To feed or not to feed (Day -290)

Veterinary Nutrition Education

There are many brands of different dog and cat foods out there, yet often it is Royal Canin that you see in a veterinary practice. After a random conversation with a friend I decided that I should share some of the reasons why it is Royal Canin you often see in vet practices.

Making a pet food is easy, there are no licenses required, and it takes very little to give a list of requirements to a food manufacturer along with the label you want on it. There are production lines that are available to rent out to run smaller batches so companies without their own factories can produce and sell food. There is possibility that food is also white label with the only difference between the two foods on the shelf being the container label and the price.

There are different types of formulation – you can have fixed formulation where the same ingredients are used every time the food is produced so it is the same each time you buy it. Or you can have dynamic formulation where the ingredients are calculated based on material price so the actual ingredients may be completely different each time. This is why sometimes a dog or cat will pass up food even if it is the “same” as normal.

Many of the larger companies have their own factories so that it only produces their food. This allows for strict quality control – for example Royal Canin does DNA analysis on key points within its production line.

Then there is the research that goes into a food – for example Royal Canin own laboratories and research centres. These look at things such as the shape of the food to the shape of the animals teeth, the hardness of the food and how much pressure is put onto teeth to break it up. Then there is extra research into the digestion and excretion of food – measuring how much is in the urine and faeces. There is also research into the growth and the nutrients needed at the different stages of life.

Research into disease to treat specific conditions is also a big part – just like in humans animals can have food sensitivity. There have been major breakthroughs with decreasing food allergies which can cause much distress for patients. Research by Royal Canin showed that the immune response is regulated by the size of the foreign protein particle. From this Royal Canin found the smallest usable and sustainable protein that was possible and used this to make a food that provides nutrition yet is small enough to hide from the immune system so does not have an immune response.

Education is also important – the successful larger companies that you tend to see advertised produce books, share research, and provide training for vets and vet nurses. They give the knowledge needed to know which food should be used and when in different stages of life, and in different disease processes.

This is why these foods end up on the shelfs in vet practices, because they are backed by research, they are trusted with the ingredients known, and they make the effort to educate the vets using them.

Food prep, nutrition and the secret of omelettes

A golden omelette

Something I really hate is that even though we get taught nutrition, is that it is difficult to put it into practice when at vet school. So often it is easier to just grab stuff from the vending machine or sandwiches or crisps when running between patients.

It is ironical to me that I know this yet still suffer from this and so this week I decided that it was enough when I saw my weight on the scales… This week I tried to do food prep and eat better especially as I knew I’d have a few days off later in the week because of easter.

Loads of Tupperware which was on special offer in Tesco made this easier for me – a weeks’ worth of salads and lunches made my week more enjoyable… And I feel better.

Something I’ve always been bad at is omelettes, however it is good protein and relatively healthy for breakfast so I was determined to get them right this time. Especially as it only takes 10 minutes to cook them.

This week however I finally think I cracked the secret – I am generally impatient and have electric plates to cook on so never let these really get warm. I normally just tried to do it as quick as possible. However I think this was the start of my problems….

So my first tip in getting the perfect omelette is to warm up the plate – if you are lucky enough to have a gas hob this is not necessary.

My second tip is to use more oil than you would think you used – I hate cooking with oil and normally just tried to use butter. However I have some olive oil so tried this instead – the first couple of times it stuck – however on my later attempts I used a lot more oil and it worked better.

And my final tip is to let the oil get hot before adding the batter.

Following these steps has resulted in going from charcoal to golden omelettes like mine in this picture….

When marine mammals need fresh water too…

Medical training of dolphins for temperature measurement

So today was all about nutrition, animal training and communication. When they say Wednesday is hump day this is exactly what they mean, I am sad the week is halfway over, yet I am exhausted as I struggled to sleep last night.

Anyways onto nutrition this morning we looked at the comparative anatomy between different marine species to start which was pretty amazing. I thought the differences between ruminants, equine and carnivores was crazy however the differences between seal species makes it seem like it was easy! We then moved onto nutrition with a very fast but comprehensive review of the different sources of nutrients and how preparation is also important before moving onto clinical nutrition. This was especially interesting as marine mammals suffer pretty similar diseases to terrestrial mammals in cases of low and insufficient minerals or vitamins, however too much can also be fatal through toxicity so it really is a balancing act.

What I think surprised me most was that marine mammals can suffer dehydration from not drinking enough! I guess I always thought as they live in water they are ok, however with dolphins for example their kidneys cannot desalinate (remove the salt from salt water) so without fresh water they suffer dehydration and the consequences of this. Now you may ask where they get fresh water from if they live in the sea, the majority of this actually comes from their food that is metabolised and broken down.

Something else that I also thought was very cool was that some seal and sealion species do not chew, when they are fed fish they swallow it headfirst. They even use their tongue to turn it around in their mouths if it is in the wrong direction! It has been suggested that in the wild dolphins will “chew” on a puffer fish to release the toxins which appear to be pleasurable for them.

Moving onto the afternoon session we started looking at training, now a lot of people still mistaking believe this is just for “circus tricks” when in reality it is so much more. In the zoo veterinary world medical training is used as an alternative to sedation, anaesthesia and immobilisation – it allows safe and stress free veterinary care of potentially deadly animals. For example have a look at this photo…

 Medical training of dolphins for temperature measurement

Here is a dolphin, the body is mainly muscle so it’s very strong, yet it is laying there on its back in the water to allow for the temperature to be checked. I believe this is pretty amazing, medical training is something that can be used anywhere but seems to mainly be used in zoos. Just imagine if all the dogs and cats that vets see could do this, just stand whilst the temperature was checked, many pets visiting the vets are so stressed and petrified just being in the building before anything is even started!

So going on from this we did a practical session of training each other, it was really interesting as without language it is very difficult to communicate exactly what you want an animal (or someone else) to do!