Worldwide medical and scientific journal for animal health professionals
Veterinary Focus

Issue number 31.3 Nutrition

Individualized pet nutrition

Published 06/10/2022

Written by Emmanuelle Sagols and Sally Perea

Also available in Français , Deutsch , Italiano and Español

This short paper explains why individualized nutrition is important for an animal’s health, how new technology now allows tailor-made nutritional solutions for pets, and the benefits it brings.

Credit: Royal Canin

Many different factors combine to make each pet unique

Key points

Prevention is key in the management of health, and nutrition has a role to play in it.


Individualized nutrition allows a holistic approach to the pet by supporting not only a given disease but also the pet’s specific sensitivities, all in one meal.


Introduction

Prevention is not only key for human health management, it is also now regarded as a major strategy for animal health. Guidelines have recently been developed as a resource to assist the veterinary profession in this area, and these include advice for optimizing dietary and feeding recommendations to pet owners 1. We know that every pet is unique, not only in terms of species, breed, age, sexual status, weight and body condition score (BCS), but also in its lifestyle, individual susceptibilities and any current diseases (Figure 1). For many years veterinarians have been able to support certain specific medical conditions with an appropriate diet, but now the concept of individualized nutrition is set to take things a step further.

Many different factors combine to make each pet unique

Figure 1. Many different factors combine to make each pet unique.
Credit: Royal Canin/Shutterstock

What is individualized nutrition?

It is now possible to have a holistic approach to animal health using a diet that is designed for an individual animal which will support not only a given disease but also any concurrent conditions the pet has, as well as taking into account its specific sensitivities. This concept enables the clinician to use nutrition as a major tool to support animal health, complementing the traditional approach to veterinary medicine, and becomes even more important when treating sick animals. It is well-known that cats and dogs have marked differences in their dietary requirements (for example, in the optimal levels of protein, essential amino-acids, essential fatty acids and vitamins) and the phrase “cats are not small dogs” is often quoted. But whilst many pathologies in both species can now be supported by veterinary diets, other individual specificities can also impact on an animal’s nutritional needs. These include:

Breed

Some breed specificities have a significant impact on the pet’s sensitivities 2. For instance, Maine Coon cats, with their strong skeleton, are more at risk of joint problems; West Highland White Terriers are susceptible to atopic dermatitis and will often present with dermatological problems 3.

Age

With ageing, the body’s ability to deactivate free radicals naturally produced by its metabolic processes decreases, and the resulting oxidative stress is an accelerator of the ageing process 4,5. Additionally, controlling the level of dietary phosphorus will support a healthy renal function 6.

Weight and BCS

Clear and appropriate rationing is key to tackling the increasing trend for overweight and obese pets that has been apparent in recent decades 7,8.

Sexual status

Neutering causes a reduction in the resting metabolic rate of animals and has an impact on both the pet’s daily energy needs 9,10 and on the likelihood of it developing urinary crystals and calculi 11.

Lifestyle

An indoor lifestyle is associated with an increased risk of lower urinary tract diseases (such as idiopathic cystitis), dermatological problems and obesity 12,13.

Concurrent conditions

While many patients have a primary disease that becomes the focus of care, comorbidities are commonly seen. For example, cats suffering from lower urinary tract disease are often overweight 14, and osteoarthritis is over-represented in patients with renal disease 15.

Until now, when veterinarians were faced with treating a pet that had a given disease but also had other confounding factors or sensitivities, they had to compromise and identify one condition to prioritize for their nutritional recommendations. With an individualized nutritional solution, it is now possible to support the pet’s health in its entirety.

Emmanuelle Sagols

For many years, veterinarians have been able to support certain specific medical conditions with an appropriate diet, but now the concept of individualized nutrition is set to take things a step further.

Emmanuelle Sagols

A bold innovation in veterinary nutrition

Developing individualized nutrition required many years of research and innovation to make it possible to determine the most relevant approach that combines all the nutritional needs of an individual animal. This meant a complete rethink of the entire manufacturing process, moving from mass production of standard diets (with several tons per batch) to small production runs for an individualized nutritional solution for a particular pet (a few kilograms at a time).

To formulate individualized diets on demand relies on a concept that can be compared with how an inkjet printer uses primary color cartridges to produce a full-color picture (Figure 2). Nutritionists and mathematicians worked together to define a set of “primary kibbles” and a nutritional algorithm. These primary kibbles encompass specific key nutrients (e.g., fiber, protein and essential fatty acids) which then need to be combined to constitute a complete ration. The algorithm is designed to integrate all the pet’s characteristics to produce the correct kibble combination that best answers the pet’s needs. Engineers have designed a unique processor which manufactures the finished product by combining the primary kibbles in the proportions recommended by the algorithm, with strict quality and food safety standards.

The concept of producing a specific diet for an individual animal can be compared to the way a printer uses basic colors to build a full-color image

Figure 2. The concept of producing a specific diet for an individual animal can be compared to the way a printer uses basic colors to build a full-color image.
Credit: Sandrine Fontègne/Shutterstock

How does it work?

This new approach to nutrition is called ROYAL CANIN® IndividualisTM and is only available through veterinary clinics. It is a four-step process (Figure 3):

  1. During a consultation the veterinarian records the pet’s health information (species, breed, age, lifestyle, weight, body condition score (BCS), sensitivity(ies) and any pathology(ies)) on a dedicated on-line platform. The algorithm integrates all this information to determine the best nutritional solution which fits the pet’s needs.
  2. The nutritional recommendation is e-mailed to the pet owner, who can then place the order; this can either be a single purchase, or a subscription service which allows the diet to be automatically shipped every month.
  3. The individualized nutritional solution is prepared on-demand in a specific facility using the right combination and proportion of primary kibbles.
  4. The petfood is delivered to the clinic, the owner’s home or another specified place of choice a few days later.
The four steps in achieving a tailor-made dietary solution for an individual pet

Figure 3. The four steps in achieving a tailor-made dietary solution for an individual pet.
Credit: Shutterstock

What are the benefits?

ROYAL CANIN® IndividualisTM brings a solution that offers nutritional precision for several health conditions at the same time, and also takes into account any sensitivities or susceptibilities to other potential conditions. As it is based on veterinary recommendation, the diet range is restricted to the veterinary clinic, which ensures the proper nutritional follow up: the recommendation can be updated during a follow-up consultation in the event of a change in health, to ensure the diet remains appropriate to the pet’s needs.

It also offers convenience. Until now, when it came to nutritional advice to support a pet that had various health problems, veterinarians had to recommend a homemade diet. This option, however, has limitations; the willingness of the pet owner to prepare the food every day; the cost of the fresh ingredients and the vitamin and mineral supplements; and the owner’s compliance with the recommended recipe (as changing one ingredient can lead to an unbalanced ration). With individualized nutrition the ration is ready to use, facilitating owner compliance with the veterinarian’s recommendations.

The new concept is being rolled out in stages; to find out more, contact your local Royal Canin agent.

Sally Perea

The algorithm is designed to integrate all the pet’s characteristics to produce the correct kibble combination that best answers the pet’s needs.

Sally Perea

If you work in the United States, visit https://www.individualis.com.

 

Conclusion

The habits of pet owners have changed over the last decade, with a significant increase in online purchases for many items, including petfoods. ROYAL CANIN® IndividualisTM now offers a ready-to-use solution for veterinary clinics, as it is a fully integrated e-commerce product with a dedicated platform that allows on-line ordering 24/7 and automatic invoicing, all supported by a customer care service team. It is thought to be the only individualized nutritional solution currently on the market that can help manage all of a pet’s diseases and sensitivities, and is only available through veterinary recommendation. In a nutshell, it is a new and unique way to combine preventive medicine and dietetic nutrition for veterinary clinics.

References

  1. AAHA-AVMA Preventive Healthcare Guidelines Task Force. Available at: https://www.aaha.org/globalassets/02-guidelines/preventive-healthcare/AAHA-Oncology-Guidelines-for-Dogs-and-Cats. Accessed Oct. 1st, 2021.

  2. Keijser S, Meijndert L, Fieten H, et al. Disease burden in four populations of dog and cat breeds compared to mixed-breed dogs and European shorthair cats. Prev. Vet. Med. 2017;140:38-44.

  3. Mazrier H, Vogelnest L, Thomson P, et al. Canine atopic dermatitis: breed risk in Australia and evidence for a susceptible clade. Vet. Dermatol. 2016;27:167-e42.

  4. Heaton PR, Read CF, Mann SJ, Role of antioxidants to protect against DNA damage in adult dogs. J. Nutr. 2002;132:1720S-1721S

  5. Valko M, Leibfritz D, Moncol J, et al. Free radicals and antioxidants in normal physiological functions and human disease. Int. J. Biochem. Cell. Biol. 2007;39:44-84.

  6. Finch N, Syme H, Elliott J. Parathyroid hormone concentration in geriatric cats with various degrees of renal function. J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc. 2012;241:1326-1335.

  7. Burger I. Energy needs of companion animals: matching food intakes to requirements throughout the life cycle. J. Nutr. 1994;124:2584S-2593S.

  8. German A. The growing problem of obesity in dogs and cats. J. Nutr. 2006;136:1940S-1946S.

  9. Fettman MJ, Stanton CA, Banks L, et al. Effects of neutering on bodyweight, metabolic rate and glucose tolerance of domestic cats. Res. Vet. Sci. 1997;62:131-136. 

  10. Hoenig M, Ferguson D. Effects of neutering on hormonal concentrations and energy requirements in male and female cats. Am. J. Vet. Res. 2002;63:634-639.

  11. Okafor C, Pearl D, Blois S, et al. Factors associated with hematuric struvite crystalluria in cats. J. Feline Med. Surg. 2019;21:922-930.

  12. Rochlitz I. A review of the housing requirements of domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) kept in the home. App. Anim. Animal Behav. Sci. 2005;93:97-109.

  13. Forrester S, Towell T. Feline idiopathic cystitis. Vet. Clin. North Am. Small Anim. Pract. 2015;45:783-806.

  14. Pusoonthornthum R, Pusoonthornthum P, Osborne CA. Risk factors for feline lower urinary tract diseases in Thailand. Thai J. Vet. Med. 2012;42:517-522.

  15. Marino CL, Lascelles BD, Vaden SL. Prevalence and classification of chronic kidney disease in cats randomly selected from four age groups and in cats recruited for degenerative joint disease studies. J. Feline Med. Surg. 2014;16:465-472.

Emmanuelle Sagols

Emmanuelle Sagols

Dr. Sagols graduated from the National Veterinary School of Toulouse, France in 2007 after completing a thesis on the nutrition of dogs and cats with heart failure Read more

Sally Perea

Sally Perea

Dr. Perea is a Diplomate of the American College of VeterinaryNutrition, having completed her clinical nutrition residency, DVM, andMS at the University of California, Davis (UCD) before serving thereas an Assistant Clinical Professor. Read more

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