Friday, September 22, 2023

A nutritionist’s viewpoint

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by Professor Emeritus Simon J Davies FRSB

Welcome to this new publication concerning the pet food industry and the wellbeing and health of our companion animals. Globally this industry currently amounts to some US$98.9 billion (2021) and expected to attain US$136.4 billion by 2026, as we provide nutrition for our dogs, cats, rabbits and many more species including equine (horses, ponies) and ornamental fish.

As a trained animal nutritionist, I have for years realised the significance in providing the best nutrition for our domestic animals and the array of key nutrients that sustain metabolism, promote growth and development and are also essential for the maintenance of the immune system and building resistance to infection and disease. Indeed, pet nutrition has been transformed by research and much progress been made in leading universities and institutions devoted to the subject.

Scientists have been engaged with veterinarians to better understand the fundamental nutrient requirements of cats and dogs for instance where we have now obtained a better picture of specific macro-nutrient requirements at different stages of growth and body development. 

We have data on protein and essential amino acid levels for provision of optimum tissue and organ development from the young to the older animal. The understanding of micro-nutrients for key metabolic processes has given us much more insight into trace elements and vitamin needs of the companion animal.

We have for example numerous scientific studies on the role of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, E, & D, selenium, zinc, calcium and phosphorus on skeletal health of cats and dogs and horses. Recently various prebiotics and probiotics have been highlighted in their modulation of the gut microbiome leading to the role of such functional feed additives in dietary health management.

Special formulations exist for puppies and kittens and for the mature dog and cat as well as breeding animals and bespoke for certain conditions and health status. We have diets that range in energy density accommodating the specific needs to allow for the highly energetic younger or working animal and for animals that may be sick, elderly and exhibiting various pathologies.

Indeed our feline and canine friends are at the attention of specialised manufacturers that provide complementary foods as treats and snacks to formulated main meals. We must remember that diets vary too considerably in their physical format from wet and canned diets to moist feeds in sealed pouches to dry extruded diets. The technology of pet food manufacture is also keeping in step with nutrition progress.

The pet food market is highly competitive and the consumer will always be a key factor in marketing strategy. These days the public are very keen to know the sourcing of the raw materials in pet foods and ask questions concerning sustainability of supply much more than in the past.

Therefore the transparency of the food chain is becoming an important issue together with packaging and waste considerations.  There are many interesting topics to discuss and in the coming issues much to learn. 



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