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Q&A with Our Lead Veterinarian

Our lead veterinarian, Dr. RuthAnn Lobos brings almost two decades of experience in the pet food industry. Prior to her current role, she was responsible for directing global scientific programs and events for the Purina Institute, collaborating with veterinary and scientific thought leaders to promote and share research and knowledge about proven nutritional science to help pets live better, longer lives. Dr. RuthAnn continues to practice veterinary medicine in Boulder, Colorado, where she lives with her husband, son and their pup Finn. Outside of work, she is an avid marathoner and triathlete and can always be found training for her next race.

To give you the opportunity to get to know our lead veterinarian, we asked Dr. RuthAnn to answer a few questions about how she got into veterinary medicine, her pet nutrition philosophy and her first pet.

1. When did you know you wanted to be a veterinarian?

Since I was in the first grade. My mom still has a scrapbook from my elementary school years – for each new grade, there was a page for my school picture and fun memories from that point in my life: My favorite class was. . . My friends are. . .My favorite teacher is. . .and when I grow up I want to be. . .” It’s pretty telling to look back to my desired career path back in kindergarten – I wanted to be a cat when I grew up!

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Pictures of Dr. Ruth Ann Lobos at various ages

By first grade, I must have realized that it wasn’t really possible to become a cat, but I could surround myself with them by becoming a veterinarian. Starting with first grade, I noted that I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up and it stayed that way all the way through school. Every now and then, I would write that I wanted to be a teacher and a veterinarian (My mom and sister are both educators)—and with my role at Merrick, I get to do both of those jobs!

2. What’s the hardest thing about being a veterinarian?  

Not taking home ALL the puppies and kittens that come into the clinic! Puppy breath is the best and so irresistible.

3. The most enjoyable thing about being a veterinarian?  

Using my education as well as my medical and communication skills to enhance the relationship of pets and pet parents. It’s great to celebrate that bond and the positive health benefits it brings to both sides of the relationship.

4. What’s the craziest thing or client you’ve ever had to deal with?

I would say myself! It all goes back to the BEST DOG EVER: My chocolate Labrador named Drake. Drake was my soulmate. He was so sweet and smart—taught himself to get the newspaper from the end of the driveway and the remote control when we were too lazy to get it ourselves. I was convinced that he was too nice to fight off any disease and that I would lose him at an early age, so I was a complete “helicopter mom” with him. One day when I was out of town, my husband, Dean, called to tell me that Drake came back from a quick potty break with a really severe limp and he didn’t know why. I felt helpless, started hysterically crying and immediately thought the worst—the ONLY reasonable explanation was bone cancer – a very aggressive cancer with a very low survival rate, and I was going to lose him.

As I waited for an update, I scrolled through all the pictures of Drake on my phone and began wishing I had taken more. When I got the call back my veterinary friend, I couldn’t hear what she said over my uncontrollable sobbing – it was too hard to talk, and I just knew it was a terrible diagnosis. Since I couldn’t speak, she opted to follow up with a text to let me know that Drake has a broken toenail. Since she knows me and my hyper-paranoid tendencies, she took x-rays and did bloodwork, and everything came back normal. So, when a pet parent tells me that they are overprotective and overreactive to changes in their pets’ behavior, I totally get it – I can easily relate to them based on my own “mother bear” relationship with my pups!

5. Do you have a pet nutrition philosophy?  

Competing as a runner and triathlete, I know the impact quality nutrition can have on my performance during a workout or a race.  For our pets, who race around every day, the same philosophies apply. Protein is incredibly important for maintaining healthy muscles, hair coat and skin. It’s also important for the immune system—antibodies that fight off bacteria and viruses are all made from protein! Healthy fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals that serve as key components to numerous vital processes in the body.  

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Dr. Ruth Ann Lobos, dog and child

Since our pets rely on us to give them proper nutrition, it’s important that the kibble or wet recipe they eat delivers every macro- and micronutrient our pets need. This is a responsibility we take extremely seriously at Merrick, and we fulfill it across our entire line of complete and balanced recipes.  

6. Tell us about YOUR very first pet.

I welcomed the first pet of my own into my life when I was seven, a hamster named Bouncer. At that time, I was sharing a bedroom with my 12-year-old sister. Like most siblings, we often fought and there were times when a line of duct tape was needed to separate our bedroom into two sides so we wouldn’t “infect” the other’s territory or belongings. Enter Bouncer—a tan and white teddy bear hamster that knows no boundaries or sister-established borders. I’m sure you can see where this is headed, but I promise that I did my best to keep him contained. I used almost all my saved allowance to buy a very comfortable hamster home, an elaborate maze of zigzagging plastic tunnels and wheels for running, but he would manage to escape at least once (if not twice) a week!  

Despite my efforts to secure and re-secure every possible opening, he was like Houdini and could find a way out.  With every ill-timed escape (usually the middle of the night as hamsters are nocturnal), it seemed like there was a gravitational pull that would draw him over to my sister’s pillow. Bouncer would crawl across her pillow and sniff in her ear until she woke up in a terrified frenzy. I’d wake up to find him sitting on the edge of her bed and calmly grooming himself as if nothing was amiss. Of course, I would giggle uncontrollably about the “torment” he caused my older sister! Bouncer taught me a lot about the responsibilities of caring for a pet as well as the fact that engineering and construction were not in my professional future.

(To learn about Dr. RuthAnn’s first dog, watch the short video at the bottom of this post!)

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Pictures of a man and child and three dogs

 7. Favorite thing to do with your dogs?  

Hmmm, that’s a tough one if I just have to pick one! In Colorado, we’re fortunate enough to have a variety of off-leash trails to hike on and I love to let them run and explore and “be real dogs.” They usually wind up so exhausted – and so happy!

8. Where does your pup sleep?  

Even though I swore it would never happen, our pup Finn currently sleeps at the end of the bed with us. We are adding another puppy to the family soon, so we will have to wait and see where she ends up sleeping!

9. Do you feed “people” food to your dogs?  

For the most part, we avoid human food. But, with a preschooler at home, our dogs are occasionally the benefactors of food that is accidentally dropped from the table when we eat or counter when my son helps us prepare a meal.

It’s best to steer clear of human food in order to keep their GI system nice and happy. And within the Merrick family, there are so many great options for food and treats that are designed specifically for our pets. I’m finding that the Fresh Kisses dental treats are making our dog’s breath more kissable.

10. What excites you about working with Merrick?  

At Merrick, we have a team of experts that work tirelessly to formulate and produce the highest-quality and most nutritious food for dogs and cats. I’m excited to share these efforts with my veterinary colleagues and for the opportunity to help educate our pet parents about the science and research behind the benefits of quality nutrition for pets.

two dogs waiting for food

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