Wonderful Friends (or "petto to ku ra su" in Japanese)PFI's pet owner outreach publication used throughout Japan.
The Japanese market for US-made dog and cat food, according
to US government trade statistics, ranks as the nation's
second-largest export market, behind Canada. In 2005, US
petfood companies shipped almost US$200 million worth of dog
and cat food to Japan. This is why, for the past 13 years, the
Pet Food Institute (PFI) has been actively training Japanese
veterinarians on the advances in pet nutrition and working to
teach Japanese pet owners about the importance of feeding the
country's 12.1 million pet dogs and 8.5 million pet cats a
complete and balanced petfood diet.
PFI's marketing program representative in Japan, Yuko
Adachi, explains the importance of the market and the
veterinary education seminars: "The pet boom in Japan has
continued for close to a decade and has gained even more
momentum in the last few years. However, Japanese veterinarians
and many pet owners still need more information about nutrition
for small animals, with only a handful of veterinarians having
specialized knowledge about nutrition." The seminars that PFI
sponsors every year are designed to provide nutrition-specific
training to Japanese veterinarians so they can go on to educate
pet owners through their practice.
PFI teaches veterinarians
This past March, PFI had the opportunity to continue its
program of veterinary education by conducting two seminars: one
in Tokyo, and one at the annual meeting of the Japan Veterinary
Medical Association in Tsukuba, a suburb two hours outside the
Speaking on behalf of PFI was Dr. Kathryn Michel, a
veterinarian and professor at the University of Pennsylvania
Veterinary Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. PFI's
work in Japan is funded by the USDA Foreign Agricultural
Services' Market Access Program, a grant program designed to
expand export opportunities for US petfood companies. In
previous program years, Dr. Michel has made presentations on
behalf of PFI at veterinary seminars in Mexico and in
At the first seminar, Dr. Michel shared the latest research
on treating diabetes in dogs and cats with the 50 veterinarians
in attendance. Stressing the importance of nutritional
treatments for diabetic pets and good body condition scores for
all pets, Dr. Michel gave the veterinarians a primer in steps
they can use in their practices to help treat, and hopefully
prevent, the disease. Dr. Michel's presentation was followed by
a brief lecture on critical diabetes care from PFI's
spokesperson in Japan, Dr. Toshinori Sako.
Dr. Michel was pleased to see the level of care Japanese pet
owners take with their pets. "The Japanese clearly cherish
their pets and want the best care possible for them," she said,
concluding her presentation.
Yuko Adachi, PFI's representative based in Tokyo; Dr. Kathy Michel, University of Pennsylvania; and Dr. Toshinori Sako, PFI's veterinary spokesperson in Japan.
After a short journey to the Tokyo suburb of Tsukuba, PFI
conducted its second, much larger veterinary seminar at the
annual meeting of the Japan Veterinary Medical Association
(JVMA). PFI was the first outside organization accepted to
present at the JVMA's annual meeting. In this course, Dr.
Michel focused on long-term dietary effects and attracted well
over 100 practicing veterinarians and students.
Titled "Feeding Pets for Health and Longevity: What Really
Counts," this seminar focused on showing veterinarians the best
ways to communicate with their clients to ensure pets receive
optimal nutrition, while avoiding the negative health effects
of obesity. Since Japan has an aging pet (as well as human)
population, the weight gain sometimes associated with getting
older is of paramount concern to Japanese veterinarians. By
teaching veterinarians about proper pet diet and body
condition, they in turn can educate their clients, spreading
PFI's message of proper pet care through good nutrition.
Following her talk at the JVMA meeting, Dr. Michel
commented: "This was my second opportunity to speak to
veterinarians in Japan and, other than language, which was much
more an issue for me than my audience, I was again struck by
similarities between US and Japanese veterinarians in their
knowledge and expertise in companion animal medicine."
The sharing of this knowledge is but one facet of the
overall PFI program used in Japan and a variety of other
markets including China, Russia, Mexico and parts of Central
and South America. The success of the program in Japan was
demonstrated following the discovery of the first US case of
BSE in December 2003. Though the Japanese government imposed a
ban on imports of US beef and a cautionary label on
domestically-made petfood, US-made petfood products were not
"The technical support and assurance regarding transmissible
spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) and dogs and cats given by
PFI have helped the Japanese government cope with the BSE
outbreak in their country and have maintained the strength of
Japanese, as well as US, ruminant-based petfood products in the
marketplace," said Nancy K. Cook, PFI's vice president of
Technical and Regulatory Affairs. "The relationships and
contacts developed through our market programs are invaluable
in addressing trade disruptions," she added. As a result, Japan
continues to rank as the second largest market for US-made
petfood, after Canada.
The love of pet dogs and cats in Japan shows no signs of
subsiding. As in the US, the aging population has relied on
pets for love and companionship. Young adults, sometimes living
alone in large metropolitan areas, have also discovered the joy
of a four-legged "friend." PFI is proud to help Japanese pet
owners care for their pets, and as the program declares, teach
everyone in Japan that pets are "wonderful friends."
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