Experts advocate scientific pet feeding for gut health
A village of pet nutrition experts from China’s animal science and business worlds worked together to pen the “Guidelines for Experts on Immunology and Nutrition for Dogs and Cats.”
The document aims to equip pet owners with scientific guidance on pet diet and nutrition. Although it was written primarily for the Chinese pet market, all pet owners around the world could benefit from the knowledge it shares.
Behind this body of work are China’s biggest online pet retailer JD Pet, U.S.-based pet food maker Solid Gold Pet that is owned by Health & Happiness (H&H) International Holdings from Hong Kong, and academic experts from China Agricultural University and the Animal Nutrition branch of the Chinese Association of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Medicine. Each organization sent a speaker to discuss pet gut health in a public forum organized by JD Pet and Solid Gold Pet in July 2023. Collectively they agreed that there is almost no pathogenesis of any health problem that does not involve the immune system.
In his keynote speech, Wu Zhenlong, a professor at China Agricultural University, pointed out that studies have shown that good immunity not only protects the body from pathogen invasion, but also reduces the occurrence of diseases. It is also closely related to the normal operation of body functions, and has many positive effects on maintaining the health and homeostasis of dogs and cats throughout their life cycle, Zhenlong said.
In the same forum it was suggested that by increasing the activity and proliferation of immune cells, the body can respond to the challenge of pathogens more quickly and effectively. This is an area for the immunoglobulins, said Wu Yi from the National Feed Engineering Technology Research Center of China Agricultural University. Yi said “experimental research has found that immunoglobulins can enhance the intestinal barrier function and improve intestinal flora. The group composition makes the intestinal barrier more stable and reduces the invasion of pathogens.”
In addition to immunoglobulin, Zhenlong noted that protein, amino acid, probiotics and fish oil also contribute to immune regulation.
Echoing the need to strengthen dogs and cats’ immune system, Liu Chao, director of JD Pet Dry Food for Cats, said his company hopes to provide pets with professional services to support their mental vitality and reduce diseases and sub-health. Two years ago, JD Pet Hospital was launched as a telehealth service for pets with thousands of veterinarians on the platform. It offers comprehensive 24/7 online pet health consultation services.
Growing demand for functional pet food among Chinese pet owners
Chao highlighted the fact that among Chinese pet owners right now, there is increased attention to immunity support, especially for cats, as searches on the online retail platform show.
This makes JD Pet confident that functional pet food is the most highly sought-after product in the Chinese pet market today.
They have the numbers to back their claim:
- Search volume for functional pet food keywords on JD.com has ballooned by 80 times more in 2023 compared to in 2022.
- JD Pet sales data for the first six months of 2023 noted a significant increase in orders for immune-boosting kitten food, reaching as high as 297% more in sales compared to last year.
- Product searches made on JD.com registered a 200% increase for probiotic cat food.
Functional pet food that address specific issues related to weight management, gut health and improved coat quality are what Chinese pet owners are mostly looking for, said JD Pet. Among the wide range of available functional pet food, interest is highest for those that offer digestive health support as more pet owners become aware of the significant role the gut microbiome plays in animal well-being. From here on, animal nutrition experts hope pet owners will also learn more about the crucial role of the immune system in overall pet health and forget the many misconceptions they have regarding pet food, which can lead to weakened immune systems and health issues for their pets.
Scientific pet feeding for healthier pets
JD Pet believes more pet owners now actively seek out information on functional pet food and will likely buy brands that emphasize scientific research, safety standards and ingredient quality on product labels. A case in point is the new cat food it jointly launched with Solid Gold Pet that details its use of fresh salmon to improve cat’s skin and fur. JD Pet said that in just four months, it became one of the top 20 bestselling cat food options on JD.com.
Solid Gold Pet executives see pet owners leaning towards quality pet food that offer gastrointestinal conditioning. Their own research on the effects of scientific feeding on pet’s intestinal health has resulted in several commercial products such as the Suli High Immunity Granular cat food and the Suligao Immunity Bibimbap.
The Suli is made of raw bone and meat that, when fed to cats for 14 days, is said to improve the cat’s digestion and intestinal stability because of the increased immunoglobulin levels it contains.
The Suligao Immunity Bibimbap contains 55% “freeze-dried” protein, eight times immunoglobulin and 18 kinds of amino acids. Solid Gold Pet said it is a highly palatable supplement that can be mixed with other cat staple food once a day.
The company continues its focus and investment in pet nutrition at its two-year-old Solid Gold Pet Nutrition Research Center in China where it collaborates with scholars from the South China Agricultural University. Together they have released research papers on feline intestinal health and immunity that focused on topics such as pet nutrition, pet food formula research and development, pet food functional verification and pet science popularization for the industry’s use. Because when it comes to pets’ gut health, experts say there’s no relying on mere gut feeling anymore.