Monday, April 13, 2009

PetzLife Oral Care (Leba III)

I was really happy when I saw this new ad for PetzLife.  It no longer claimed to remove tartar (which I felt was really misleading) and the price had dropped dramatically.  Unfortunately, this was only done by one vendor and only as a Google Ad. 

I did my own case study with what I felt was an ideal test subject:
One of my dogs came to me when she was 6 or 7 years old with what I considered "compromised" oral health.  The pet homes she had been in had only provided status quo oral care; irregular brushing, monthly scaling (in lieu of daily brushing) and regular anesthesia dentals with extractions.  She arrived with inflamed gums, recession and loose teeth.  We did an anesthesia dental and had to remove most of her incisors.  Several of her teeth had a lot of recession but were still tightly seated in the bone so we opted to save them for as long as possible.  These teeth are more difficult to keep clean and I have noticed further gum recession on them over the years but most are still stable.  (She did eventually have to have the rest of her incisors pulled)

This now 11 year old dog has a negligible amount of tartar on the insides of her molars and I was looking forward to it disappearing completely by brushing daily with PetzLife instead of my regular unflavored dental gel.  After 9 weeks I saw NO DISCERNIBLE DIFFERENCE.

I used the spray once on my other dog (10 years old) with perfect teeth and gums after she ate something disgusting and her gums went bright red which I attributed to the grain alcohol content or a reaction to one of the other natural ingredients.

Some observations, comments and questions:
Perhaps these products are effective at removing larger chunks of old tartar, especially with breeds that produce a lot of saliva, have loose lips and uncrowded teeth.  I have no way of testing that, and personally, I think it is healthier to remove huge chucks of tartar as soon as possible.  In the before photos provide by PetzLife there is clearly soft plaque that can be removed by immediately by mechanical means (simple tooth brushing with water).  None of the after photos show perfectly clean teeth.

The common major ingredient (after water) in PetzLife and Leba III is alcohol.  Alcohol in human mouthwash has been proven to dry out saliva and to be a poor or inconsequential substitute for mechanical (brush and floss) plaque removal. It can also be harsh and burning to gum tissue.  Alcohol based mouthwashes are only considered effective at cosmetically masking bad odor for 10 minutes.

Most dentists will tell you that a major preventative measure in reducing bad breath is to drink plenty of water to promote saliva production as saliva itself has natural antibacterial qualities.  Okay, so alcohol dries out the saliva but these products state that they mix with saliva and get coated on the teeth by the tongue.  Too bad we can't teach our dogs to swish and spit because their tongues are not touching the gum line of all areas of their mouth!

My final verdict: It's no miracle product but they do score points for say best application is by daily brushing.  They lose points for using anesthesia risk as a fear tactic to sell their product.  Get your dog's teeth cleaned as appropriate for their condition and brush daily with a regular doggy dental product.


  1. wow. that was a fine and in depth review. thanks.
    you seem very knowledgeable. kudos!

  2. Excellent review!  To add, the problem with these alcohol spray schemes is that they don't consider the nature of periodontal disease.  This is an infection of the bone and ligament around each tooth - not the presence of tartar (you don't always find tartar, even with advanced periodontal disease).  It is a surgical problem, very much "underground", where one must access the area underneath the gums in order to physically remove the infection.  

    Tartar-dissolving sprays are nothing but tooth grooming.  The teeth are not infected!  The deep tissues around the teeth have been infected by being exposed to the outside world (gingivitis will lead to detachment of the gums from the teeth).   I second the harmful long-term effects of 30% alcohol to the soft tissues of the mouth.

     In closing, please note the state of the dog's (same one? different color fur...) mouth in the "After - 28 days" photo: 
    -the left upper second incisor, the small front teeth, has gingival (gum) attachment loss as well as root exposure (from bacteria drilling away the bone surrounding the tooth root)
    -the left upper first premolar (just behind the canine/fang) still has gingival edema - only the color is improved
    -most importantly, the tooth behind this one (with two roots) still has a significant periodontal (around the teeth) infection - likely because of crowding, this tooth has suffered a striking amount of supporting bone loss following detachment of the gums.  Your tooth would hurt with a dull, aching pain (which animals have learned to hide) if it were in that state.  Can you imagine if there were a spray that replaced scouring our teeth with heavy friction twice a day?  Please don't be swayed by testimonials - the first red flag for unsubstantiated claims. 

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