Tuesday 23 January 2018

Nutritionist says to feed your pet artisan foods and they won't get dog tired again

A satisfied customer
A satisfied customer
Dr Conor Brady

Tom Prendeville

YEARS ago natural artisan foods was the preserve of hippies and trendy continentals. Now, however, it is a billion-dollar industry.

In the intervening years Ireland has become world famous for its wholesome artisan food; indeed our vast food exports are now helping the country to rapidly recover.

Food producer and nutrition expert Dr Conor Brady has decided to tap into a new market altogether; nutritious artisan foods for Europe's estimated 150 million dogs and cats.

During his youth Dr Brady spent many years working in animal shelters.

He later obtained a doctorate in the effects of nutrition on the gut and behaviour of mammals and in 2009 went to Australia where he worked as a trainer and pup supervisor with the guide dogs.

However, it was his experience looking after animals that led him into the food business. He noticed that the dogs in his care were in poor health despite being well fed.

He later realised the cause of their lacklustre coats, obesity and other conditions was due to the highly processed food they were eating.

After experimenting creating healthy cereal-free, meat-based meals for his dogs, he realised that there was a massive market in artisan foods aimed at pet owners who love their dogs and cats.

Dr Brady continues the story: "I came up with the idea while working with guide dogs in Australia.

"I noticed a huge amount of the working dogs in Australia suffered terribly from allergies and were on high-dose medications.

"This is obviously not ideal and as my background is in nutrition, I found by taking sick dogs off dry, processed food and putting them on a more natural fresh meat diet that it worked wonders."

In or around the same time Dr Brady was suffering constantly from blocked sinuses which left him bunged up all the time.

A friend talked him into going for a food allergy test and to his surprise he was diagnosed as being intolerant of gluten; which meant that beer and cakes and bread was off the menu for good.

"This got me thinking; if I couldn't digest gluten and it was causing me a whole host of problems, how are dogs that are living on it doing? In short, not so well at all! I later did some tests, and got some extremely interesting results."

He started feeding dogs in his care natural food and the transformation in their health and wellbeing was profound.

However, there was a fly in the ointment. Despite a new diet of healthy fresh food which made it easier to train the guide dogs and saved a fortune in vet bills, he could not get the organisations to adopt his simple remedy.

"They were bound to the cash donations of large dry food companies. So I gave them an ultimatum, me or the dry food. They chose the dry food. I ran away in a flood of tears and became a research hermit for three years," explains Dr Brady.

However, his years in the wilderness did not go to waste, he emerged with one of the first science reference manuals on fresh canine nutrition for vets, and began conducting seminars for canine professionals before returning home to Ireland.

"I noticed there wasn't a decent fresh dog food product available, so I started trading in 2011 making natural ready-made meals of fresh chicken, duck and salmon with steam- ed veg and herbs.

"Despite the downturn, business took off and we are now booming."

His Wicklow-based online dog food company, Dogs First Ltd, cuts out the retail middleman and ships produce free of charge anywhere in Ireland within 24 hours.

Flushed with success, the company is now planning on becoming the Ballymaloe of pre-prepared dog pet meals with their Gráw Dog Food range.

"The market for pet food is huge; in Ireland there are over 800,000 dogs and in the UK the figure is about eight million. In the UK alone the dog and cat food business is worth over £2bn sterling a year. Our plan now is to start exporting as soon as possible."

"We recently had to move to a larger purpose-built premises in Co Dublin which will open at the end of June. The move has temporarily interrupted our business; so you could say that we have been a victim of our own success," added Dr Brady.

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