Our Pet Care Center

Posted on: October 08, 2012

St . Joseph Pet Care Center

A Place for Discovery

From studying the causes of pet obesity to discovering how to help extend a pet's healthy years, more than 400 scientists - including nutritionists, veterinarians, behaviorists, engineers and food scientists are at work every day at Nestle Purina and its Pet Care Center. 

In addition to studying pet health and happiness, we also work hard to develop new ways of working so we can help enrich the lives of pets and the people who love them. It's this goal that has helped us find smarter ways to track the quality of our ingredients, and manufacturing processes that help reduce our environmental impact.

We're also working to make the Pet Care Center itself more innovative, from developing state-of-the-art "cat condominiums" for the comfort of our resident cats to helping our pets and employees get more exercise during their day. 

A Comfortable Home for Pets

You may be wondering what the resident pets are like in our Pet Care Center, and what goes on in a day in their life. Our pets participate in feeding studies, including palatability and digestibility, to help ensure our foods are as nutritious as they are great-tasting.  All of our pets have names, enjoy comfortable living quarters and get plenty of play and love from our staff. We do not participate in any invasive research, and we conduct only those procedures that are consistent with excellence in veterinary care.  We love pets, and everything we do is designed to give them a happy and fulfilling life.

Ensuring that our pets are happy also helps promote more accurate results. That's because simple stress often changes the outcomes of a,study, and even a modest change in temperature or noise-level can throw off results.

As Mark Roos, leader of the Global Nutrition and Technical Communications group, explains, "We like to have a setting where it's like a pet in the home, where the pet is content. We have an extensive socialization program and a setting that's a good representation of what it would be like in the home."

"You'd be surprised," he continues. "Within our Pet Care Center, we  have observed that when we move cats from one room to another, they may exhibit some signs of mild stress.. Any stress could influence the body, such as the digestive system and the way a pet reacts to food. So our caregivers work to reduce the stress they may encounter and keep our pets comfortable in their environment."

Feeding Trials - What They Are and Why They Matter

We believe that pet food with excellent nutrition is only good if pets love eating it, and if their bodies can digest it. That's why we go beyond formulating our products for how they'll look on the label, and conduct feeding studies to make sure that our foods are delicious and digestible for pets, and that owners like feeding them just as much as pets like eating them. 

Our feeding studies also help us understand how our foods affect a pet's physiology. Our research portfolio includes our ground-breaking Life-Span Study, that showed a lifetime of proper feeding could extend a dog’s healthy years. 

Learn more about our Purina Life-Span study.

St . Joseph Pet Care Center 2

Advancing Our Understanding of Pet Health

The more we discover about a pet's physiology, the more we can unlock the keys to giving them long, healthy lives. Here are our top areas of focus:

1. Healthy Weight Management
We know that weight isn't just a cosmetic concern.  An unhealthy weight can make life shorter and less enjoyable for pets. That's why we're researching new ways to address the concern.

Case Study: "One of our successes in dealing with weight concerns has been the use of components of soy in several of our weight management products," says Roos. “For example, when pets are spayed or neutered, they can gain weight because their metabolism typically decreases. We use components of soy that can help get the dog’s metabolism back to a normal rate, without requiring a low-cal, high-fiber diet to help manage weight. When dogs were fed components of soy, we saw a 50% reduction in both their weight gain and fat gain. "

2. Healthy Early Development
Kittens and puppies are in a growth and development stage, and have special nutritional needs. So we study the nutrients, exercise and stimulation that is key for the first year of a pet's life. 

Case Study: "We have included colostrum in certain growth products " explains Roos. " It has nutrients that young pets need in their first few days/weeks of life, in particular certain proteins that help strengthen the immune system. 

3. Digestive Health
Healthy digestion is necessary for a pet to absorb nutrients and put them to work, so they can have positive results on health.

Case Study: The use of probiotics, which are live microorganisms that promote health, can also be beneficial for our pets. After studying their positive effects on pets, we now use them in our Fortiflora product (only available by prescription from your veterinarian), to promote digestive health for cats and dogs. 

4. Healthy Aging
Understanding how nutrition affects aging can give us the keys to help keep pets healthy as they grow older.

Case Study: As dogs age into their senior years, their brains lose the ability to use blood sugar for energy, which results in a decline in cognitive health. We found an alternative energy source for the brain that enables the dog to think, behave and function like they did as an adult. Learn more.

5. Oral Health
Since pets can't take care of their teeth with the same ritual and regularity that humans do, it's important that pet food contributes to oral health. 

Case Study: "Kibble has beneficial abrasive properties and can help reduce the build-up of plaque and tartar on a dog or cat's teeth," explains Roos. 

Finding the Future of Pet Food

Nestlé Purina is investing in innovative new technologies and processes to manufacture pet foods that are leading-edge in nutrition, palatability, quality and safety for dogs and cats. 

Here are just some of the types of discoveries we are engineering:

  • How to develop pet food with textures that resemble foods that pets eat in nature
  • How to develop pet food that owners can't wait to feed their pets, like our Beneful® Baked Delights dog snacks
  • How to make our manufacturing processes more efficient and environmentally stable
  • How to use technology to trace, down to an individual batch, the quality of the ingredients and the way they were cooked
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