Cancer risk and prevention can be profoundly affected by nutrition.  - Tim Phillips

There is no such thing as no risk for living creatures. Life is risk. But reducing risk, that's another story, and it's the story of Royal Canin's mission. In my opinion, it should also be the mission of all dog and cat breeders.

Royal Canin has formulated a special food for Golden Retrievers by considering the breed's health risks and metabolic particularities. That's what I heard about at Royal Canin's Canine International Symposium focused on the Golden Retriever. The event, held in Chicago, October 10-12, was invigorating and time well spent gathering petfood related information. Here are highlights and comments from some of the presentations I attended.

Hip dysplasia and cancer

Dr. Gail Smith, professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine, gave a fascinating talk on the genetics of canine hip dysplasia (CHD) and osteoarthritis. He believes the Distraction Index, used in the PennHip program, is presently the best way to screen for CHD. But, he notes that breeding CHD out of some breeds is an incredibly difficult task. On the bright side, he had data showing restricted feeding can work remarkably well in postponing or eliminating the pain often associated with CHD.

Dr. Michael Lucroy, associate professor in oncology at Purdue University, emphasized that cancer risk and prevention can be profoundly affected by nutrition. He also discussed what might be the next big thing: epigenetics, the study of heritable changes in gene function that occur without a change in the DNA sequence. We now know that epigenetic mechanisms play a vital role in gene activation and inactivation.

Supporting a lustrous coat

Dr. Denise Elliot, director of scientific communications for Royal Canin USA, talked about the nutrients that can promote healthy skin and a beautiful coat. She asserts that:

The luster of the coat is related to the presence of sebum, which helps prevent tangling. Sebum quantity and quality are improved with a balance of animal fat, fish oils and vegetable oils (borage and soy).

Antioxidants, especially working in synergy, reduce oxidative stress. Various antioxidants include vitamin E, vitamin A, taurine, carotenoids and flavenoids.

The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA inhibit the synthesis of arachidonc acid, which causes inflammatory reactions.

Biotin, niacin, panthothenic acid, choline, inositol and histidine work to improve the protective skin barrier. Vitamin A, working in synergy with zinc and sulfur containing amino acids, helps combat seborrhea and dandruff.

Not a gimmick

I confess I used to consider breed-specific nutrition as mostly a gimmick. But over the past few years my opinion has changed. Breed-specific feeding makes a lot more sense to me now.

To see a video clip from the Royal Canin Symposium, visit