Do you know what goes into your dog’s dinner? It turns out that a balanced diet is more than just throwing a bunch of ingredients in a bowl. We talk to an expert about what it takes to be a dog nutritionist.
Humans go to a nutritionist when they want to make sure they’re getting everything they need in terms of nutrition. To those of us who regard their dogs at part of the family, it makes sense that we would take the nutritional health of our pets just as seriously. However, most people don’t take their pooch to a dog nutritionist – that’s why most dog food manufacturers employ one in their facility. Take Petcurean. This Canadian-based pet food company has a solid reputation for quality noms, thanks in part to Jennifer Adolphe, MSc, PhD, RD (that’s (Master of Science, Doctor of Philosophy, Registered Dietitian, respectively), who happens to be Petcurean’s Senior Nutritionist.
Because I was interested in learning more about what a dog nutritionist does and why they’re needed, I asked Jennifer a few probing (no, not that kind of probing, you perv!) questions about what she does and why she does it.
PG: How did you become a Dog Nutritionist?
Jennifer: I have been interested in nutrition since high school because I discovered early on the impact of nutrition on my personal health. I decided to study human nutrition for my undergraduate degree and Master of Science degrees. Shortly thereafter I realized that I wanted to combine my passion for nutrition with my love of animals and started a PhD program in companion animal nutrition at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. In total, I have had 11 years of post-secondary education specializing in nutrition. Prior to completing my PhD, I knew that I wanted to work in the private sector and I have now worked in the pet food industry for three years.
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PG: How and why did you end up at Petcurean?
Jennifer: I believe that it is very important to work for a company that is aligned with your own personal values. Prior to working at Petcurean, I had met some of the other employees and I was very impressed with their knowledge, dedication to pets, and their personal attributes. When the opportunity to work with Petcurean as the Senior Nutritionist became available, I knew that it would be a good fit. I highly value the organization’s integrity, transparency, and commitment to quality.
PG: How do you determine what’s nutritionally best for a dog?
Jennifer: Many decades of nutrition science has determined the nutrient requirements of dogs. This research is the basis for the nutrient requirements reported in the Official Publication of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the National Research Council’s report on the Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats, and the European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF). These nutrient profiles are the basis for formulating dog foods. Since there is no absolute nutrient requirement that meets the needs of all dogs, instead there is an optimal range, nutritionists can then adjust the nutrient content of a formulation for the life stage or physiological condition of the pets for which the food is created. It is important to remember that not all foods work for all dogs and that it can take some time to figure out which food is best for a particular animal.
PG: What’s the most surprising thing you think that pet parents don’t know about their dog’s nutrition?
Jennifer: There are a lot of intricacies to formulating pet food. You cannot just throw together a bunch of ingredients and hope that they meet the nutrient requirements of dogs. Dogs have unique nutrient requirements. Nutrition is a very complex science as it overlaps biochemistry, biology, chemistry, food science, and even sociology and psychology. When formulating a diet, many factors are taken into account, such as nutrient requirements, ingredient availability, costs versus benefits, animal health and food safety. Balancing all of these can be tricky but must be done to create the best foods possible for dogs.
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PG: Do you have any pets? If so, do they eat better than you because of your background?
Jennifer: I have had pets all of my adult life. My first dog was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Quinci. She was an absolute sweetheart and a fantastic dog for a beginner pet parent. Next, I decided I wanted to get a dog that could be my running partner and fell in love with the Australian Shepherd breed. They’re definitely not a breed for everyone because of their high energy, strong will, and intelligence, but they suit my lifestyle really well. I currently have three Aussies: Roxi, 12 years old; Timber, 9 years old; and Chip who was a rescue of unknown background who we estimate to be 5 years old.
I would say that because I am trained in both human and pet nutrition that we all eat quite well, though my dogs eat Petcurean foods so they might even eat slightly better than me!
PG: Why would pet parents reach out or hire a dog nutritionist?