Dogs Trust attend the 2nd Companion Animal Nutrition (CAN) Conference

The Companion Animal Nutrition (CAN) Conference is a biannual meeting organised by Dr Wanda McCormick in association with the Pet Food Manufacturing Association (PFMA). #CANconference2020 as it was referred to on Twitter, was the second gathering of its kind and once again brought together a diverse scientific community of animal nutrition enthusiasts from academia, industry, student bodies, and NGO’s.

The theme of this year’s conference, which took place on the 13th of February 2020 at the University of Northampton, was Feeding for Behavioural Wellbeing and as such included content on how nutrient requirements, diet formulation, feeding practices, and feed related health issues could impact companion animal welfare.

Dr Sandra McCune (Director of ANIMAL MATTERS) kicked off the day with a keynote speech focussing on feeding enrichment to promote natural behaviours and wellbeing in companion animals. Dr McCune also then joined the panel discussion at the end of the day alongside other panellist members Amanda Ferguson (Zoo Animal Nutritionist) and Christine Huggett (Pet Food Consultant) to discuss topics such as “nudge affects” in pet nutrition to promote greater welfare, feeding enrichment in zoos, and what various parts of this subject area can learn from each other (companion animal nutrition from zoo nutrition and vice versa).

Talks from the day ranged from the gut-brain connection in animal wellbeing to our very own Dogs Trust cohort study Generation Pup and it’s early findings on feeding and dietary practices in dogs at seven and twelve months (the abstract for which can be found here). Other topics included how owners’ diets might influence what they fed their pets, the legal compliance of vegan pet food, the impact of dietary phosphorus on cat health, prosocial pet nutrition advice, periodontal disease, and the effect of feeding practices on defecation rate and satiety in guide dogs.

Several scientific posters exhibited exciting research coming from undergraduate and post graduate study, alongside research from industry. The conference also trialled the still relatively uncommon practice of a speed networking activity, which allowed delegates the opportunity to meet at least 10 others and chat to them briefly for 1 minute before moving on. While the activity took a few minutes to set up, it allowed a great opportunity for contacts to be made and seemed to “warm people up” for a chat, encouraging conversations to continue over lunch even after it had long finished.

One of the final outcomes of the day, with reference to the presentation on prosocial pet (nutrition) advice (“Don’t use the F word” – referring to “fat” and how unhelpful owner shaming is) was a question to the panel regarding the ongoing struggle to update owner knowledge in relation to pet welfare and behaviour. This resulted in acknowledgement by the PFMA’s Michael Bellingham that it would be useful to consider supporting this more within pet food industry.

Human behaviour change is a key concept in animal welfare science because it encourages the uptake of practices that can promote greater animal wellbeing. Did you know Dogs Trust Canine Behaviour and Research Department has its own Human Behaviour Change team? For more information on who this team is and what research projects they are currently involved in, why not visit their page.

Likewise, for more information on Generation Pup, the wonderful work they do, and some more of the project’s results so far why not visit their website or find out more about our Cohort team here.

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