We’re proud to announce that Dr. James Templeman, PhD, has joined the Primal team as our Companion Animal Nutritionist! We sat down with James to discuss his career, what led him to Primal, and the contributions he’s made so far.
Q1. When did you first know you wanted to work with animals and what led you to a career in Companion Animal Nutrition?
I grew up on a small family farm in the interior of British Columbia, so I was immersed in a world of animals from as far back as I can remember. While we raised all sorts of livestock, I always gravitated towards our working dogs, and decided from a very young age that in some way, shape, or form, I would work with dogs when I grew up
Q2. What did you spend your time in school focusing your research and education on?
When I finished high school, I started my Bachelor’s degree in Animal Biology at the University of Guelph, in Southern Ontario. From the start of my undergraduate degree all the way throughout my PhD, nutrition was always at the forefront of my education.
I took my first broadscale nutrition course in my 2nd year of undergrad, and then proceeded to take 6 additional, more specialized nutrition and metabolism courses throughout the remainder of my BSc, including a 4th year course dedicated solely to the nutrition of dogs and cats.
Following my BSc, I began graduate school at Guelph where I took on a 2-year Master’s degree in Animal Nutrition. During the final semester of my MSc, our department hired a Companion Animal Nutritionist, Dr. Anna-Kate Shoveller, and she took me on as her first PhD student.
Over the next 4 years, I completed my PhD in Companion Animal Nutrition where my research was centered around protein and amino acid metabolism in dogs. The emphasis of my PhD research was investigating the effects of exercise and nutritional interventions on the metabolism, gut health, physical fitness, and behavior of sled dogs.
Following my PhD, I completed a 2-year Postdoctoral Fellowship. During this time, I shifted my research focus to that of mathematical models assessing protein quality and how these metrics may be applied practically in the pet food industry.
Q3. How is a PhD in Companion Animal Nutrition different than a veterinarian?
While there are similarities between a student who pursues a PhD in Companion Animal Nutrition and one who pursues a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree (both are stressed, exhausted, hungry, and broke for 4 years), there are considerable differences in their educational training.
While a DVM (veterinarian) student must learn both the theoretical and clinical aspects of animal health, as well as the pathogenesis, prevention, alleviation, and medical management of an exhaustive list of potential diseases/illnesses, a PhD student pursues their degree with a much more specialized research focus, such as protein and amino acid metabolism in dogs.
This by no means implies that DVM students are not educated/trained in nutrition, but rather that nutrition is just one of the many subjects they are expected to be clinically trained in.
Q4. What made you decide to pursue a career with Primal?
During the final year of my Postdoc, I was intent on stepping outside of my academic ‘comfort zone’ and gaining experience within the pet food industry. While researching for positions to apply for, I came across a position posted at Primal and following my very first interaction, I was all in.
Primal had everything I was looking for:
- Enthusiastic and ambitious employees
- The desire and support to be innovative
- Dedication to food safety and quality control
- Willingness to surround an already fantastic team with specialized and highly trained personnel
Q5. What was your first major project you took on once joining the Primal Team.
When I first began here at Primal, I was initially tasked with reviewing all our current formulas and exploring ways in which we can continue to produce diets that meet the nutritional needs of dogs and cats while upholding the quality and integrity Primal has established in our products.
As well, I wanted to ensure that we were incorporating findings from, and staying well informed about, the latest and most innovative research, particularly with regard to the novel products I had a hand in developing, such as our Gently Cooked line as well as our Freeze-Dried Raw Pronto recipes.
Q6. Can you tell us more about the benefits of having a puppy specific formula and adult specific formulas?
I want to start by saying that, when formulated appropriately, there is nothing wrong with feeding an all-life-stages diet to puppies/kittens and adults, as long as the pet parent is following the feeding guidelines correctly.
However, we decided to make this shift because:
- Life stage specific diets allow us to take a more precise approach to delivering the nutrients that are uniquely essential for growing animals and adults.
- By offering puppy diets, we make it easier for pet parents to find the optimal nutrition they need for larger breed puppies.
- When diets are formulated for a pet's life stage, the feeding instructions are easier for pet parents to follow.
Q7. How did you adjust the recipes to make them ideal for puppies and adults vs all life stages
Our puppy and adult diets will share many similarities and will be formulated using the many of the same high-quality, fresh ingredients as the current all-life-stage recipes. However, it is important to note that growing puppies have different nutrient requirements than adults.
For example, growing puppies have greater requirements for micronutrients such as copper, manganese, and zinc, so you may see ingredients such as our nutrient-enriched dried yeast further up in the ingredients on the puppy diets than on the adult diets.
As well, growing dogs (particularly growing large breed dogs) have very stringent requirements for calcium and phosphorus, so the puppy diets are optimized to contain the appropriate amounts and ratios of these nutrients.
Finally, one other noteworthy component of our puppy formulas is the addition or increased inclusion of ingredients like salmon or marine-based oils that supply the specific fatty acids, such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are critical for optimal cognitive/neural development of growing puppies.
Q8. Can you tell us a little bit about your animals at home and how you like to spend your time?
My wife Rachel (a veterinarian pursuing a surgical residency program) and I live in Guelph with our three cats, Hubert, Harper, and Cy. All three are rescues from a rural community outside of Guelph, with the latter being our most recent foster-failure.
While I was born a dog person, Rachel has very successfully converted me into a cat person, and now I spend my days working from home with all three of our cats usually sleeping within arm’s reach, only waking to stroll in front of my camera during meetings.
When I am not working, I’m either on a soccer field, in a gym, or relaxing in our backyard with Rach and the cats (probably thinking up names for our future dog).