MISSION

Meet the science team

Dr. Justin Shmalberg

Chief Scientific and Medical Officer

Dr. Shmalberg is one of fewer than 100 Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionists in the US, as well as a clinical associate professor at a leading veterinary college. He guides Nom Nom in all recipe formulation and advises on pet nutrition. Always an advocate for better nutrition = better health, Justin decided to go to veterinary school for the well-being of his dog Liberty, and all dogs.

Dr. Ryan Honaker

Director of Microbiology

An expert in microbiome manipulation, infection therapeutics, and microbial community profiling, Dr. Honaker holds a PhD from the University of Colorado at Denver, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Dept. of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University.

Dr. Caitlyn Getty

Scientific Affairs Veterinarian

Dr. Getty is a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist and scientist, serving as Nom Nom's Scientific Affairs Veterinarian. Earning her BS in Animal Science, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she went on to complete her Residency and Fellowship in Small Animal Clinical Nutrition at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Experienced in both pet illness and nutrition optimization, Dr. Getty brings a deep, holistic understanding of better health at the bowl.

Dr. Roshonda Jones

Senior Bioinformatics Scientist

Roshonda received her PhD in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, continuing her postdoctoral training at University of Southern California and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. As a trained expert in the gut microbiome, Roshanda’s research focuses on using statistics and informatics to pinpoint the effects of diet on the microbiome as it relates to obesity across both humans and their pets.

Dr. Boo Boo Tanprasertsuk

Scientist

Boo Boo received his PhD in Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition at Tufts University where his research focused on the relationship between nutrition and cognitive health in older adults. At Nom Nom, he is very excited to expand the scope of the investigation to dogs and cats, including nutrition's roles in health maintenance and disease prevention.

Dr. Matt Brooks

Small Animal Nutritionist

Dr. Brooks earned his MS in Nutrition at Texas A&M studying fat metabolism. He then earned his PhD in protein and carbohydrate digestion and microbial efficiency in cattle and deer from the University of Missouri – Columbia. He followed this up with a postdoctoral fellowship at NC State University working with trace mineral ingredients in animal feed. He is an expert in comparative animal nutrition that has worked with both domesticated and zoo animals across the country. He is committed to the continued improvement of animal health and well-being through nutritional understanding.

LeeAnn Perry

Bioinformatics Analyst

LeeAnn received her BA in Molecular Biology from Washington University in St. Louis and her MSc in Neuroscience from Stanford University. She uses statistical and machine learning approaches to uncover insights about pets and their diets.

Devon Tate

Associate Scientist

Devon received her BA in Chemistry from Goucher College and her Masters in Nutrition Science and Policy from Tufts University, where she engaged in public health research examining the role of nutrition in health promotion. Here at Nom Nom, she is enthusiastic about bringing her experience and passion for nutrition education to the pet world, and helping to discover new insights about pet health.

ASHLEY SIPE

PET HEALTH AND RESEARCH ADVOCATE

Passionate about improving the lives of pets through excellent nutrition and compassionate care, Ashley Sipe earned her BA in Zoology from Michigan State University. As a former small business owner with years of experience caring for both pets and animals in zoos and aquariums, Ashley’s distinct professional background supports our research team at all levels, specifically research logistics, customer experience and scientific collaboration.

PUBLICATIONS

We believe in the work we’re doing, and that it is scientifically sound and beneficial to the field of pet health in general and not just our customers. Which is why we publish the results of our studies in preprints and open-access peer-reviewed journals. Here’s what we’ve done so far as well as what’s coming soon:

Published

  • Longitudinal fecal microbiome and metabolite data demonstrate rapid shifts and subsequent stabilization after an abrupt dietary change in healthy adult dogs

    Lin CY., Jha A.R., Oba P. M., Yotis S.M., Shmalberg J., Honaker R.W., Swanson K.S. Longitudinal fecal microbiome and metabolite data demonstrate rapid shifts and subsequent stabilization after an abrupt dietary change in healthy adult dogs. Animal Microbiome, 4, 46 (2022)

    In this study the gut microbiome and metabolite profiles of healthy adult dogs were monitored for two weeks following a diet change to either a high-fiber or protein-rich diet. The diversity and composition of the microbiome were found to shift within days of a diet change, stabilizing around day six. Likewise metabolite profiles were found to dramatically change and stabilize within only a few days following a diet change. The findings also indicate functional changes in the gut microbiome resulted from a diet change. Key microbe-metabolite relationships were also identified that were unique to the high-fiber and protein-rich diets.
    While we know that diet change results in changes in the gastrointestinal environment of dogs, how quickly these changes occur and stabilize had previously not been well studied. This study highlights that drastic changes occur within days of diet change, stabilize well within a two-week time frame, and are unique to diet type.
  • Roles of plant-based ingredients and phytonutrients in canine nutrition and health

    Tanprasertsuk, J., Tat, D.E., Shmalberg, J. Lin CY., Jha A.R., Oba P. M., Yotis S.M., Shmalberg J., Honaker R.W., Swanson K.S. Roles of plant-based ingredients and phytonutrients in canine nutrition and health. J Anim Physiol Nutr (Berl), 2022 May;106(3):586-613.

    This review article examines current published evidence on the relationship between consumption of plant-based foods and phytonutrients (such as plant-derived fibers, carotenoids, flavonoids) and biomarkers of canine health and diseases. We also highlight current research gaps in existing studies and provide future research directions to better understand the impact of incorporating plant-based ingredients in canine diets.
    Many consumers don't understand the benefit of vegetables and plant-based ingredients in dog food. This review highlights the nutritional and health benefits of including these ingredients as a part of a balanced canine diet.
  • Apparent total tract nutrient digestibility and metabolizable energy estimation in commercial fresh and extruded dry kibble dog foods

    Tanprasertsuk J, Perry LM, Tate DE, Honaker RW, Shmalberg J (2021) Apparent total tract nutrient digestibility and metabolizable energy estimation in commercial fresh and extruded dry kibble dog foods, Translational Animal Science, Volume 5, Issue 3, txab071
    We demonstrated that the digestibility (apparent total tract digestibility of dry matter, protein, fat, nitrogen-free extract, and calories) of a kibble diet with a comparable macronutrient profile was significantly lower than Nom Nom’s fresh diets. The results also suggest that canine fresh diets should be assessed using calculations similar to those used in human nutrition (standard Atwater factors).
    While commercial fresh diets are rapidly gaining in popularity, there is a somewhat limited understanding of their digestibility and metabolizable energy, both of which are crucial measures when planning a diet regime. Our findings expand the knowledge on these two measures for Nom Nom fresh food and others similar to it.
  • The microbiota of healthy dogs demonstrates individualized responses to synbiotic supplementation in a randomized controlled trial

    Tanprasertsuk, J., Jha, A.R., Shmalberg, J. et al. The microbiota of healthy dogs demonstrates individualized responses to synbiotic supplementation in a randomized controlled trial. anim microbiome 3, 36 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42523-021-00098-0
    This study demonstrates the ability of our Nom Nom Full Spectrum Probiotics for Dogs to impact the gut microbiome of healthy pet dogs. We found a significant enrichment of probiotic strains, among other beneficial bacteria, after four weeks of probiotic use. Interestingly, the magnitude of microbial shift was also associated with the composition of the gut microbiome before beginning the study, and the gut microbiome also largely returned to baseline two weeks after stopping the probiotics. Dogs given the probiotics also tended to have lower diarrhea incidence, which we talk about more in-depth here.
    The role of probiotics in health maintenance and the effect on healthy dogs is poorly understood, and these findings advance our knowledge. Also, we observed that the magnitude of response to the supplement was associated with microbial profile at baseline. To our knowledge, this is the first study documenting such an effect in companion dogs, and increased understanding of this will help pave the way for more personalized treatments for all pets.
  • Heterogeneity of gut microbial responses in healthy household dogs transitioning from an extruded to a mildly cooked diet

    Tanprasertsuk J, Shmalberg J, Maughan H, Tate DE, Perry LM, Jha AR, Honaker RW. (2021) Heterogeneity of gut microbial responses in healthy household dogs transitioning from an extruded to a mildly cooked diet. PeerJ 9:e11648 
    In this study, healthy dogs were switched from various brands of kibble to Nom Nom’s fresh diet for four weeks. Pet parents all reported either improvement or no change in health, and the diet change led to a significant shift in the gut microbial composition. Interestingly, the magnitude of the microbial shift was associated with baseline gut microbiota as well as baseline dietary protein content.
    The gut microbiota is associated with canine health in numerous ways, and can be heavily affected by diet. Fresh diets have become increasingly popular in the U.S. but their impact on the microbiome and overall health remains largely unknown. Our findings help lay the groundwork for an understanding of both, and may provide a basis for personalized nutrition in pet dogs.

Preprint

  • Risk factors associated with canine overweightness and obesity in an owner-reported survey

    Perry LM, Shmalberg J, Tanprasertsuk J, Massey D, Honaker RW, Jha AR (2020) Risk factors associated with canine overweightness and obesity in an owner-reported survey. bioRxiv 2020.01.06.896399
    In one of the largest and most detailed studies of its kind, we found that feeding kibble, alone or in combination with other types of food, was a risk factor for canine overweightness. We also identified feeding fresh food, limiting treats, and supplementing with probiotics as potential protective practices.
    Obesity is a growing problem in companion dogs, with one-third of dogs reported to be overweight and 8% of dogs reported to be clinically obese. Proactively identifying dogs at risk for weight issues and implementing lifestyle changes can prevent overweightness and obesity, and improve overall health.

Conferences

We believe it’s important to play an active role in the research community and keep current on the progress of all fields to which we contribute. Here are some things that we’re up to:

2022

Animal Health, Nutrition, and Technology Innovation

February 2022

Ryan chaired a panel

5th Microbiome Connect: Animal

May 2022

Boo Boo chaired the companion animal track and gave a talk titled "Developing microbiome products with the direct-to-consumer approach"

9th Microbiome & 6th Probiotics R&D & Business Collaboration

March 29-30th, 2022

Devon presented a poster titled "A randomized controlled trial to evalulate impact of a novel probiotic and nutraceutical formulation of symptoms of canine atopic dermatitis (CAD) in privately-owned dogs"

AAVN's 22nd Annual Clinical Nutrition and Research Symposium

June 21-22nd, Austin TX

American College of Internal Veterinary Medicine Forum

June 23-25th, Austin TX

Annual American Society of Animal Science

June 27-30th 2022

Matt's work on feeding zoo carnivores was presented by his co-author

Comparative Animal Nutrition Symposium

July 31st-Aug 5th, Salt Lake City, UT

Matt attended as BOD member - secretary

7th Annual Translational Microbiome Conference

April 13-14th 2022 Washington DC

2021

Animal Microbiome Congress

March 2021
From mouth to gut - Improving pet health by microbiomes modulation

Petfood Forum

September 2021
Fresh/human-grade pet food research and executive roundtable: Why digestibility, the microbiome and other factors differ

4th Animal Gut Health & Nutrition Summit

October 2021
What Lessons Have Companies Learnt from Commercializing Their Products?

2020

Petfood Forum 2020

Justin and Ryan gave a presentation titled “A Path to Personalization: A Direct-to-Consumer Scientific Experience”

Animal Microbiome and Nutritional Health Congress

Aashish gave a talk titled “Developing Insights on Health, Disease and Products from Companion Animal Microbiomes Using Shotgun Metagenomics and Direct to Consumer Tests”

Nutrition 2020

Boo Boo presented our work on the effect of our probiotics on the gut microbiome and health outcomes in healthy dogs

Gates Foundation Microbiome Meeting

Aashish attended to stay updated on the newest science in the microbiome research field

Microbiome Movement: Drug Development Europe

Ryan attended the conference and learned about the best ways to turn microbiome insights into products for pet parents

2019

The 36th Annual International Canine Sports Medicine Symposium

Justin talked about the nutritional needs of working and sporting dogs

Microbiome Movement: Animal Health and Nutrition

Boo Boo attended the conference to stay updated on the newest science on animal health and nutrition

Petfood Forum Europe

Justin and Ryan discussed Nom Nom’s approach to data and science

The 4th Annual Microbiome Summit

Aashish and LeeAnn presented our work on the characterization of gut microbiome in household pets in the USA

Animal Microbiome Congress Europe

Ryan talked about the exciting things in the microbiome sphere and how Nom Nom contributes the advancement of science

Outreach and Education

We’re excited about what we’re discovering and developing at Nom Nom. We love to talk about it, and people are listening. Here is a sampling of invited talks, podcasts, press, and other buzz.

Interview with Nom Nom’s Chief Nutrition Officer, Dr. Justin Shmalberg.

Justin talked about the nutritional needs of working and sporting dogs

Molecules, Microbes, and Multiomics Podcast, DNA Genotek (8/2020)

Driving Microbiome Science to Improve Animal Nutrition and Quality of Life (sponsored by DNA Genotek)

Research partnerships

Are you a veterinarian, pet health company, or research team? Do you have a microbiome project you’re interested in running? Have a product you’d like to see tested? We’re always looking to improve pet health and we love collaboration. Drop us a line at research@nomnomnow.com.

We have some ongoing partnerships with groups that share our passion. Here’s who we’re currently working with:

Diversigen

We utilize Diversigen’s cutting-edge metagenomic sequencing techniques for every sample. This partnership provides accurate and in-depth customer-facing microbiome profiling, powers our pet health-focused microbiome studies, and drives our product development and validation.

Current products

Research Areas

Obesity

    Overweightness and obesity affect 34% of dogs and 35% of cats in the US. Obese pets are more likely to suffer from a wide variety of health issues as well as have shorter lifespans. We are using cutting-edge knowledge to combat this public health problem full on.

    • Developed a proprietary algorithm to calculate your pet’s meal portion and required calories based on their physical activity level and target weight
    • Generated a free obesity report explaining risk factors based on analysis of epidemiological data, personalized based on your pet
    • Performed a research study investigating risk factors of canine overweightness and obesity
    • Overviewed the general calorie needs of household dogs
    • Compiled everything you need to know about weight management
    • Analysis of microbiome differences between obese and healthy weight pets to determine how we can better understand risk and mitigate obesity
    • Develop a novel product to aid in weight loss and healthy weight maintenance

Aging

    While the risk of developing many chronic diseases increases as your pets age, optimal nutrition can play a significant role in decreasing such risk throughout their lifespan. We promote healthy aging through nutrition science to ensure your pets enjoy the best lives they 100% deserve.

    • Compiled everything you need to know about senior pet care
    • Product development aiming to support healthy aging in senior pets

GI issues

    Gastrointestinal issues, including diarrhea and vomiting, are common health issues. Gut dysbiosis, or an imbalance of gut microbiota, can be an underlying cause of these issues in many pets. In many cases probiotics and prebiotics may help restore a healthy gut microbiota and alleviate GI symptoms. However, a more intensive treatment may be needed in more severe cases.

    • Novel product and clinical trial to improve chronic GI issues

Allergies

    Our customers place allergies at the top spot of their most concerning medical conditions for their pets. Some common manifestations of allergy include atopic dermatitis, which is characterized by pruritus, skin irritation, and inflammation. We’ve been especially interested in skin allergies, and how certain ingredients and probiotics may be beneficial via different modes of action in treatment of symptoms.

    • Compilation of ingredients for skin allergies in dogs
    • Compilation of breed specific skin allergies
    • A research study assessing the efficacy of our novel formula on alleviating the skin allergic symptoms
    • Novel product based on the results of our research study

Behavior

    From why dogs eat grass to how cats show their love, we are always curious why your pets behave the way they do. However, what we’re most interested in are things that may cause your pet’s undesirable behaviors, such as aggression, anxiety, or sudden behavioral changes, and how we can help them. Emerging evidence demonstrates the connection between the gut microbiome and the brain, as well as the efficacy of several probiotics and nutraceuticals that may benefit your pet’s central nervous system and keep them healthier and happier.

    • Analyze our existing data and develop a study and products to address these issues.
    • Research plan under development

Joint issues

    Joint issues in all their forms are common health issues. Osteoarthritis, which causes lameness and disability in our pets and people, is the most prevalent musculoskeletal disorder in dogs and affects ~20% of all dogs over one year of age. We are working hard to tackle these serious issues.

    • Generated a free, personalized joint health report explaining risk factors based on analyzing epidemiological data
    • Compilation of dietary supplements for joint health in dogs
    • Reformulation and release of our previous joint product in an improved form

Dental health

    Dental health is extremely important for our companions’ overall health and wellbeing. Dental issues, especially periodontal disease, are widely prevalent among pets, with at least 80% of dogs and 70% of cats suffering from some stage of the disease. In fact, periodontal disease is estimated to be one of the most widespread inflammatory diseases diagnosed in pets today. We also know that dental disease can negatively shift the bacterial species in your pet’s mouth, and new research is showing that appropriate dental chews may benefit the oral microbiota of dogs.

    • Analysis of dental health and periodontal disease in pets
    • Overviewed common misconceptions about dental health
    • Developed a guide to dental treats for dogs
    • Continue to analyze risk factors for periodontal disease and develop a personalized report

Gut microbiome insights

    We’re constantly striving to better understand how the microbiome differs between individuals so we can develop better ways to describe, assess, and prevent health issues, as well as develop new, more effective products. Here are a few things we’re curious about.

  • Dog size/breed Are there microbiome differences between different breeds? Or between pets of different sizes? Increasing our understanding of this will help us provide more interesting and personalized comparisons for our microbiome sequencing reports
  • Diet and probiotics We are continually examining the effect of diet and probiotics on the gut microbiota of your pets. Our recent studies demonstrate the benefits of a fresh diet and simple habits like taking a scoop of probiotics daily
  • Healthy pets Using our extensive health assessments to define a generally healthy subset of pets, we’re trying to understand the composition and function of a healthy microbiome. This will enable us to better understand and identify when things aren’t right and design solutions to help make them better

Additional product development

    There are substantial scientific reasons to believe that some classes of nutrients and supplements have positive effects. Here are a few additional products that we’re researching.

  • Fish oil and fatty acids Not all fats are created equal, and we’re here to help you understand the science behind them. Fatty acids have demonstrated benefits in a wide variety of ways, and certain cats and dogs may have a higher requirement for omega-3 fatty acids than usual. We’re making sure we understand the science and can provide the best and highest quality product
  • Fiber You may be surprised to learn that fibers are not only good for pet parents, but dogs and cats can benefit from eating fiber too! We are developing a proprietary blend of fibers to support your pet’s overall health
  • Current probiotic updates under development
    • Chews and pills: our same potent products in a fun and easy to give chew form or an easy to swallow pill
    • Enhanced palatability: making our same high-quality formulations even easier to take
You can keep up with what we’re up to on our R&D blog

Data and Methods at Nom Nom

Our scientific breakthroughs are made possible by the data we collect and the methods we use to analyze them. At Nom Nom, the way we collect, process, integrate, and analyze our data distinguishes us from others in academia and industry spaces and enables us to make discoveries impossible with more conventional methods. Take a peek into our unique proprietary database, and see the results in action. Read More