Feeding the Brain: Putting Purina’s Nutritional Science into practice


The Purina Institute is committed to advancing nutritional science to help pets live better, longer lives. Representing a diverse team of more than 500 scientists and pet care experts around the world, the Purina Institute will share Purina’s ground-breaking research and the latest scientific findings in pet nutrition so veterinarians and other pet professionals can make nutrition a foundational element of their conversations with pet owners. Here are some insights from Dr. RuthAnn Lobos, Scientific Events and Programme Manager, The Purina Institute and Dr. Jane Armstrong, External Relations Director, The Purina Institute.

Purina Institute – ‘Voice of Science’

Dr Jane Armstrong & Dr RuthAnn Lobos

Dr. RuthAnn Lobos shares, “Purina has been a pioneer in the science of pet health for almost a century, leading to breakthroughs that have redefined the industry’s understanding of pet nutrition. For example, Purina’s 9-point Body Condition System has become a global standard for determining whether your pet is of ideal body condaition. Additionally, our nutritional innovations in the area of feline diabetes, probiotics, brain health and longevity have shaped the science of pet nutrition. The Purina Institute will communicate the latest science behind these and other important areas of pet health because it believes science is more powerful when it is shared.

“It has never been more timely to put nutrition at the forefront of conversations,” Dr. Lobos continues. “There is a heightened level of awareness and interest in human nutrition, but in fact, nutrition can potentially play an even more powerful role in promoting our pets’ health. And, while 83% of pet owners trust their veterinarian for advice on pet nutrition, only 22% of veterinarians are having proactive conversations about nutrition with their clients. This leaves pet owners in a situation where they seek advice from other, often unreliable, sources. It’s time to take the conversation back.”

Nutrition as a Path to Brain Health

Years of ground-breaking research by Purina demonstrates a strong correlation between nutrition and cognitive function in pets, yet only 2% of veterinarians are aware of this link. The company’s research has led to nutritional innovations that can help veterinarians protect brain health, manage age-related canine cognitive dysfunction and improve outcomes associated with idiopathic epilepsy in dogs.

Dr. Jane Armstrong mentions that The Purina Institute has three areas of focus when it comes to brain health nutrition:

1. Role of nutrition: Dr. Jane Armstrong says nutrition also plays an important role during brain development in puppies. The way the brain develops in young dogs can really affect their trainability and other development. In the critical time of growth, nutrition plays a vital role.

2. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS): An irreversible degeneration of the brain similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans, CDS is characterized by progressive cognitive impairment beyond that expected to occur with aging. CDS has a slow onset, can be difficult to manage and affects an estimated 14% of dogs 8 years and older. However, Purina scientists have shown a diet containing a combination of brain-protecting nutrients significantly improved, social interactions, sleep/wake cycles, house soiling, anxiety and disorientation in dogs with CDS. Greater knowledge and understanding amongst the veterinary community of this condition and the role nutrition can play creates opportunities to have more proactive conversations with owners of senior pets.

3. Epilepsy: Epilepsy is a devastating disease for dogs, their owners and veterinarians as it is hard to manage. Pet owners are worried about their pets having unobserved seizures and about the side effects of antiepileptic medication. Dr. Lobos shared a pivotal breakthrough made in collaboration with the Royal Veterinary College, where Purina scientists discovered that a diet with medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) reduced seizure frequency in 71% of dogs with refractory idiopathic epilepsy without changes in drug dosage or serum drug concentrations – including 14% that became seizure-free. “The way nutrition can effect a pet’s life is both exciting and remarkable! If veterinarians around the world knew this, how might it change the conversations they are having with their clients?”

Enduring commitment

The Purina Institute’s goal is not only to elevate today’s nutritional conversations, but also to facilitate collaboration and knowledge exchange amongst veterinary thought leaders and the wider scientific community in order to help raise awareness about the importance of nutrition to the health of dogs and cats.

According to Dr. Lobos, “As part of the world’s largest food and nutrition research organization, the Purina Institute has many opportunities to explore the connections between pet and human health. By sharing expertise amongst our Purina and Nestlé scientific teams, we have already been able to apply key learnings in areas such as probiotics and brain health.”

Dr. Lobos further mentions that pet owners should consult their veterinarians as experts to get nutritional advice.“We share scientific information with veterinarians who in turn help pet owners gain the latest knowledge and develop a sound foundation relative to their pet’s nutrition.” In this respect, Dr. Armstrong says, “the Purina Institute isn’t about product or trends, it’s about science and how science makes nutrition better. And, how powerful that science can be when it is shared. The exciting thing is we’ve only begun to imagine all that nutrition can do.”

The Purina Institute will lead as a champion of breakthrough science and the powerful role nutrition has on pets’ lives. Dr. Armstrong invites veterinarians from all over the world to learn more about the Purina Institute by visiting purinainstitute.com.