to perform as promised?
Trust the VOHC
The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) provides a way to help clients and veterinarians select oral health products by maintaining a list of products that have been proven statistically to reduce the accumulation of plaque and/or calculus. The VOHC is a panel of veterinary dentists and dental scientists experienced in scientific study design who review the results of manufacturers’ voluntary product trials to determine if they meet the VOHC standards for reduction of dental plaque, calculus, or both. The VOHC does not perform trials itself and it is not a regulatory body.
Two trials per product must be conducted according to protocols described by the VOHC. In order for the product to be considered for VOHC acceptance, its use must result in at least a 15% reduction in the plaque or calculus scores in each of the two required trials and at least a 20% reduction in the mean of the two trials. The difference in scores between the product test group and the negative control group must be statistically significant.
After review by the VOHC, products that meet these standards may be sold with the VOHC Seal of Acceptance on the packaging, and are listed among the accepted products on the VOHC.org website. The website has
a thorough description of trial protocols and the submission process.
The formation of the VOHC Council began with informal discussions in the 1980s among veterinarians and others who were concerned about the lack of objective information regarding the efficacy of veterinary dental products. In the 1990s, under the sponsorship of the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) and the University of Pennsylvania, more formal meetings were held to discuss veterinary dental product endorsement, conflicts of interest, liability concerns, and the need for credibility and independence of product reviewers.
Participants in these meetings included representatives of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and the US Food and Drug Administration – Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA-CVM). A protocol for testing the effectiveness of plaque and calculus retardants in dogs was developed, and confidentiality and conflict-of-interest statements were adopted.
The VOHC was officially launched in 1997, and in June 1998, Hill’s Canine Prescription Diet t/d became the first product to be awarded the VOHC Seal of Acceptance. As of November 2018, there were 45 accepted canine products and 16 accepted feline products that retard plaque or calculus by mechanical or chemical means. The VOHC system and seal are recognized world-wide
Staying on the List
A manufacturer must pay the VOHC an annual maintenance fee to retain the ability to use the seal of acceptance on its packaging and for the product to remain on the website list. Some previously accepted products may drop off the list if their formulation changes significantly or if a manufacturer does not wish to continue paying the annual maintenance fee. Additionally, there are likely many veterinary dental health products on the market that would meet the VOHC standards but have not undergone the required testing.
The VOHC.org list is a great starting point for choosing home dental health care products whose efficacy has been demonstrated.
By Amy Somrak, DVM, MBA, DAVDC