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Companion Animals Symposium III

The Companion Animal III Symposium at the 2021 ASAS National Meeting focused on dietary supplements in companion animal nutrition. Several speakers presented different, though highly relevant, perspectives on the potential, discovery, development, and regulatory concerns about the inclusion of dietary supplements in the diets of companion animals. 

Dr. Mario Martinez from Aarhus University presented on the potential for using fibrous bi-products in companion animal food to improve gut health, modulate the colonic microbiota, and affect the activity of nutrient transporters in the gastrointestinal tract. Diseases related to obesity and systemic inflammation are becoming more common in companion animals, and different types of fiber can be included in diets to improve outcomes and gut health. However, when considering the inclusion of a fiber or phenolic compound, it is important to evaluate the structure of these compounds and consider how they are affected by processing. Overall, there is a lot of potential to economically, and sustainably, improve companion animal gut health with additives from fruit and vegetable production, but more research needs to be done to ensure the safety and efficacy of the additives. 

Dr. Wendy Pearson from the University of Guelph presented the science and the “science fiction” behind the equine nutraceutical industry. Dr. Pearson presented a tumultuous history of the term “functional food” and “nutraceutical;” it is a history with multiple claims of efficacy but very limited evidence. The global equine nutritional supplement market is massive, but there is limited peer-reviewed, applicable evidence for not only the efficacy, but the safety of a lot of these supplements when fed to the equine. However, there is hope for the future, as investigators like Dr. Pearson’s lab are using integrated cell culture and animal model work to explore different supplements for safety and efficacy in managing chronic diseases like arthritis. 

Mr. Bill Bookout from the National Supplement Council presented the regulatory perspective on studying and marketing supplements. The animal supplement industry continues to grow at a very fast pace, providing many opportunities for scientists and companies alike. However, when designing, studying and selling a supplement it is important to pay attention to what you are claiming about your supplement; there are different regulations for supplements that add to a diet in a healthy animal versus supplements that “treat” a disease state. 

The final speaker of the symposium was Dr. Cheryl Morris from Iowa State University, who discussed homemade and raw food diets for companion animals. She focused her talk on the utility of raw diets in companion animals and discussed strategies to maximize the potential that owners prepare and feed a balanced diet. Many veterinarians are explicitly against recommending a raw because of the potential for microbial contamination. In fact the majority of literature published in veterinary journals focuses on the transmission of microbes in raw diets, whereas animal science literature focuses on the potential nutritional benefits of feeding raw. This disconnect has created a great deal of frustration between nutritionists, pet owners, and veterinarians. While Dr. Morris asserted that a raw diet is not the right choice for every pet or owner, it is important that more research and education is done so veterinarians, pet owners and animal scientists can chose or formulate the best diet for an animal.