WALTHAM science

Learn more about some of the most important advances in pet health.

Nutrition 

Our scientific heritage is grounded in pushing the boundaries of understanding pet nutrition. Our research focuses on finding the optimal balance between nutrients that can allow both cats and dogs to thrive at any moment in their lives.

Research highlights

cat nutrition  science page

Our researchers investigated safe levels of phosphorus and the importance of its source when included in cats' diets.

dog nutrition science page

Our research has increased our understanding of how dogs handle dietary calcium, establishing a new safe upper limit for this essential mineral in adult dogs' diets.

cat playing at home nutrition page

The first diet for cats to help control the formation of both types of bladder stones, struvite and calcium oxalate.

Prof. Anne Marie Bakke is one of our nutrition experts at WALTHAM. She joined us from an academic position at Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, NMBU in Oslo. 

"For over 20 years, I used WALTHAM research papers when teaching as I recognised their consistently high scientific and ethical standards, so joining their research team was a logical career move for me. Today, I am leading studies that have the potential to improve the lives of billions of pets across the world. How amazing is that? Our work on phosphorus is a fantastic example of this."

Prof. Anne Marie Bakke

dog and woman science

Biomarkers & microbiome

Biomarkers are indirect measures associated with a particular condition or trait. Blood, saliva or urine samples could predict the likelihood of a pet developing a life-threatening disease in the future. They could also flag a developing health problem at a moment when it's usually very difficult for veterinarians to spot. Our scientists are conducting trials and combing through vast databases to hunt out these small but mighty measures. These subtle changes that flag differences in a pet’s physiology, biochemistry, genetics or microbiome underpin new diagnostic approaches, advancing preventive pet health.

Research highlights 

cat checkup science page

A new AI-driven tool can now predict if a cat will develop chronic kidney disease two years ahead of clinical diagnosis.

puppy biomarkers science page

The first-of-its-kind study to identify the changes in puppies' gut microbiome during their first few weeks of life. These insights can help support puppies' health and wellbeing as they grow, develop and change environments.

bio kittens

We demonstrated that the diet fed to kittens influences their gut microbiome and its potential function. Understanding the short, or long term, implications of these early differences may help shape health later in life.

"Since so much is still unknown about the complex, interconnected community of the gut microbiome, the biggest challenge is asking the right research questions that give us clear answers. This is really important for the health of our pets as we build our knowledge about this hidden, but critical population." 

David Wrigglesworth, Senior Research Scientist

david wrigglesworth science page

Human-animal interaction

Researchers have been investigating the mechanisms defining the human-animal bond for over 30 years. We are enabling robust studies that shed light on this relationship, so we can better understand when and where people and pets can benefit from these interactions. Our research partners are exploring how pets could help children with disabilities, students in classrooms, reduce anxiety and loneliness or help improve our social connections.

Research highlights

girl riding horse science page

The first known study to examine and show the longer-term effects of therapeutic horseback riding for children with autism spectrum disorder.

woman papers dog science page

Animal-assisted stress intervention may help university students at high risk of academic stress and failure to concentrate, learn and remember information, feel relaxed and accepted.

woman petting puppy science page

Our partnership with the National Institutes of Health has provided over $15M of funding across 35 projects.

"It’s important that we have a better understanding of the human-animal bond, and establishing an evidence base about how, when and under what circumstances to put pets and people together in a way that is safe and beneficial to both species."

Dr. Darren Logan, Head of Research

Darren Logan Science Page

Healthy body weight

Being at a healthy body weight is important for a pet's health and quality of life. Overweight or obese pets are more prone to developing a number of diseases and health conditions, and can have a shorter lifespan. We're working hard to make a positive impact on the growing issue of pet obesity, uncovering scientific insights to empower pet owners and veterinary professionals with the knowledge and tools to keep pets in healthy body condition at all stages of their lives.

Research highlights 

dog eating science page

In collaboration with the University of Liverpool, we discovered that overweight dogs are more likely to have shorter lives than those at a normal body weight.

Growth Chart Science Page

Our Puppy Growth Charts, based on measurements from millions of healthy puppies' body weights, were launched for veterinary professionals and owners.

kitten playing science page

We found that neutering increases the risk of kittens gaining weight, which means their weight needs to be closely monitored and their diet adjusted after this intervention.

"We know a lot about the causes of pet obesity, however, we have not made progress in stemming the increase in the number of overweight pets. To address this significant challenge will require all of us to think and act differently. That's why Mars and WALTHAM have put pet obesity at the top of our agenda and launching new initiatives to support this problem."

Dr. Richard Butterwick, Global Nutrition Advisor

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Welfare & behaviour

Improving and understanding how we can support the health of our pets is an important way in which we can deliver on our Purpose: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS. But it doesn't stop there. We are also advancing our knowledge as to what we can do to improve their welfare and understand their behaviour - the only way in which animals can communicate with us. It is our responsibility to listen to and understand what they are telling us, so we can build stronger human-animal bonds for everyone.

Research highlights

Happy dog science page

With our partners at Eotvos Lorand University, we found for the first time that puppies can learn by watching other dogs or people. These findings can help improve dog training programmes.

Welfare fish Science Page

Stress Coat®, a water conditioner product, may improve the welfare of ornamental fish during transport.

Puppy welfare science

Puppies as young as 8 weeks learn about new situations from human emotional cues. This gives them an advantage over trial and error learning.


"One aspect of my role is to develop innovative approaches to measure pet food preference and improve pet wellbeing with my team. I am proud to be contributing to our Purpose: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS by applying my expertise in animal behaviour."

Dr Tammie King, Applied Behaviour Team Leader

Tammie King science

Genetics

There is so much information coded in DNA. We can use this to understand the microbiome and ask questions like - which bacteria live in the intestines of our pets? How do they change with different diets? We can also use genetics to find out about what lies in their own DNA, such as a pet’s breed ancestry. Pets' DNA can also reveal genetic biomarkers that may be associated to certain diseases. Understanding all these different elements can help veterinarians and pet owners provide the best care for their pets.

Research highlights

dog size comparison science

Dogs are one of the most diverse animal species on earth from Whippets to Newfoundlands, Chihuahuas to Great Danes. We helped identify the gene that defines dogs' size.

Dog breed differences science

We identified the genetic markers linked to the physical traits of dog breeds, such as size and body shape, and potentially some behaviours.

puppy and kitten science

We've published over 50 bacterial genomes to date, allowing us to build on existing knowledge and insights and accelerate microbiome research.

"I focus on untangling the huge genetic code data sets that are generated by the research teams. I love exploring what we can find out from DNA, but the exciting part is knowing that my work has the potential to help pets all around the world."

Dr. Zoe Lonsdale, Bioinformatician

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Data science

We can ask the right questions and open up new research paths to preventive pet health thanks to data from the millions of pets benefitting from our pet care services and products.

Research highlights

lifespan infographic science

Data from over 50,000 dogs of 12 popular dogs breeds revealed that overweight pets were more likely to have shorter lives than those at an ideal body weight

biomarker pet information science

Data from over 750,000 visits and 150,000 cats were used to develop a new AI-driven diagnostic tool that can predict chronic kidney disease in cats two years ahead of clinical diagnosis.

Puppy Growth Chart Science

20 million body weight measures at different ages from 4 million dogs enabled us to create Puppy Growth Charts for tracking healthy growth for five size groups and both sexes.

"As a data scientist, I look for challenges where the solution can bring value to pets across the globe. Often these are complex and require vast data sets to answer. As part of a large pet care business means that we have the expertise to understand a problem, the data to investigate it and the potential to address it."

Ciaran O'Flynn, Data Science Research Manager

ciaran oflynn science

Sensory science

Understanding the smells and tastes that appeal to our pets is challenging, since they can't communicate their experiences directly to us. Our researchers are using innovative ways to measure a pet's appreciation of different aromas and flavours. Coupled with laboratory-based food chemistry and advanced genetic approaches, we are focused on improving the palatability of pet food, even for the fussiest of eaters.

Research highlights

cat playing science

We discovered that cats can't taste sugar, because they lack the sweet taste receptor in their mouths.

dog looking science

We showed that dogs have evolved a unique combination of smell receptors in their noses, tuned to the most important aromas in their environment.

puppies eating science

We found that sterilisation of pet food – necessary to make it safe for eating – can generate many new flavours, some of which are palatable for pets.

"Flavour preferences in pets can be really different to people. This means we can't apply a lot of the learnings from studies on people and, of course, animals can't talk. It all makes leading my team in this area full of different and unusual research challenges. I love that. It makes the successes feel even sweeter.”

Dr. Scott McGrane - Research Manager

Research Manager science