Chances are, you'll never meet the people who formulated your dog's daily meals. Yet these highly-trained scientists play one of the largest roles in your dog's life. To finally meet the scientist behind the food, we dug into the mind of an animal nutritionist to uncover some of the behind-the-scenes secrets about food trends, inside jokes, bad advice they've heard and how much they really love helping your pet.
1. Animal Nutritionists Love Working for Your Dog…
Somewhere, tucked away in some science building, there’s someone thinking about how that food is interacting with your dog's body to keep it running smoothly. For us, that someone is Dr. Chris Wildman, the dedicated nutritionist for our small Just Right by Purina team. “I enjoy the fact that I am responsible for providing the sole source of nutrition for the animal,” he says. Even though you’ll probably never think about them when you’re dishing out kibble at dinner, nutritionists like Dr. Wildman are responsible for formulating your unique dog’s diet – From thinking about how his gut bacteria interacts with the fiber in his diet, to how vitamins and minerals help your dog’s nerve signals fire. Oh, and if the food tastes good and keeps him full too. At the end of the day, a nutritionist’s reward is knowing that their work helps keep your dog healthy and brings him joy throughout his life.
2. …But They Don't Love That Source of "Information" About Dog Food
As nutritionists, sometimes the most frustrating part of the job is dealing with the misinformation about the safety and/or effectiveness of many pet foods. There’s a ton of information out there about how to feed your dog, but not all of it is reputable or comes from informed sources. Nutrition is complicated, so it’s natural to look for explanations that make sense. And while there are some great explanations of how nutrition works, there are also a ton of “common sense” rumors that have caught fire. (Want a veterinarian’s tips for finding reputable sources of dog food information on the internet? Dr. Lauren Pagliughi offers her suggestions.)
3. They Hear Some Pretty Strange Ideas About Dog Food
The weirdest thing one of our nutritionists has heard about dog food? When dogs eat dry kibble, they get dehydrated. “As a nutritionist, that’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard.” (Why is that ridiculous? According to the experts, dehydration has nothing to do with the moisture content in dry food. Dogs would only get dehydrated after eating if they forget to take a drink of their water…which isn’t a problem dogs typically encounter. Rest easy, dog owners. :) )
4. They Talk About Dog Poop. A LOT.
There’s a running joke within the community of animal nutritionists: food today, poop tomorrow. It’s not that all nutritionists have a gross sense of humor – it’s more so that dog poop is actually really important. Dog poop can be an indication of your dog’s overall health (click the link to learn how to identify that at home). Plus, for nutritionists, dog poop is also a rough indication of how food gets digested and performs within your dog’s body. When nutritionists formulate “what goes in”, it’s equally important to pay attention to “what comes out”. The goal: good nutrients, good food, good poop.
5. When It Comes to Your Dog’s Food, Nutritionists Think You May Be Missing the Forest for the Trees
“I think the biggest myth that people hold about animal nutrition is that the most important thing is what’s ‘not in the formula’ as opposed to focusing on the nutrients that are being delivered,” Wildman says. We see it everywhere (Just Right blends too): No corn, no wheat, no soy, no by-product meal, no this, no that. But Wildman says that dog owners need to instead consider how the food meets their dog’s nutrient requirements, and not get stuck on excluding ingredients. After all, it’s the nutrients that do the real work in your dog’s body. “It’s about what the total formula delivers rather than the presence or absence of a particular ingredient,” Wildman says.
6. They Have to Keep Up with What’s Fashionable
Food trends, like fashion trends, tend to come and go. And when it comes to animal nutrition, some trends are more based in scientific fact than others. Even with the trends ever-changing, Wildman says that it’s an animal nutritionist’s job to ensure your dog gets nutrition that’s complete and balanced to help your dog thrive – regardless if the final product is natural, raw, an ancestral diet, etc. “At the end of the day,” Wildman says, “the nutrients are what matter most to the pet. The other trends are to satisfy the wants of the pet owner.” Holding steady on the tried-and-true science behind nutrition isn’t the most glamourous side of food trends, but complete and balanced nutrition never goes out of style.
7. Nutritionists Don’t Just Create Dog Food, They Create SUPERFOOD
Forget blueberries and kale. Kibble is a superfood. Here’s why: “Human superfoods might be particularly rich in one particular nutrient or group of nutrients, but dog food kibble provides them all at once, all in one bowl,” Wildman says. “It’s simply up to dog owners serve the correct amount of kibble for your dog’s perfectly balanced, perfectly complete meal every time.” Which if you think about it, is the coolest thing ever.
8. They’ve Got Impressive Balancing Skills
Nutritionists are in the business of creating diets that provide complete and balanced, focused nutrition. They have to be completely knowledgeable about many things to make those diets – the nutrient requirements for each species (even down to individual amino acids), the nutritional content of any ingredients used, the myriad of interactions between vitamins and minerals, how to use ingredients that are available, palatable and digestible...the list goes on. Somehow, they manage to package it all into a single, complex matrix of food that's 100% everything your dog needs to thrive.
9. Great Nutrition Surprises Nutritionists Too
Have you ever seen those before and after pictures of a rescued dog? With a little love, care, and finally the right nutrition, it’s incredible the amount of difference you’ll see. Those changes can surprise even the nutritionists who’ve designed the food to make those changes. "Nutrition is a fascinating blend of biochemistry, biology, physiology and food," Wildman says. "It's amazing being able to create diets where you can help a dog blossom into his full potential...It's not medicine and it's not magic, but it's very cool to see how great nutrition truly supports and helps the pets we love."
Interested in finding the food designed to help your dog blossom? We can help.