About Narelle Cooke
Clinical Nutritionist, Naturopath and Herbalist Narelle Cooke is one person in the nutrition space that we absolutely love!
If there is a deep dive to be done on a particular topic, you can bet your bottom dollar that Narelle is all over it. We love her dedication, thirst for knowledge and beyond proud that she chooses Antinol for her 7 strong pack!
This is her story.
Who is Narelle Cooke? Tell us about yourself, where you are from, your experience, and how your journey into natural health and nutrition began?
What a massive question! Not sure where to begin, but let’s see…. I’m originally from Melbourne but spent a large part of my childhood in the Western District of Victoria. My extended family are wool and wheat growers, so I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time on their farm as I was growing up. I had always planned on becoming a vet, but my work experience put an end to that dream when I kept fainting during the surgeries I was observing! But as luck would have it, I was offered a 4-year Cadetship by the University of Melbourne to study Agricultural Science (the Cadetship meant that they paid me to go to Uni, guaranteed me a job for 4 years upon graduation at a research facility of my choosing, and my 4 years of Uni counted towards my long service leave – yay!!). Studying Agricultural Science, the plan was to become an animal geneticist, but I ended up majoring in microbiology and plant pathology. I then went on to work as a research pathologist for 10 years with the Victorian Department of Agriculture – which I loved.
But during this time, I had always been passionate about dogs – I don’t think there’s been a time in my life when I haven’t had at least one dog. I was also very involved in, and passionate about, dog training, so I decided to take the leap and quit my research job to become a full-time dog trainer after completing the National Dog Trainers Federation certification course in dog behaviour and training.
It only took a couple of years as a professional trainer for me to realise that I hated being outside in the weather every day, and so I put dog training
back into the hobby category and resumed a desk job as a Regulatory Affairs Associate for a global agrochemical and pharmaceutical company. But as it turned out, getting chemicals registered for use on our food crops didn’t sit well with my own personal beliefs around health and diet, so I started studying natural medicine part-time whilst still working full-time. And because I’m impatient, I enrolled in three Advanced Diplomas and completed them concurrently (an Advanced Diploma in Naturopathy, an Advanced Diploma in Nutritional Medicine and an Advanced Diploma in Western Herbal Medicine).
Once I had my qualifications, I opened my own clinical practice seeing human clients (by this time I had moved to Sydney), but because of changing industry standards, I then went back to university to complete a Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy) part-time while continuing to run my practice (lol – I feel exhausted just writing all of that!).
So that’s a super quick snapshot of my life and how I got into natural medicine!
You have two businesses, and an awesome podcast. Can you tell us about each of your businesses, what they provide and what inspired you to start them?
I first established my naturopathic clinical practice in Sydney in 2014 called Natural Health and Nutrition, where I was seeing human clients. I really loved the one-one-one consults with my clients, but after a couple of years, I started to get more and more questions from my human clients asking what they could do to help their dog’s particular health problems.
Given that I currently have 3 French Bulldogs, 2 German Shepherds, 1 Rottweiler and a Burmese cat, I have always applied my human naturopathic knowledge to my own pets, so I was already quite comfortable in answering many of their questions.
Then it so happened that one of my French Bulldogs became quite sick with a physical ailment and when I went looking for treatments to help her, I became increasingly disappointed and frustrated with the quality of many of the animal products available on the market, finding that they often contained vague or inferior ingredients along with artificial colours, flavours and preservatives, which are simply not in the best interest of our pets overall health and longevity, especially when they’re already suffering.
It had also become apparent to me that my clients’ pets were suffering from many of the same lifestyle diseases as us – allergies and food intolerances, overweight and obesity, kidney and liver disease, stress and anxiety, osteoarthritis, dermatitis, reduced immune function and even cancer. But unlike the human treatments available, I found that high quality holistic approaches for dog health were severely lacking, and so I made it my mission to address this gap via the creation of CanineCeuticals – my second business and canine supplement range.
During this time, I completed a Certificate in Animal Health Sciences and various different certificates in animal nutrition to compliment my human studies and to allow me to better help my doggie clients.
What are the common health challenges you see in dogs?
Unfortunately, the health challenges that our dogs are suffering from are following along the same path as what I see in my human clients. As mentioned previously, conditions such as overweight and obesity are extremely common, along with all the down-stream consequences of that such as arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. Skin issues are huge in dogs, triggered from both food intolerances and environmental allergies. I also tend to see a lot of kidney disease and pancreatitis cases. And cancer is also rife in our pets, which is really sad.
What area of canine health are you most interested in?
I don’t really have an area of health that I prefer working with. I do find it extremely rewarding when a client emails me saying that their vet can’t believe the rapid improvements in things like kidney or liver markers after starting my treatment protocol and that they should just keep doing whatever it is that they’re doing!
It’s also really rewarding when something I recommend significantly improves a dog’s quality of life – which really improves the quality of life of the whole family.
Tell us about your current pack of dogs with the addition of your token cat.
Lets’ start with the cat! His name is Mr Bean and he’s a 12-year-old Chocolate Burmese. Mr Bean is awesome and extremely tolerant of all the dogs. He used to be best friends with a previous French Bulldog we had called Quincey, now he spends a lot of his time stealing the new puppies food and chasing the dogs away from him (I always worry more about the dogs coming off second best!). Like most Burmese cats, Mr Bean is extremely affectionate and loves to be in the mix of everything.
Randy is our 8-year-old German Shepherd. He’s a highly trained and very powerful boy. He has a thick fully black coat, so looks quite intimidating and scary to people who don’t know him, but he’s definitely a lover and not a fighter (just don’t jump into our backyard uninvited!) Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that he’s starting to slow down of late, so I’ve increased his joint support supplements accordingly.
Macho is our 1.5-year-old German Shepherd. Technically, we’re raising him for someone else, but since we’ve had him from 8 weeks of age, he certainly feels like one of the family. At this stage Macho is just a big goof ball who absolutely loves Randy.
Opie is our almost 7-year-old French Bulldog. We call him our special child! He’s very neurotic and generally ‘odd’ with his behaviours, which constantly makes us laugh. He likes to be with you but isn’t a cuddler.
Then there’s Ladybug, our 5-year-old Frenchie. She has more drive and life in her than pretty much the rest of the dogs combined. For those reasons she’s also been our most challenging and expensive dog as she pushes the boundaries physically and likes to eat random household items.
Pixel is the daughter of Ladybug and Opie that we kept when we had a litter of 8 pups. Pixel is a tad highly strung but loves to be with me and is very affectionate. She also has a high drive like her mum.
Which brings us to Mando (named after the head Mandalorian warrior from Star Wars), our 12-week-old Rottweiler pup. Glenn has owned Rottys most of his life and when I met Glenn, he had 4 Rottys and a pug. I then moved in with my Dobermann and cat to complete the Brady Bunch! Our last Rotty died a few years ago and we’ve both really felt the gap of not having one. Shepherds are great, but they’re not Rottys!!! And even though 6 dogs is a lot to manage, we have no regrets about bringing him into our family. So far Mando has been an awesome little pup – very confident and outgoing, but still able to be chilled and patient. He hasn’t cried in his pen once since we first brought him home, he just waits until we’re ready to get him out.
Is there a topic you are currently mid researching?
I’m ALWAYS researching something, because honestly, the more you know, the more you realise how much you don’t know – so it’s an endless rabbit hole for me. Plus, I really like to understand the underlying reasons and mechanisms of action behind everything, rather than just accept and repeat what I hear others say. I’m always aiming to keep up with the latest science as it relates to both human and animal health.
There are a couple of topics that I’m looking into more deeply for some new CanineCeuticals products, but I won’t say what that relates to just yet – trade secrete. I also have multiple seminars and a conference coming up this year that require researching new topics and updating previous topics that I’ve spoken on.
Do you prefer working in the human or canine health and nutrition space?
Both are hugely rewarding but to be honest, I think I prefer the canine health and nutrition space (sorry to all my human clients!). Working with dogs is more challenging in one regard, in that dogs can’t tell us what’s wrong or how they’re feeling, but human clients are a lot more challenging in the sense that most people have a lifetime of bad habits and don’t want to change what they’re doing, even if they know that that’s the reason why they’re feeling so bad.
What are you most passionate about when it comes to canine health and nutrition?
Probably one of the main areas that gets to me the most is a lack of quality and transparency when it comes to the ingredients used in dog food and supplements. Obviously, it’s not all companies – there are some highly reputable companies out there doing the right thing, but unfortunately, there seem to be more companies that aren’t doing the right thing and who seem to be in it for a quick buck, rather than having our dog’s best interests at heart. So that’s an important topic for me and something that I’m passionate about educating pet owners about, in terms of what to look for and what to avoid.
What do you feed your dogs?
I’m crazy busy with running my two businesses on top of running a household and managing 6 dogs (and Mr Bean!), so I’m not ashamed to say that right now I rely 100% on commercial options. All of my dogs are predominantly on Big Dog raw patties. I then top that with some Ziwi Peak for the bigger boys. Prime 100 cooked rolls also make an appearance every now and then, along with a few other air-dried or freeze-dried brands. They all get some fresh food additions as well, such as eggs, sardines, blueberries, left over veggies, oysters, ground hempseeds etc – plus a range of supplements that vary depending on the dog and the day.
How long have you been supplementing Antinol?
I first discovered Antinol Rapid a couple of years ago now when I reached out to the company for more information about their product. I was extremely impressed with the thoroughness of Sam at Antinol in answering all of my questions. I also really liked that there was high quality research available to support the claims of the product. All of my pets have been on Antinol Rapid ever since. I keep two of the Frenchies and Randy on the higher loading dose all of the time, given their spinal and joint issues. I also started Mando on Antinol Rapid as soon as we got him at 8 weeks of age.
I’ll always use Antinol Rapid for all of my pets regardless of age or health status. I think the value of adding high quality omega 3 fatty acids into the diet is often overlook but they play such a critical role in so many aspects of health beyond just joint health. A bit off topic, but to give an example, if I get a dog client with anxiety issues or behavioural problems or skin issues, I’ll always recommend they start Antinol Rapid as part of the overall treatment protocol.
Do you have anything exciting happening with your businesses currently?
The launch of CanineCeuticals on Australia Day of this year was hugely successful and the business has just continued to grow, which is really humbling. I’ve got a long list of products that I’d love to bring to market, it’s just a matter of trying to find the time to make it happen – not to mention having enough cash flow to support everything I want to do! So the more people who buy my products, the sooner I’ll be able to add additional products to the range (hint hint)
I have several vets and retail outlets now stocking the CanineCeuticals range. Having vets on board and fully supportive of what I do is just amazing.
What are your goals for the next 5 years?
My main goal is to continue to grow CanineCeuticals and for it to be a well-known and highly respected brand in the animal health space. I’d love to be able to employ a group of people who are as passionate about quality animal supplements and animal health as I am, and who also have a high level of technical knowledge as it relates to animal health and nutrition. Part of that goal will mean significantly reducing my human clinical practice because as much as I try, I can’t do everything. But I think I have finally found my calling with CanineCeuticals and am really excited to see where this journey takes me.