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A Taste of Tufts: Lisa Freeman

Professor, alumna reveals myths of pet nutrition

Published: Monday, March 12, 2012

Updated: Monday, March 12, 2012 07:03

ToT

Courtesy Lisa Freeman

Freeman, who holds three Tufts degrees, lectured on animal nutrition at the latest Taste of Tufts installment March 9.

"Make a fist and feel your knuckles. If you were feeling your dog or cat's ribs, that's too skinny," she said. "Now flat hand, palm up and feel the base of your fingers. That's overweight. If you make a flat hand, palm down and feel your knuckles … that's just right. That's what it should feel like, with that amount of pressure."

According to Freeman, keeping a pet trim reduces the risk of orthopedic diseases, diabetes and back problems. In one study Freeman cited, dogs that are kept trim lived almost two years longer than dogs that were just a bit overweight.

Freeman drew her lecture to a close by testing the audience on other pet nutrition myths. She revealed that animal by−products are not actually poor quality meats, and that so−called "organic" pet foods do not have to meet specific requirements defined by the AAFCO to be labeled as such. The AAFCO also does not specifically define "human−grade," "premium" and "holistic"; these are purely marketing terms, Freeman said, adding that "natural" is one word that actually has a specific AAFCO definition.

Freeman emphasized that dietary modifications can benefit animals with hip dysplasia, kidney disease, cancer and heart disease. Her hope is that pet owners are careful about trusting advertisements and believing the myths of pet nutrition.

"It's a really important issue because there is so much confusion out there," Freeman said. "[Pet owners] should find out the basics, talk to their veterinarian and be careful about what they read on the Internet. There's good and bad information, and it's often really difficult to discern which is which."

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