Putting Nutrition Into Practice—A Discussion of Pet Nutrition Recommendations, Compliance and Product Selection - Episode 2
Unsound science: What constitutes as good or bad pet food
Drs Cline and Saker elaborate on how to educate your clients and staff on what to look for in pet food, plus why it is important to have a full-time boarded veterinary nutritionist at a manufacturing company.
View the full video transcription below.
Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Talk to me a little bit more about that. Because listen, I feel like anybody can create a diet that's out there nowadays, too. I mean, we're talking to 2 leading veterinary nutritionists right now. I can only imagine what you get but share with us when you hear unsound science. What are some things that constitute great science with pet foods, and what are some things that are like, "uh, I don't know about that.”
Martha Cline, DVM, Diplomate ACVN: So, I will tell clients that if I wanted to make a diet that had all of the buzzwords behind it, that goes with marketing; we can say, holistic, all-natural, grain-free, byproduct free, we could go on with human-grade. I could [even] make a diet with all of those different buzzwords that could be nutritionally inadequate for their pet. So, a lot of the nutrition or a lot of the marketing terms that we see out in the market, don't necessarily reflect nutritional adequacy. So, I think it's important for owners to understand the terminology that's used; that you can have a completely unbalanced diet that is going to fall maybe into those categories.
Korinn Saker, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVN: Yeah, I agree. You know, there is an easy way for an individual who's purchasing a diet to determine whether it's adequate nutritionally. We have something called the Nutritional Adequacy Claim, that's a statement that's on every bag of food, every can of food, and depending on what that says, it can give the client and the veterinarian some insight as to how it's formulated, has it been tested in a group of animals to maintain their health and well-being, what life stage, and what species it's for. But that can be really helpful information.
Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Yeah. You're touching on those items because that's what I was going to ask you; is talking about the importance of selecting food that is made by a responsible company. So, it sounds like exactly what you're talking about is similar to that. Is there anything else that would be other qualifications that you would be looking for?
Martha Cline, DVM, Diplomate ACVN: So, the label can be challenging for some owners to navigate. The most important aspect for me when I'm telling a client to buy a food is, as Dr. Saker mentioned, looking for that nutritional adequacy statement, and making sure that there's a statement that the food is complete and balanced, and also that it's appropriate for the life stage of the pet.
Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Yeah. I get so many labels [and] I'm sure you do, too. I will have pet owners that it looks like they have 40 different types of labels, and then they screenshot them and you try to navigate through all of this, and it makes it difficult. But I agree, having those standards is probably what helps differentiate good foods from lesser quality ones that are out there, right?
Korinn Saker, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVN: Yes and no. You can formulate a diet that meets the nutritional needs of a pet based on these guidelines that AAFCO has put together for 2 different categories of life stages, basically. But if it's just formulated, then you don't really know...if the ingredients that are in there are really going to provide the level of essential amino acids, or are going to have the right calcium and phosphorus ratio, or they're going to provide the best fiber source for this patient, just things like that because you can put a lot of different ingredients through a computer and come up with a formulation. You know, a lot of these ingredients are things that you would never expect a pet to eat and that's a big part of it. But it's not the whole thing.
Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Yes. You see, I'm laughing because I know that in the past couple of years, there have just been some newer pop-ups. So, you're talking about these boutique foods. But talk to me about the importance of having a full-time veterinarian for a manufacturing company.
Martha Cline, DVM, Diplomate ACVN: I think it's certainly an advantage to have a full-time nutritionist, whether that's a PhD animal nutritionist or a diplomat in the nutrition college working for a pet food company. Some companies don't have that necessarily, but potentially are using them on a consulting basis. So for me, when I'm looking at trying to assess the quality of a pet food company, it's always great for me to see that because I know that there's nutrition expertise there. But especially for some of the smaller companies that may not be able to have a full-time nutritionist—at least looking at these companies and seeing from a consulting basis or a part-time basis, have they been doing their due diligence in terms of trying to seek out the correct type of expertise? So, it's always good for me at least when I'm seeing that because there are pet food companies that don't have that kind of expertise that they've consulted with or employed.
Korinn Saker, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVN: To add to that, I feel another level of confidence when we're talking about prescription pet food diets that go the extra step and work very closely with a boarded veterinary nutritionist because the veterinarian aspect is important when regards to disease states and understanding what the pathophysiology of that is, and how those diseases are managed. But when you add that nutritionist part in, I think that's helpful in saying, "Okay, we know the pathophysiology of this disease state, and this is how nutrition can help manage that patient best." So, I would like to see every company that has a veterinary diet line, employ a boarded veterinary nutritionist.
Martha Cline, DVM, Diplomate ACVN:
I completely agree. There's so much that the veterinary aspect of it can bring just from our clinical knowledge and our knowledge of the pathophysiology of disease and applying that into nutrition. So, I think, again, anytime I see that a company has done that, I think it's a huge asset to the company and brings me some more confidence in terms of the quality of the food.
Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Right? Yeah, definitely gives you that confidence, I'm sure. But let's just say we don't have one, or the company doesn't have one. Is it still, OK? What are some other qualifications that you would be looking for if it wasn't, say, a veterinarian or board-certified veterinary nutritionist—you were talking about a PhD?
Martha Cline, DVM, Diplomate ACVN: Absolutely, yeah. There's a lot of really talented PhD animal nutritionists who are very competent at formulating pet foods and work within the industry with numerous years of experience so, they are also big assets to the industry as well.
Korinn Saker, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVN: I also think that a food scientist is also important because the nutritionist can do the formulation, the food scientist is the individual who's going to look at the actual manufacture or production of the food regarding if it's an extruded product. They are making a dry food, the temperature, the moisture content, and if it's can product they're going to know more of that kind of science and making sure that whatever ingredients you have were being put together. Then, once that product comes out, it is providing that nutrient level that you need that some kind of chemical process hasn't happened during the making of the food to alter the end product.
Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Yeah, it's incredible. I was looking at some of the research at some of these companies. For example, Blue Buffalo has...600 scientific publications, they have 8 PhD animal nutritionists, 4 veterinarians, 2 PhD food scientists, a PhD flavor chemist, serial chemists, biochemist, veterinary neurophysiology, animal nutritionist, and 2 MS animal nutritionists. What are your thoughts? I think it's a good team it sounds like.
Korinn Saker, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVN: Definitely. Oh, yeah.
Martha Cline, DVM, Diplomate ACVN: Definitely. Yeah. And again, I think all of these qualified individuals that we are talking about, working together as a team and each bringing in their expertise. I think, knowing...us, us knowing more of the ins and outs of how pet food is manufactured, and seeing where all these levels of expertise can play a role. It's not so simple. Basically, you have a lot of expertise that goes into making pet food.
Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Yes, and I love the cross-collaboration. You know, I hear this all the time. Maybe you don't want to be a veterinarian, or you just don't have the skill set—whatever it is—but you have all these options to work within companies like this, I think it's so fascinating to see. So, that's fantastic.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai