Here’s a story on how listening to the radio can improve your veterinary knowledge.

Last week I was listening to Dr. Nicholas Dodman (Tufts veterinary behaviorist and vet personality extraordinaire) on NPR. He was letting us all know how critical behavior is to the success of the human-animal bond.

And we all know that.

But did you also know that higher protein foods may be associated with aggression?

Somewhere in the back of my mind that issue had lodged as an old wives tale told by German Rottweiler breeders who fed varying amounts of protein based on the animal’s destination: household pet or protection provider. I never associated it with “science” until Dodman raised the issue last week on national radio.

Seems that some research has been done on this. In fact, the one study I found was out of Tufts…with Dodman’s name in the byline.

Published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) in 2000 (see reference below), it fed 33 dogs diagnosed with dominance aggression, territorial aggression and hyperactivity (11 dogs in each group) four different diets: high protein (30%), low protein (18%), low protein supplemented with the amino acid tryptophan and high-protein supplemented with tryptophan.

In both groups of aggressive dogs the aggression scores were significantly lower with both low protein and low protein with supplementation.

Now that I have a dog with territorial aggression (my Frenchie, Vincent) eating a 30%-plus diet of Solid Gold Barking at the Moon supplemented with beef hearts, chicken necks and random PK-specialty dishes (last night it was curried cauliflower, Moroccan-spiced lamb meatballs and tofu-tomato salad), low protein is NOT always on the menu.

So where was I when this data was passed around?

Back in 2000? Probably chasing a toddler around the house…knee deep in divorce proceedings. It’s no wonder this information never sunk in (even if I did read my JAVMA during this chaotic period in my life…which, I think I did).

Granted, this is only one study into the effects of dietary protein on behavior. But I’ll be changing Vincent’s diet for eight weeks nonetheless. Any new info on behavior issues deserves to get a trial run—especially when its short-run side effects are negligible.

This lower protein approach, combined with Vincent’s progress in his behavior modification therapy might mean no more Prozac (Reconcile) soon. And that’s a really good thing.

But the fact of my ignorance is what bothers me most. Sure, there’s no way anyone can stay on top of every study, every innovation or every recommendation in every field of medicine (that’s why we have specialists, isn’t it?) but it’s still a forehead-slapping moment when NPR can inform you of something you didn’t know in your very own field of practice.

Speaks volumes, don’t it?