Arpita Thakur, renowned pet nutritionist decoding pet nutrition trends in India

From Investment Banker to Canine Nutritionist - Discover how nutrition transformed a dog's health and inspired a career shift.

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Arpita Thakur, Founder and Canine Nutrition Expert at Eternal Canine
Arpita Thakur, Founder and Canine Nutrition Expert at Eternal Canine

In this exclusive interview, we speak with Arpita Thakur, Founder and Canine Nutrition Expert at Eternal Canine Nutrition. Arpita is a passionate advocate for optimal pet health through balanced and informed nutrition. Being a certified pet nutritionist, her expertise extends beyond her experience in India. Her journey from investment banking to canine nutrition is both unique and inspiring. Let’s dive into the interview to explore her insights on pet nutrition trends in India, debunking common misconceptions, and prioritizing your pet’s overall well-being.

Q: Can you share with us the story of your path to becoming a Canine Nutritionist? How did your experience as an investment banker impact your choice to shift into the field of canine nutrition?

My journey into the field of canine nutrition was spurred by a deeply personal experience with my own beloved dog. Few years ago, one of my dogs Danny, developed troubling skin issues that left her constantly scratching and uncomfortable. Despite numerous visits to the Vet and various treatments prescribed, her condition persisted, and I felt helpless watching her suffer.

Determined to find a solution, I began researching extensively about canine health and nutrition. I delved into scientific literature, consulted with veterinary experts, and explored holistic approaches to pet care. Through this process, I discovered the significant impact that diet can have on a dog’s overall well-being, including skin health.

Witnessing the positive impact of dietary changes on my dog’s health was a transformative experience for me. It ignited a passion for canine nutrition and a desire to help other pet parents navigate similar challenges with their furry companions.

As I delved deeper into the world of canine nutrition, I realized that my analytical skills, honed through years of financial analysis and problem-solving, were incredibly valuable in this new field. I approached nutrition research with the same level of rigor and attention to detail that I applied as an investment banker.

Drawing on my background in finance, I began researching and educating myself on animal nutrition, enrolling in courses and certification programs. Today, as a Canine Nutritionist, I feel a profound sense of purpose in helping dogs live healthier, happier lives through proper nutrition.

“Pet parents in India face a unique challenge. They want to provide the best care, but cultural norms and a changing pet food landscape can create confusion. A nutritionist’s role is to bridge that gap, ensuring pets receive optimal nutrition that respects tradition.”

Arpita Thakur, Founder, Eternal Canine

Q: In the Indian context, what are the current challenges and trends in pet nutrition that pet parents should be aware of to ensure their pets’ optimal health and well-being?

Two significant challenges include a knowledge gap regarding pet nutrition and the growing popularity of vegetarian or vegan diets for pets.

Despite the increasing number of pet parents in India, there remains a significant knowledge gap regarding nutritional adequacy. Many pet parents may not fully understand the specific nutritional needs of their pets, leading to improper feeding practices and potential health issues. This knowledge gap can be attributed to various factors, including lack of accessible information, cultural beliefs, and misconceptions about pet diets.

We need more initiatives (workshops, outreach programs etc) that aim to bridge the knowledge gap and empower pet parents to make informed decisions regarding their pets’ diets.

In recent years, there has been a growing trend among pet parents in India to feed their pets vegetarian or vegan diets. This trend is often influenced by cultural and ethical beliefs, as well as concerns about the environmental impact of meat production. However, transitioning pets to vegetarian or vegan diets presents several challenges and considerations.

Dogs have specific nutritional needs that are best met through a balanced diet containing animal-derived protein, as it provides essential amino acids like taurine and certain vitamins (e.g., vitamin D) that are not abundant in plant-based sources. Without these nutrients, dogs may develop deficiencies that can lead to serious health issues over time.

Animal-derived proteins have a higher biological value than plant-based proteins, meaning they contain a more complete profile of essential amino acids that dogs require for various physiological functions, including muscle maintenance, immune function, and enzyme production. While dogs can digest some plant matter, their digestive systems are optimized for processing animal-derived proteins and fats. Plant-based diets may not be as easily digestible for dogs, leading to gastrointestinal discomfort or inadequate nutrient absorption.

Overall, pet parents in India should stay informed about current trends and challenges in pet nutrition and seek reliable information from trusted sources.

Q: Could you provide insights or rough estimates on the current prevalent trends among pet parents in India regarding feeding commercial pet food versus home-cooked meals or consultative diets?

Many pet parents have preferred the convenience of commercially prepared pet foods, especially in urban areas where time and resources for cooking may be limited.

However, India stands out as a country where the tradition of home-cooked meals holds immense significance, not only for its human populace but also, progressively, for their beloved pets.

The pet nutrition landscape in India is evolving, with pet parents increasingly exploring different feeding approaches and becoming more proactive in providing optimal nutrition for their pets.

There’s a noticeable increase in awareness among pet parents, with a growing willingness to educate themselves and adapt their dogs’ diets accordingly, leading to observable changes in their pets’ well-being.

Some pet parents in India are exploring alternative feeding approaches, such as meat-based diets, grain-free diets, or novel protein sources, as a way to provide variety and potentially address specific health concerns. These alternative approaches reflect a growing interest in exploring different dietary options beyond traditional commercial pet foods.

Pet parents are increasingly willing to learn about pet nutrition and incorporate changes in their pets’ diets based on new information and recommendations. This willingness to learn reflects a growing commitment to providing optimal care for their furry companions.

home cooked pet food

Q: How does the quality of pet food available in India compare to international standards, and what should pet parents look for when selecting food for their furry companions?

While there are reputable brands in India that adhere to high-quality standards, there are also challenges and discrepancies that pet parents should be aware of.

Countries with robust pet food industries (US, UK etc) invest in ongoing research and development to advance nutritional science and improve the quality and safety of pet foods. This investment in innovation helps drive continuous improvement in pet food formulations, manufacturing technologies, and production practices. Despite these efforts, recalls due to contamination, quality control issues, mislabelling etc persist, underscoring the ongoing need for vigilance in maintaining the safety and quality of pet foods.

While India has made efforts to develop its regulatory framework for pet food, there are several limitations in terms of enforcement, resources, and infrastructure compared to more established pet food markets.

In many countries, pet food manufacturers are required to conduct feeding trials or adhere to specific nutritional guidelines set by regulatory bodies such as the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) in the United States or the European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF) in Europe. These trials ensure that the food meets the nutritional requirements of pets and is safe for consumption.

In India, there is a lack of mandatory feeding trials or stringent regulatory oversight for pet food. This discrepancy can affect the consistency and quality of pet food available in the market. The quality of raw materials used in pet food production here can vary widely. While some manufacturers prioritize sourcing high-quality ingredients, others may use lower-grade or substandard ingredients to cut costs. Pet parents should carefully scrutinize the ingredient list and opt for brands that prioritize transparency and quality in their sourcing practices.

What Pet Parents Should Look For:

  • Nutritional adequacy – Look for foods that are formulated to meet AAFCO or FEDIAF guidelines and have undergone feeding trials to ensure complete and balanced nutrition.
    • Look for specific, named meats such as “chicken,” “beef,” “lamb,” or “salmon” listed as the primary protein sources. These meats should ideally be listed first on the ingredient list, indicating a higher proportion in the food.
    • Avoid ingredients like “meat meal” or “chicken meal” that are rendered products made from processing animal tissues, which can include meat, bone, and connective tissue. Corn and corn meal are commonly used as inexpensive fillers in pet foods. While some dogs can tolerate corn in moderation, it may be less digestible and offer fewer nutritional benefits compared to other grains or protein sources.
    • By scrutinizing the ingredient list and prioritizing foods with high-quality, recognizable ingredients, pet parents can make informed decisions to provide their furry companions with balanced and nutritious meals.

Lastly choose pet food brands that prioritize transparency in their sourcing and manufacturing processes. Look for brands that provide detailed information about ingredient sourcing, manufacturing standards, and quality control measures.

Q: What are the common misconceptions about pet nutrition prevalent among Indian pet parents, and how can these be addressed to promote better understanding and decision-making?

One common misconception prevalent among Indian pet parents is the belief that vegetarian diets are suitable and nutritionally adequate for dogs. Another misconception is that feeding unbalanced homemade diets, such as dahi chawal (curd and rice), roti (bread), and milk, is sufficient to meet a dog’s nutritional needs.

Feeding unbalanced homemade diets, such as dahi chawal or roti with milk, can lead to nutritional deficiencies or imbalances, resulting in several health issues over time. These diets often lack essential nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals in appropriate proportions.

Addressing these misconceptions requires a multifaceted approach, including education, access to accurate information, and guidance from nutrition professionals. Pet parents should be provided with comprehensive education on the nutritional requirements of pets, emphasizing the importance of balanced diets. It’s crucial to acknowledge and respect cultural practices related to pet feeding while also providing guidance on how to incorporate traditional foods into a balanced diet for pets. By addressing these misconceptions through education, professional guidance, and promotion of balanced nutrition practices, pet parents can make more informed decisions about their pets’ diets.

Natural’ and ‘organic’ are powerful marketing terms in pet food, but not all products live up to the hype. Identifying misleading claims and advocating for transparency are essential to protect both pets and the integrity of our industry.

Arpita Thakur, Founder, Eternal Canine

Q: With the rise of lifestyle-related diseases in pets, what dietary recommendations would you give to pet parents to prevent such health issues and promote longevity in their pets?

One of the most effective ways to preventing or slowing down the progression of diseases in pets is by feeding a well-balanced home-cooked diet. A balanced diet for pets, as per the National Research Council (NRC) guidelines, includes providing appropriate amounts of essential nutrients to meet the specific needs of individual animals. This entails meeting the minimum recommended requirements for key nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals.

Research indicates that a balanced diet is essential for pets to thrive, and this involves incorporating a variety of nutrient-rich foods into their diets. For example, studies have shown that diets rich in high-quality protein sources, such as meat, contribute to better overall health and longevity in dogs (Dammann et al., 2018). Additionally, the inclusion of essential fatty acids from sources like fish oil has been associated with improvements in skin and coat health, joint function, and immune response in dogs (Bauer, 2011).

By adhering to these recommendations, pets receive adequate nutrition to maintain a healthy body weight, promote proper growth and development, support immune function, and minimize the risk of nutrient deficiencies or imbalances. Pet parents must choose high-quality ingredients for their pet’s meals, including lean meats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Additionally, monitoring portion sizes is essential for maintaining a pet’s health and weight. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and increase the risk of various health issues such as diabetes, joint problems, and heart disease. It’s important to regularly assess the pet’s Body Condition Score (BCS) to ensure they are at an ideal weight.

Q: How important is it for pet parents to consider breed-specific nutritional requirements, and what guidance can you provide on tailoring diets to meet the unique needs of different breeds?

Precision nutrition is key! By leveraging advancements in nutritional science, genetics, and personalized medicine, precision nutrition provides individualized dietary recommendations that address the unique genetic makeup, metabolic profile, and health status of each pet.

Research has demonstrated significant genetic diversity among dog breeds, influencing their metabolic rates, nutrient utilization, and susceptibility to specific diseases. For instance, large breeds often have slower metabolism and are predisposed to musculoskeletal disorders, while small breeds may be more prone to dental problems or obesity-related concerns. Large and giant breeds necessitate diets with controlled calcium and phosphorus levels to mitigate the risk of skeletal abnormalities like hip dysplasia and osteochondrosis. Conversely, smaller breeds may require diets with higher energy density to accommodate their rapid metabolic rates.

Breed-specific health concerns, such as cancer prevalence in certain breeds like Rottweilers or Golden Retrievers, underscore the importance of tailored nutritional interventions. Dietary factors, including antioxidant-rich diets and specific nutrient profiles, may influence cancer risk and progression in susceptible breeds.

Pet parents can actively contribute by providing a diet that includes the right functional ingredients alongside a balanced diet throughout their pets’ lives. For example Antioxidant-rich ingredients such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene can help neutralize free radicals, reducing the risk of cellular damage and potentially lowering the risk of cancer development. Functional ingredients like chlorophyll, which has natural antimicrobial properties, can help maintain oral hygiene by reducing plaque and tartar formation. Omega-3 fatty acids from sources like fish oil can help reduce inflammation, improve skin health, and promote a shiny coat.

Advancements in nutritional science, including nutrigenomics and personalized nutrition, offer promising avenues for tailoring diets to individual breeds’ genetic predispositions. Research in this field aims to elucidate breed-specific genetic markers and metabolic pathways, enabling targeted dietary interventions to optimize health outcomes.

breed specific pet food diet

Q: What role do supplements play in a pet’s diet, and how can pet parents determine if their pets require additional nutritional support beyond their regular meals?

Supplements can play a valuable role in a pet’s diet, serving to fill nutritional gaps or address specific health concerns. However, their necessity depends on various factors, including the pet’s diet, age, health status, and individual nutritional needs.

Many commercial (kibble) pet foods are formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of dogs. When fed as the sole diet and in appropriate amounts, these foods generally provide balanced nutrition, eliminating the need for additional supplements. In fact, excessive supplementation in dogs fed balanced commercial (kibble) diets can lead to nutrient imbalances or toxicity.

On the other hand, dogs fed homemade or homecooked diets may benefit from supplementation to ensure they receive adequate levels of essential nutrients. Homemade diets, while they may offer variety and freshness, may lack certain essential nutrients or be imbalanced if not carefully formulated. In such cases, pet parents should work with a pet nutritionist to develop a balanced homemade diet and identify any nutrient deficiencies that may require supplementation.

Pet parents can determine if their pets require additional nutritional support beyond their regular meals by observing their pets’ overall health. Signs that may indicate a need for supplementation include poor coat quality, lethargy, digestive issues, joint stiffness, or chronic health conditions that may benefit from targeted nutritional support.

Q: Considering the diverse cultural and dietary preferences in India, how can pet parents ensure a balanced and nutritious diet for their pets while respecting regional food habits?

While recognizing cultural and regional food habits is important, it’s crucial to ensure that the dietary choices for pets are aligned with their nutritional needs. Dogs have specific nutritional requirements determined by their evolutionary biology. These include a need for high-quality animal proteins, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals to support their physiological functions, growth, and overall health.

To meet these diverse nutritional needs, pet parents can incorporate a variety of nutrient-rich foods into their pets’ diets. This may include locally available meats (such as poultry, fish, and mutton), grains (such as rice and millets), and seasonal vegetables & fruits.

Pet parents should refrain from anthropomorphizing their pets’ dietary needs and instead focus on providing species-appropriate nutrition. While some human foods may be safe for pets in moderation, pets require a balanced diet specifically formulated to meet their nutritional requirements.

Q: What advancements or innovations in pet nutrition do you foresee shaping the industry in India, and how can pet professionals stay updated on these developments to better serve their clients?

I expect notable progress and innovative breakthroughs in pet nutrition that will significantly influence the Indian pet industry.

  • With increased competition, the pet food market in India will witness an expansion of brands, food options, and transparency measures. Manufacturers will innovate to offer a wider range of products tailored to pets’ nutritional needs and preferences, providing pet parents with more choices and ensuring greater transparency in labelling and sourcing practices.
    • Pet professionals will increasingly have access to a wealth of research papers and easily accessible data on pet nutrition. This will enable them to stay updated on the latest scientific findings and trends, allowing for more informed decision-making in recommending diets and nutritional plans for pets.
    • The adoption of AI-based tools in pet nutrition will become more widespread. These tools will bridge the gap between pet professionals’ expertise and the complexities of pet nutrition by analysing vast amounts of data to generate personalized diet plans tailored to individual pets’ specific needs.
    • The pet food industry in India will undergo advancements in quality control measures to ensure the safety and nutritional integrity of pet food products. Stricter quality checks throughout the production process will minimize the risk of contamination and nutrient imbalances, instilling greater confidence in pet parents regarding the products they feed their pets.

These advancements, coupled with ongoing education and research, are poised to drive positive changes in pet nutrition practices and standards in the Indian pet industry.

Q: Amidst the growing concern over food allergies and intolerances in pets, what advice would you give to pet parents on identifying and managing dietary sensitivities in their furry companions?

The most effective method for identifying and managing food allergies in pets is through elimination-challenge diet trials (ECDT)

Firstly, staying vigilant for common symptoms such as itching, gastrointestinal issues, and skin rashes can help pet parents identify potential food allergies or intolerances early on. During the trial period, introducing novel protein and carbohydrate sources to the pet’s diet, which they haven’t previously consumed, can aid in pinpointing potential triggers for allergic reactions or intolerances. By carefully observing the pet’s symptoms and any changes in their condition throughout this process, one can gather valuable insights into which ingredients may be causing sensitivities. This proactive approach, conducted under the guidance of a pet nutritionist, would allow pet parents to take necessary steps to manage the pet’s dietary sensitivities effectively.

If dietary sensitivities are identified, pet parents can work with a nutritionist to gradually reintroduce individual ingredients one at a time to determine which ones trigger adverse reactions. This systematic approach allows for precise identification of problematic ingredients and helps tailor the pet’s diet accordingly.

Q: As pet parents increasingly seek natural and organic options for their pets, what considerations should be made when transitioning to or selecting such diets, and how can the authenticity of these products be verified in the Indian market?

Question everything! Look for organic certifications, such as the India Organic or certification from recognized international bodies like the USDA Organic or the European Union Organic Certification. These certifications indicate that the product has met specific organic standards and requirements.

Choose products from brands that prioritize transparency and traceability in their supply chain. Brands that provide information about the sourcing of their ingredients and production processes are more likely to offer authentic organic products.

While the term “natural” often evokes positive connotations of health and wholesomeness, it’s essential to recognize that not all natural substances are beneficial for pets. It’s important to recognize that excessive consumption of certain natural substances can be toxic or harmful to pets. For example, some plants and herbs commonly used in natural pet foods may contain compounds that are toxic to dogs or cats in large quantities. Without proper knowledge or guidance, pet parents may inadvertently expose their pets to these risks.

Furthermore, the prevalence of false or misleading claims further complicates the landscape of natural pet food products. Manufacturers may embellish or exaggerate the naturalness of their ingredients or the health benefits of their products without sufficient evidence or scientific support. This can mislead pet parents into believing that they are providing their pets with superior nutrition when, in reality, the product may not meet their pets’ dietary needs or may even pose risks to their health.

When it comes to selecting “natural” food, pet parents should carefully scrutinize the ingredients list to ensure that the food aligns with their expectations of what constitutes natural nutrition. Additionally, reaching out to the brand or scheduling a session with their resident nutritionist can provide valuable insights into the product’s composition and sourcing practices. Transparency is key in the pet food industry, and pet parents should expect open communication from brands regarding the nutritional aspects of their products. If a brand is evasive or unresponsive to inquiries about their pet food, it raises red flags about their commitment to transparency and may indicate that they have something to hide.

In India, where pet nutrition standards may vary, navigating these challenges becomes even more crucial. Pet parents should advocate for greater transparency and accountability within the pet food industry, pushing for clearer labelling practices and more informative product descriptions.

Q: When do you recommend that a pet parent should consult a canine nutritionist, and what common trends have you observed in this regard? Do you see any role or influence of vets here.

Consulting a canine nutritionist is recommended as soon as a pet parent brings a new pet home. This early intervention ensures that the pet’s dietary needs are met from the outset, considering that their nutritional requirements differ significantly from humans and evolve throughout their life stages.

While veterinarians play a crucial role in overall pet health, it’s important to note that not all veterinarians receive formal training in nutrition. However, there are veterinarians who have pursued additional education and training in nutrition, enabling them to provide informed guidance on dietary matters. Despite this, their expertise in nutrition may vary, and some veterinarians may rely on general guidelines rather than specialized knowledge.

The role of a canine nutritionist is distinct, as they specialize specifically in understanding and addressing the unique nutritional needs of dogs. By working with a qualified canine nutritionist, pet parents can benefit from personalized dietary recommendations tailored to their pet’s breed, age, activity level, health status, and any specific dietary concerns or sensitivities.

The influence of both veterinarians and canine nutritionists is significant. While veterinarians provide comprehensive healthcare services, including nutritional advice, canine nutritionists offer specialized expertise in formulating optimized diets tailored to each pet’s individual needs. By leveraging the expertise of both professionals, pet parents can ensure that their furry companions receive the best possible care and enjoy a healthy and fulfilling life.

The rise of lifestyle diseases in pets demands a proactive preventative approach. Precision nutrition, tailored to breed predispositions and individual needs, is the key to promoting longevity and minimizing health risks.

Arpita Thakur

Q: How promising is the profession of canine nutrition in India, and what do you foresee as the future scope and potential collaborations with industry counterparts?

The profession of canine nutrition in India has shown considerable promise and growth in recent years, reflecting the increasing awareness among pet parents about the importance of nutrition in their pets’ health and well-being. As more people prioritize their pets’ nutritional needs, there has been a corresponding demand for qualified professionals who specialize in canine nutrition.

However, to fully realize the potential of the profession, there is a need for further development in several areas. Firstly, there is a requirement for better study and educational programs focused specifically on canine nutrition. These programs should provide comprehensive training and knowledge in areas such as animal physiology, dietary requirements, formulation of balanced diets, and nutritional counselling for various life stages and health conditions of dogs.

Continuing education (CE) programs are also essential to keep professionals updated with the latest advancements and research in the field of canine nutrition. These programs can include workshops, seminars, webinars, and conferences where professionals can learn from experts and exchange ideas with peers.

In terms of future scope, there is potential for collaborations between canine nutrition professionals and industry counterparts, such as pet food manufacturers, veterinarians, animal health organizations, and research institutions. These collaborations can lead to the development of specialized diets tailored to specific health conditions or breed requirements, as well as the formulation of innovative nutritional supplements and functional foods for dogs.

For expert canine nutritional consultation, Arpita Thakur can be reached at
Email – eternalcanine101@gmail.com | Mobile – 91-9552023256

About the author

Tushar Kanchan, Publisher & Editor

Tushar Kanchan is the editor and publisher of Petbizindia.com. As a dedicated connector within the pet industry, committed to fostering a vibrant community of entrepreneurs, innovators, and professionals. Tushar believes in collaboration and knowledge-sharing are essential for the advancement of the Indian pet care landscape.

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