Innovative Animal Health Research Identifies Links Between Nutrition And Disease

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"You are what you eat," so the saying goes. And just as your diet affects your health, what your pets eat also influences their disease risk.

Morris Animal Foundation's (MAF) founder, Dr. Mark Morris Sr., recognized the connection between health and nutrition in the early 1940s, long before diet and nutrition were everyday topics. In fact, he was one of the first veterinarians to use diet to control disease. His innovation led to nearly 100 Foundation-funded studies-so far-that have improved the dietary health and decreased disease risk for pets, horses and wildlife.

One of Dr. Morris's first patients was Buddy, who was among the first guide dogs in the United States. Buddy suffered from kidney failure, and his owner, Morris Frank, then the national ambassador for the Seeing Eye, sought Dr. Morris's advice. Dr. Morris created a special diet for Buddy that dramatically improved the dog's health, and soon he and his wife, Louise, were canning the food in their kitchen. When they couldn't keep up with escalating demand, they partnered with the Hill Packing Company to produce what later became the first Hill's Prescription Diet.

Dr. Morris used the royalties from that diet to create MAF, and the first two studies MAF funded in 1950 looked at nutrition in cats and dogs. Since that time, hundreds of scientific animal research studies-funded by MAF and others-have proven what Dr. Morris suspected so long ago: nutrition and disease are inextricably linked.

"The role of health and nutrition has infiltrated the media-hardly a day goes by without a report on the latest research about how nutrition causes or prevents disease in people," says Dr. Kathryn Michel, one of only 54 members of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. "As people become more educated about the importance of a good diet for themselves, they transfer that knowledge to their animals."

Dr. Michel notes that insufficient nutrients in a ultimate pet nutrition nutra bites, mouse click the following article,'s diet can cause serious health conditions, such as orthopedic and neurological issues. She adds that veterinarians see cardiomyopathy in cats that is related to deficiency of the amino acid taurine as well as in dogs that don't get the right amounts of essential amino acids. MAF has funded a number of studies that have looked at the role of amino acids in maintaining good health.

On the flip side, too much food can harm. Sadly, an estimated 30 to 40 percent of pets are overweight, and 25 percent are considered obese, according to the American Animal Hospital Association. Those extra pounds cause a host of additional health issues.

Dr. Joe Bartges, professor of medicine and nutrition at the University of Tennessee and former chair of the Foundation's Scientific Advisory Board, says obesity is directly or indirectly linked to respiratory problems, diabetes, osteoarthritis, ligament tears, hypertension, urinary stones, surgical and anesthetic risks, heat intolerance and even cancer.