Pet owners with anxious pooches and dogs with dementia could soon have an easy-to-feed, natural alternative to medicine thanks to a Newcastle start-up's collaboration with the CSIRO.
Carrington pet supplement company Bestie Kitchen worked with local holistic vet Dr Kathy Cornack to develop a range of nutraceutical formulations targeting chronic conditions like anxiety, cognitive decline, stress, immune system health oral health and more, in dogs.
Nutraceuticals is a broad umbrella term that is used to describe any product derived from food sources with extra health benefits in addition to the basic nutritional value found in foods.
Bestie Kitchen founder Amanda Falconer said she wanted to develop the nutraceuticals due to having two dogs older than 20.
"Our previous dog died at the age of 22, we watched him go through cognitive decline. Our current dog is 21," she said.
"Dogs are living longer just like us and they experience the things that we do. Dogs go through very similar cognitive decline that humans do.
"That's really what I set out to address."
However, just as COVID hit, they hit a brick wall in development.
"I was incredibly frustrated," Ms Falconer said. "I'd already worked with a compound chemist and run over 30 tests internally, but I found that I just couldn't solve a key formulation issue we had."
They needed research expertise, so Ms Falconer applied for CSIRO's Kick-start program, which provides funding support to start-ups and small businesses and access to CSIRO's research expertise and capabilities to help grow and develop their business.
Ms Falconer said they had developed nutraceuticals that can either be put into food or made up into a jelly but the CSIRO would help develop a gummy version, with trial products expected to be released in the next few months.
"Anybody who's had to give their dog pills knows about shoving them in food or putting them down their throat," Ms Falconer said.
"Actually getting them into the dog is typically an issue. I would have never got there on my own, so it's been great so far."
A Finnish study of 13,700 dogs found about 72 per cent had at least one sign of anxiety, while research from the American Veterinary Medical Association showed cognitive decline affected 28 per cent of dogs between 11 and 12 years, and more than two thirds of dogs over 15 years. Both conditions often go unrecognised.
Dog owner Angie Di Lorenzo has two dogs - both are seniors, and one gets anxious.
She took part in an early trial of the formulations and reported the older dog, Millie, is "noticeably less befuddled and happier".
"Plus she's not constantly looking for me, because she thinks I've moved to another room," Ms Di Lorenzo said.