Later this week I have the pleasure of taking a special trip to the Hill’s Pet Nutrition Center in Topeka, Kansas. As part of my due diligence I have always wanted to actually go, see and tour their facilities, meet the professionals (veterinarians, scientists, nutritionists, internists) who have dedicated their own careers to the progression of nutrition in companion animal medicine and observe first-hand how they develop and formulate the foods I have come to know and trust for not only my patients, but also my own pets. For this reason, I want to make this Part 1 of a 2 part September blog with the next part dedicated to my time with the Hill’s Pet Nutrition team.

As many of you already know, our entire team at Westway Animal Clinic believes firmly in the benefits of proper nutrition for our pets. We have seen the effects poor nutrition can have on puppies and kittens in their growth stage and we have seen the many benefits that come from proper nutrition in adult pets; from weight control to urinary health and oral care to joint health.  Most significantly, we have seen the incredible difference nutrition can make in pets with medical conditions, from bladder stones to kidney disease, skin conditions to hyperthyroidism. We can decrease the amount of medication a pet needs, reduce symptoms of disease and in some cases, resolve health conditions altogether!

A really good pet food requires high quality nutrients, a properly researched, evidence-based formula and consistency of product from batch to batch, bag to bag. Just like making a cake, you can give somebody a list of ingredients but mixing varying quantities all together and putting it in the oven does not guarantee a superior outcome! Nutrients are very important. When reading a pet food label, pet owners tend to focus on the ingredients but, just as with our own food, a single ingredient can vary significantly in nutrient content based on the quality of that ingredient. For this reason it is important that the pet food company sources their ingredients from trusted suppliers and regularly checks their ingredients to ensure they meet specific nutrient profiles. From there, they must ensure they are combining the right things, in the right way to deliver a consistent result. Ideally, they test again once the product is complete, to confirm that the nutrient balance is just right for a given species, life-stage and, in some cases, disease condition, ultimately resulting  in a pet food veterinarians like myself can feel confident recommending.

It falls squarely on the pet food Industry to identify what the nutritional requirements are for our furry friends and to be innovative in creating foods that will continue to shift animal health forward.  While some companies are very focused on marketing and pretty packaging, others spend a great deal of time, money and effort identifying what is truly in the best interest of our pets’ health. As a veterinarian I am very grateful to the commitment of these companies in this regard as it allows me the opportunity to know I am doing right by my patients when I make a recommendation. If you don’t trust the company, you cannot, in good faith, make a confident recommendation. I went to school for many years to learn as much as I could about companion animals and I have dedicated my life to being the best veterinarian I can be. I take pride in taking part in continuing education on a regular basis to stay on top of the latest developments in veterinary medicine and love learning to this day. For this reason,  I look forward to sharing my experiences during this upcoming adventure with you.