French bulldog with bowl

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KRAKÓW, Poland — Gum disease is a common condition among dogs. Veterinarians say more than 80 percent of dogs over the age of three deal with it. Now, scientists have discovered a simple way of preventing this problem without resorting to brushing your furry pal’s teeth. A team in Poland says that a water additive containing pomegranate extract significantly cuts the amount of harmful plaque and tartar that builds up in a dog’s mouth.

Periodontal (gum) disease can quickly become a serious matter for man’s best friend. The condition starts out as a case of gingivitis, causing a dog’s gums to become inflamed and possibly bleed. Without treatment, periodontal disease can lead to periodontitis, where the alveolar bone breaks down — causing teeth to fall out.

Unfortunately, things only get worse from there. Periodontitis increases a dog’s risk for both cardiovascular and lung disease. Previous studies have shown similar problems in humans as oral bacteria spreads from the mouth to the bloodstream.

Since cleaning a dog’s teeth can often be a stressful and expensive process, sometimes requiring anesthesia and a vet’s help, researchers wanted to find out if there was a simpler way to protect a dog’s dental health. They conducted a researcher-blinded randomized veterinarian trial of the over-the-counter oral hygiene product Vet Aquadent® FR3SH™ — a solution pet owners can easily add to their dog’s water bowl each day.

“We did this study after obtaining evidence that the main ingredient, pomegranate extract, limits the growth of oral bacteria in dogs in vitro, including species involved in periodontal disease. There was also evidence that the other components, inulin and erythritol, likewise play a role in the maintenance of a healthy oral microbiome in dogs,” explains Dr. Celine Nicolas, who works for French veterinarian company Virbac, in a media release.

Dog drinking from a bowl
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Nicolas and Dr. Jerzy Gawor, a veterinary dentistry practitioner and researcher at the Arka Veterinary Clinic in Poland, followed 40 dogs with mild to moderate cases of gingivitis. The dogs were otherwise healthy and received a professional dental cleaning at the start of the study.

These dogs ranged in size from Yorkshire terriers to Alaskan huskies, with researchers including 14 different breeds in this project. For 30 days following their cleaning, the team examined the dogs’ oral health after splitting them into two groups — one receiving the additive dissolved as a one-percent solution in their drinking water every day and the other just consuming normal water.

Results show that dogs receiving the pomegranate extract additive had 47 percent less plaque and 24 percent less tartar in comparison to the water-only group. Study authors note that the gums of dogs receiving the additive were also completely healthy after 30 days.

“Daily oral hygiene and prophylaxis are essential to prevent periodontal diseases in dogs. This includes active methods like brushing, passive methods like dental chews or water additives, or a combination, as well as regular clinical dental checks. The frequency of the latter should depend on the dog’s age, breed, size, and predisposition, as determined by veterinary clinicians,” Dr. Gawor explains.

Virbac, who employs Dr. Nicolas, funded the study and is the maker of Vet Aquadent® FR3SH™.

The findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

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About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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