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Is Your Pet's Food Making Him Obese? By Dr. Karen Becker, DVM

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Is Your Pet's Food Making Him Obese?​

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
August 11, 2022



STORY AT-A-GLANCE​

  • In honor of Healthy Pets’ 12th Anniversary Week, I spoke with my CANWI cofounder, Dr. Donna Raditic about the exciting achievements and research being done to improve nutrition for our companion animals
  • The mission of CANWI, the Companion Animal Nutrition and Wellness Institute, is to fund unbiased, independent nutrition research with the end goal of improving longevity and wellness in pets
  • One CANWI-funded study looked at four differently processed dog diets — dry food, canned food, air dried food and minimally processed food — and measured harmful dietary AGEs
  • CANWI is collaborating with experts like Dr. David Turner to test pet foods and create a pet food AGEs library
  • Via unbiased research and nutrition lectures that Dr. Raditic is providing at veterinary schools, along with meaningful collaborations with other research institutions, veterinary schools and veterinary platforms, CANWI is providing much-needed information so people can make better decisions on how to nourish their pets
In honor of Healthy Pets’ 12th Anniversary Week, I spoke with my CANWI cofounder, Dr. Donna Raditic, DVM, DACVN, CVA, Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist®, Nutrition and Integrative Medicine Consultants, about the exciting achievements and research being done to improve nutrition for our companion animals.
The mission of CANWI, the Companion Animal Nutrition and Wellness Institute,1 is to fund unbiased, independent nutrition research, offer nutrition lectures for veterinary students and support veterinary continuing education programs, with the end goal of improving longevity and wellness in pets.


Educating the Next Generation of Pet Nutritionists
Already, Dr. Raditic explained, CANWI is funding and supporting two soon-to-be board-certified veterinary nutritionists. "They're a different breed. They are open minded. They're asking the tough questions that we've always been asking. They're embracing new ideas, and they're going to be out there," she said. CANWI is also supporting two Ph.D. nutritionists who will work with the pet food industry to formulate healthier foods.
"Their background and their impact is going to be a game changer as well," Dr. Raditic said, adding that momentum is growing toward real positive change in the pet food arena.
"The veterinary student programs, when I'm going into the academic institution and teaching veterinary students, reaching out to pet parents … the message is getting out there, bigger and bigger and bigger. These four individuals, they’re going to be the future. They're going forward. But we've been hitting the drums … getting the message out there that we need to do better to feed our animal companions."
CANWI collaborates with individuals and foundations, gaining access to more research data so they can increase their impact. Among them is Dr. David Turner, president and cofounder of the Anti-A.G.E. Foundation, who is passionate about advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in processed food and the resulting health damage in humans. CANWI’s collaborations are growing, along with their impact on companion animal nutrition. Dr. Raditic said:
"When you start collaborating with other foundations and can access more samples and more data and more testing, that means the impact just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. And I never saw that coming, from when we started, I never saw that coming. So I'm just blown away where we started and where we are now."

Providing Unbiased Pet Food Research​

There is so little basic nutrition research in the veterinary field, and most of what has been done was conducted by the pet food companies producing the food. Even the most basic research, such as a study comparing fresh food diets in pets to ultraprocessed food, hasn’t been done. CANWI is working to change this.
One CANWI-funded study looked at four differently processed dog diets — dry food, canned food, air dried food and minimally processed food — and measured dietary AGEs. The minimally processed food had the lowest AGEs, as did the dogs that ate this diet.2 The varying levels of dietary AGEs were also found to affect gut flora.
Dr. Turner is collaborating with CANWI to test pet foods and create a pet food AGEs library so pet parents can make better decisions about what to feed their pets. Dr. Raditic further explained:
"We really have focused on different effects of food processing. I mean, that's a huge topic and there's so much literature … in the human world that we need to start bringing into veterinary medicine. So what we are going to look at?
We need to start looking at the effects of processing — ultraprocessed diets versus what I term more minimally processed. More homemade, or raw, diets, their impact on, guess what? Obesity, right? About 60% of our pets, just like people, 60% overweight, obese. Is some of the processing driving that in our dogs and cats, just like it is in people?"
These are the types of questions that CANWI is looking to answer. They understand that food is foundational, so they’re also looking into the effects of ultraprocessed versus minimally processed foods on aging.
"We're recognizing the impact of ultraprocessed [food] on aging and disease in humans. What about our dogs and cats? So we’re looking at how our dogs and cats age. I mean, you know that's always been one of the things, is why aren't they living longer? Gosh, as veterinarians, we do everything. Why aren't they living longer?"
It's clear that food plays a pivotal role in how our companion animals age, just as it does in humans, and CANWI is working to provide research to support this notion. Dr. Raditic also shared how chronic diseases like diabetes and osteoarthritis are affected by diet, using the example of a German shepherd that was fed a homemade diet and managed to largely avoid its genetic predisposition for arthritis.
"Genetically, you know that dog was set up to have arthritis, but it didn't manifest where it typically does in that breed when they're 1, 2 or 3 [years]. Now this dog's going on 7, 8, 9 and just starting with a wee bit. That those are the kinds of questions and the kind of research that CANWI is doing," she said.
Via unbiased research and nutrition lectures that Dr. Raditic is providing at veterinary schools, along with meaningful collaborations with other research institutions, veterinary schools and veterinary platforms, CANWI is providing much-needed information so people can make better decisions on how to nourish their pets. It’s an exciting endeavor that will ultimately allow for our pets to extend not only their lifespan but also their health span.

Starting August 8, Healthy Pets celebrates its 12th anniversary — for an entire week! To commemorate this momentous milestone in Healthy Pets history, I’ve lined up SEVEN wonderful days filled with informative articles and interviews that will help you become the best pet parent you can be.

But that’s not all — I will be giving away prizes EVERY DAY of the week until Sunday, August 14! Click on the link below to see all the amazing things we’ve lined up for you!
 

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