Western University of Health Sciences veterinary school in Pomona, CA is offering students a rotation (for fourth-year students) in whole food canine clinical nutrition and formulation. Finally, some of our new veterinarians will learn about pet food instead of pet feed. Here are some insightful comments about the program from the very first student to complete Whole Food Formulator Course.
In most cases, if your veterinarian knows about ‘food quality’ versus ‘feed quality’ pet foods – they learned this information on their own. It was not taught to them in school. As it stands – in I believe every single veterinary college in the U.S. and Canada – nutrition classes are minimal and most often taught by representatives of Big Pet Food (that use feed grade ingredients). Now, we have the first change to this long standing veterinary school tradition.
Western University of Health Sciences is offering students the opportunity to learn about whole food pet foods from pet food manufacturer Just Food for Dogs. The new program offers students training in:
- Custom compounding and whole food preparation
- Veterinary nutrition concepts and formulations math
- Whole food veterinary formulation and nutrition
- Whole food canine clinical nutrition and formulation
And the first student – Kendra Bettis-Scheibe has completed the nutrition course. I sent Kendra a few questions, below are her responses.
Did this experience change any opinion you had about commercial pet food?
Yes! For years, I was blissfully unaware of the actual ingredients found in commercial food and I, like many, fed into the marketing of major companies. I did not understand the way commercial food is created and processed. I was convinced that it was normal, and beneficial, to feed pets commercial kibble. In addition, up until this year, nutrition was never a large focus during veterinary school and I had no reason to question commercial diets. After learning more about the pet food industry and the way it is, and isn’t, regulated, I became more skeptical about the benefits provided by most commercial food. It upset me to learn that many ingredients deemed unfit for human consumption are allowed in animal feed, including food manufactured for companion animals. By the time I was made aware of JustFoodForDogs, I was upset and suspicious of even the most well known and popular brands. Over the course of a month, I studied the cellular and whole body benefits of vitamins and minerals, I learned about nutrient deterioration in traditionally prepared commercial foods, and I learned about the recommended levels of a variety of ingredients/nutrients and compared those levels to commercial diets. I now feel very strongly that properly prepared whole food diets can offer so much more than commercial pet food. The nutrients can be more precisely controlled and maintained and the ingredients typically provide more nutritional value than some feed grade ingredients. I feel silly for never questioning the industry and products before.
How do you think this education will benefit you in the future as a practicing veterinarian?
I think the education and training I received through the JFFD whole food certification program will allow me to enhance the lives of many animals, and their people in ways I wouldn’t have been able to before. I feel like I have the opportunity to help pets live longer and healthier lives. I think nutrition is overlooked in many ways in veterinary medicine and I am hopeful I can make an impact by addressing nutrition for more pets. Whether creating a diet for a healthy animal, one recovering from surgery, or one affected by a serious disease, I want to continue to use food as part of the overall health plan for pets.
Did you learn about therapy diets (prescription foods) in this Whole Food Certification?
Yes! Since receiving my certification to formulate canine diets, I have primarily been involved in creating “therapy” diets on behalf of JFFD. First, pet parents provide a detailed description about their dog and their current health situation. I review all available laboratory results, as well as veterinary records, to help determine the primary conditions/diseases that are affecting a dog. I note the problems of concern and come up with a precise formulation that addresses everything from appropriate vitamin and mineral enhancements or reductions, suitable protein, fat, or carbohydrate levels, and individual ingredient selections. It has been challenging, and incredibly rewarding, to be able to address multiple conditions and concerns in a single diet. This isn’t really an option with commercial Rx diets and I am so thrilled to not be limited in addressing only one condition. I believe that the diets I am creating can be used to make an animal’s treatment plan even more individualized, well rounded, and successful. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to help improve the lives of even the sickest pets through nutrition.
Will you be feeding your own pets a whole food diet?
Yes! My dog Louee has been eating a whole food diet since April. He has always been a chow hound but he absolutely loses his mind when it’s meal time now. I feel so good knowing he is getting the most supreme nutrition available AND he loves every second of it. When time permits, I plan to create a custom formulation for both my cats to try. I look forward to enhancing my knowledge of feline nutrition and transitioning them soon.
What do you feel is the benefit to pets from consuming whole food diets?
I believe the best benefit of feeding nutritionally balanced whole food diets is the immune enhancement that has been noted in the literature. By avoiding feed grade ingredients, I think certain toxins are inherently left out of the food, and therefore, animals benefit from improved cellular function. I think appropriate whole food diets help ensure a healthier pet and hopefully, a longer lifespan. I know I feel better when I eat fresh and healthy ingredients compared to over-processed, enhanced foods and I truly believe our pets can feel the difference too.
My thanks and congrats to Kendra…Dr. Kendra. I look forward to many more like you that learn about food quality pet foods!
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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