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Choosing your dog’s food: Who is leading the pack?

Published August 30, 2017

URBANA, Ill. – Dog owners want the best for their furry companions, but not much is known about what drives an owner’s decisions about their pet’s diet or lifestyle. A team of University of Illinois animal scientists wants to learn more about the behaviors that dog owners associate with their dogs in terms of nutritional needs, food enjoyment, and lifestyle, and they need your help.

“We want to know what are the beliefs and knowledge that pet owners have in terms of their lifestyle and dietary choices, and how they relate that to their pets,” says Maria Cattai de Godoy, an assistant professor in companion animal and comparative nutrition in the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I.

She continues, “Pet foods have really diversified in recent years, but we still don’t know the market factors and feeding strategies driving that diversification. We know it stems from the humanization of pets, and the closer animal-human bond that we have developed with dogs and cats for the last several decades. However, very little is known about whether dog owners base their decisions on personal beliefs, professional advice, or empirical evidence.”

Godoy and graduate student Juliana Nogueira are asking dog owners to complete a survey about their own lifestyle and nutrition as well as their dog’s. It takes about 10 minutes to complete, and is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

The researchers think they may use the survey results to develop educational materials for owners about their dog’s nutritional needs and wellbeing. Published results from the research questionnaire may also assist the pet food industry in developing products tailored to owners’ habits and preferences, as well as dogs’ nutritional needs.

The survey is available at the following URLs:

http://go.illinois.edu/choosingyourdogsfood_english

http://go.illinois.edu/choosingyourdogsfood_spanish

http://go.illinois.edu/choosingyourdogsfood_portuguese

http://go.illinois.edu/choosingyourdogsfood_french

The researchers are hoping to receive at least 3,000 responses, so they encourage participants to share the survey with friends and social networks.