Food For Thought

Royal York Animal Hospital doctors are learning new and interesting things all the time at national and international conferences, courses, seminars, and the like. It gives us a chance to hear from experts in the field and to connect with and learn from our colleagues around the world. In March, I joined about 50 veterinarians from across Canada in Kansas USA for a workshop on nutrition that focussed on the role food plays in preventive care and disease management, the challenge of having so many commercial pet foods on the market that make unsubstantiated or misleading claims, and the latest developments in prescription diets at Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

RYAH shares Hill’s philosophy that pet nutrition is the cornerstone of health. The idea that food IS medicine isn’t new. It comes from Hippocrates, a Greek physician who’s considered the father of human medicine. But it was veterinarian, Dr. Mark Morris, who introduced the idea to veterinary medicine when he developed the first prescription diet for a German Shepherd seeing-eye guide dog with kidney disease named Buddy. (Buddy and her master, Morris Frank, were trail blazers in their own right, and their story is worth reading.) Buddy’s kidney diet launched Hill’s product line in 1939.

While in Kansas, I toured Hill’s processing plant to see how the diets that RYAH recommends are made and the quality controls that are put in place to ensure that the food is safe, that it contains the ingredients it’s supposed to, and that it meets AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standards. If you have 2 minutes, you can see for yourself how it’s done in this full-length tour.

I also toured Hill’s Pet Nutrition Center where Hill’s does its research and development and tests its products in clinical feeding trials to make sure that the food is achieving what it claims to achieve. By the time we’re able to prescribe a new diet like the one we now have for hyperthyroid cats that offers an alternative to twice-daily medicating, a multitude of veterinarians, Ph.D nutritionists and food scientists (not to mention cats with hyperthyroidism) have taken that diet through its paces. That whole process takes years, and it’s all pretty impressive stuff. But just as impressive are the working conditions of the cats and dogs (about 500 of each) involved in Hill’s diet research. The facilities they’re housed in and the care and attention they receive are enviable – plenty of room, lots of opportunity for physical and mental stimulation, great health care, and a lot of love from the teams that look out for them.

Nutrition is its own specialty in veterinary medicine and a very big topic. We’ll have more on the subject to help address common misconceptions and concerns we hear from time to time. Ultimately, we’d like to see your pets thrive and live to their full potential. It’s with that goal in mind that we make our dietary recommendations.

Speaking of Kansas and dogs (“Toto”, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”), anyone know what breed of dog played Toto in the Wizard of Oz? Hint: RYAH’s hospital director, Rita Peters, has one. Both of Rita’s dogs are fed Hills prescription diets.

Dr. Iz