By Dr. Becker
Today I'm talking with Dr. Donna Raditic. Dr. Raditic is an integrative veterinarian and also a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN), and a co-founder of our not-for-profit organization CANWI (Companion Animal Nutrition and Wellness Institute).
As many of you know, nutrition is my passion. However, I've never pursued board certification from the ACVN because my beliefs are so different from the conventional veterinary viewpoint on animal nutrition.
In fact, I've felt judged and disrespected by many of my peers for my belief that whole fresh foods are the best nutrition for pets.
Dr. Raditic was the first board-certified nutritionist who said to me, "There's a place for your beliefs about whole food nutrition." She was respectful and welcomed my ideas, thoughts and questions. She was very supportive, which I greatly appreciated, and we became fast friends.
Why Is There No Independent Research on the Best Nutrition for Pets?
Dr. Raditic and I are both frustrated with the lack of independent research being conducted in the area of veterinary nutrition. There's a lack of funding for this type of research, and sadly, there's also a lack of interest. I asked Dr. Raditic to talk about her own frustrations coming from the world of academia.
"One of the reasons I became a boarded nutritionist was, I was like you," she responded.
"I was in general practice doing integrative medicine and people would ask me questions about nutrition. I decided I had to learn everything I needed to learn. I pursued a course of study in nutrition and became a diplomate of the ACVN.
Another deciding factor for becoming boarded was when a pet owner told Dr. Raditic that her veterinary education was paid for by a pet food company! "That upset me," she says, "because I felt like, 'No, that's not true. I have independent thoughts. I can think for myself.'"
Is the Pet Food Industry Interested in the Health of Our Animal Companions?
As an integrative veterinarian, Dr. Raditic understands the impact of nutrition on health. No matter the type of medicine we practice, nutrition is the foundation. Becoming a diplomate of the ACVN, which takes the traditional view of nutrition, ultimately felt very limiting to her.
Dr. Raditic felt there was much more she needed to know. She also learned through her association with the ACVN that:
"There's a tremendous amount of money being put in by the pet food industry to support the training of diplomates, as well as for research. But it's going to have some bias. It has to. They're developing diets. They're a business."
We all understand the motivation of businesses, but as Dr. Raditic asks, "Who is really invested in our pets?"
Dr. Raditic and I share a common goal: we're invested in learning everything we can about optimum nutrition for pets. And we want to know how we can use nutrition to keep our patients healthy and prevent disease.
"Someone asked me recently to write an article on what age dogs and cats live to," says Dr. Raditic. "I said to him, 'I don't want to write about that, because that hasn't change in several decades. What we need to know is what's keeping them from living longer.'"
I absolutely agree, and underlying everything we do to keep our animal companions healthy is the way in which we nourish them.
Can We Help Pets Live Longer, Healthier Lives? We Think We Can
Dr. Raditic and I also agree that researching a particular type or brand of food shouldn't be the goal. Toward that end, Dr. Raditic and I have started a non-profit organization called CANWI, which is shorthand for the Companion Animal Nutrition and Wellness Institute. Can we?
"We definitely think we can," says Dr. Raditic. "It's probably going to be grassroots, because it's going to need financing from people who care and are passionate like you and I.
What it represents is our desire to get true information, unbiased information. Studies that we can support. Nutrition studies that can help us understand how to better feed our patients."
We want to answer questions like, "How can I help a dog live beyond age 13?" and "How can we prevent disease?" For example, we know certain breeds are predisposed to develop certain disorders. Is there a way to manipulate their diets to prevent those genes from turning on?
The Goal of CANWI
Dr. Raditic and I are believers. We think we can. But we need funding for research. We also want to develop nutrition-based training programs so we can bring more people along with us — people who are open-minded and can appreciate the long journey ahead of us.
I'm very excited to be involved with CANWI because I know there are many things we need to research in the realm of whole food nutrition and what animals require in order to unlock the healing potential in their bodies.
We're hoping to find funding for groundbreaking research that will help both pet guardians and veterinarians make better choices. We'll also have the opportunity to pass along what we're learning in the form of biased, open and objective training for interested veterinarians.
Much of the nutrition information veterinarians receive comes through the pet food industry, and is therefore inherently biased. Our goal is to gain a broader understanding of how nutrients affect the body.
Is there a way to feed pets that promotes an appropriate immune response so they can live longer and healthier lives? We want to train veterinarians to think in new ways, not just the same way. Many thanks to Dr. Donna Raditic for chatting with me today. I'm very excited to be a part of her inspiration, CANWI. Can we? With your help, yes, we can!