Creature Companion had an opportunity to interact with Dr. DhananjayPandit, a renowned canine nutritionist with 23 years of impeccable expertise in pet nutrition category. He shares his valuable insights in the area of canine nutrition in dogs and cats.  Here are the excerpts.

How has been your journey so far as a pet nutritionist? Was it a conscious decision to choose this field? 

I did my graduation in veterinary sciences, then my post graduation in food hygiene. After that, I joined the meat industry from 1991 to 1999, where I was involved in various functions such as processing meats, producing different meat products etc.

Finally, in 1999, I entered the pet food industry. It was a conscious decision; I was really fascinated with nutrition, though during college I was completely opposite.  I got to realize that nutrition is an important part of life for every living being. I have conducted seminars, webinars, and training sessions for veterinarians, breeders, pet shops etc. I was also involved in formulations, product development of dry food, wet food, tablets, and increasing palatability of tablets.

Now, I am working as the Head of Technical Affairs and Product Development for Scientific Remedies. I also started my referral clinical nutrition practice during Covid.

How important is nutrition for the well being of pets?

Hippocrates, the Greek physician said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Nutrition plays a very important role in keeping any living being in good health; functions of organs are also affected by nutrition. If a dog or a cat is to live beyond 8 years, the geriatric nutrition is very important. If they suffer from any diseases, nutrition can be of great help along with the other treatment. All in all, nutrition helps our pets live longer and healthier!

Kindly enlighten us about the basic science behind nutrition.

Nutrition is like a philharmonic orchestra; different small and big musical instruments play separately but they are in sync with each other thus melody is created. Similarly, nutrition is all nutrients coming together and playing their role in a balanced way, and in this case the melody is healthy pets.

Nutrition is comprised of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, fibers, and water; these are the nutrients required by the body. A dog requires proteins and they are made up of amino acids. Now, if a dog requires 23 amino acids, 10 out of which are supplied through an external source. To give him amino acids in a proper proportion is a science behind nutrition. Similarly, fats are constituted by various fatty acids such as omega 3, omega 6 etc. There are 53 nutrients required by a pet.

The nutrient requirements in the diet of a pet may vary according to the physical needs of a pet, for instance, composition of nutrients required by a grey hound running a race would be different than that of a Labrador kept as a pet at home. The study of this composition is science. It requires clinical trials to prove that a product or a particular formulation is good for a pet. 

As you are currently consulting pet parents for their pets’ nutrition requirements, how has been your experience? How is the awareness among pet parents?

I feel pet parents are very concerned and are eager to learn more about the well being of their pets,  but somehow they don’t have authentic sources of information. Generally, when a pet parent goes to a veterinarian, he/she goes only for some illness or general health check up. I feel that every time they go to a veterinarian, they should inquire about their pet’s health as well as the nutritional requirement.

Moreover, veterinarians must do a nutritional assessment at every visit of a pet parent. Pet parents are conscious today and are ready to listen and learn.  Pet parents when surveyed, 80% of them revealed that their queries were not answered in an easy to understand manner, since there is scattered information, which is hard to process. There are a very few veterinarians who do clinical nutrition practice. So, there is lack of authentic organized source of information for pet parents.

Shed some light on the ongoing and upcoming developments in the field of nutrition.

Let me wear my veterinarian hat and talk about science. First, human genome was discovered, followed by dog genome and cat genome. The interest behind this discovery was to understand and study the expression of genes and to know whether something can motivate or change this expression. This science is known as nutrigenomics.

For instance, EPA in a dog can change a gene producing enzyme Aggrecanase, which is degrading the joint cartilage. So I would use this nutrigenomics in developing a joint medicine formula.

Second must read area of nutrition is Microbiome. A human body is made up of 10 trillion cells and has 100 trillion organisms on and around the body. These organisms can be bacteria, viruses, fungi amongst others. All these organisms’ nutritional needs are dependent on the host.What I eat influences what my microbiota gets, and what they eat would produce by-products that in turn impact the living body. So to understand and influence this, we can do microbiota or microbiome study and come up with suitable solutions. This is true for dogs and cats alike.

How is a cat’s nutritional requirement different from a dog?

Cat’s nutritional requirement is different from a dog.  Cats appear to be in a constant state of gluconeogenesis and they do not seem to be able to tolerate high-carbohydrate diet. In this process (gluconeogenesis), basically, for energy, protein and carbohydrates break down into glucose. Although both dogs and cats are members of the order Carnivora, their nutritional requirements differ, consistent with evolutionary pressures coming from strict carnivorous diets. This pressure is manifested in cat anatomy, physiology, behaviour, and nutrition. Dogs have developed a dependence on humans for their food provision, while if you look at a cat’s ethogram, they have kept their hunting nature to a larger extent. Consequently, the nutritional physiology of cats remains dependent upon animal based products to meet their dietary needs.

What according to you are the takeaways for pet parents?

Oh, that’s very simple… I would say the first and foremost thing to learn is to ask questions!

A living creature needs three important factors according to me – genetics, nutrition, and environment. Genetics is in the hands of the breeders – when pet parents take a pet from a breeder, they should properly inquire about the genetics of the mother and father of the pet; there are many health problems that are genetic in nature that affect the health of a pet.

Second, nutrition is in the hands of pet parents; they should follow a scientific approach.

Third, environment means vaccination, deworming, and cleaning the surroundings properly.

If pet parents want to search for information then they should browse sites like wasava. In any case, a veterinarian is the best and the right source of information.

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