Veterinary Nutritional Seminar Attracts Researchers, Focuses on Obesity, Medical Issues

About 220 veterinary professionals from around the world gathered Sept. 15-18, 2005, in Washington, D.C. to discuss pet obesity and the food science that may be contributing to it. New research on cats’ ability to taste sweets (news to be featured in the next NEWStat) was presented. Panelists debated the value of raw food diets and the impact of owner lifestyles on pet obesity. They discussed the high incidence of calcium oscillate stones and high carbohydrate levels in cats along with a myriad of other nutritional issues, said Karyl Hurley, DVM, DACVIM, who organized the meeting.

“Nutrition is a rapidly growing area,” Hurley said. “It affects every animal that veterinarians see, both healthy and diseased. There is so much to learn, so many preventative measures that can be taken to boost the immune system and prevent disease.”

Researchers from UC Davis and Cornell University, two veterinary colleges that specialize in nutritional issues, worked with Hurley, a visiting professor at Cornell University, to develop the International Sciences Symposium that attracted manufacturer representatives from Waltham International Nutrition, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, and the Iams Company. Ninety-five percent of the professionals present were veterinarians who work in research and development, Hurley said. “We were focusing on what’s the best science with regard to obesity and what is being done to combat it,” she explained.

Presenters included Alex German, PhD, who helped create the United Kingdom’s first pet obesity clinic at the University of Liverpool, Elaine Ostrander, PhD, from the National Institutes of Health, who talked about nutritional genomics, and Paula Henthorn, PhD, who discussed genomic testing. Proceedings from the four-day meeting will be published in the Journal of Nutrition in June or July 2006.

The obesity clinic, which opened in February 2005, has seen more than 50 patients. Two-thirds of the patients seen have been dogs, and the average treatment is between three to twelve months, German said.