Veterinary Specialists: The Kibble Queen™
November 23, 2020
Dr. Jackie Parr BScH, DVM, MSc, Dip ACVN
Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist®
When Bruno the chocolate lab was found after 27-days in the bottom of an abandoned well, Dr. Jackie Parr was one of the people he desperately needed.
Re-feeding syndrome, muscle loss, dangerously fluctuating electrolyte levels and more were all part of a language Dr. Parr intimately understood. After 14 years of specialized veterinary nutritional study, Bruno was exactly the kind of patient she had been preparing for.
And that’s how it’s always been for Dr. Jackie Parr: complete immersion in the science of veterinary nutrition as a means to an important end – for all the Bruno’s of the world.
A Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist®, and festooned with veterinary and academic designations that speak to a passion for science and animal care that borders on obsession, Dr. Parr is among the elite where animal nutrition is concerned. A natural educator, Dr. Parr is widely sought after in professional veterinarian circles as both a public speaker, and as a specialist for consults on the most unique and emergent nutritional cases. She is a passionate nutrition advocate and an accessible expert with feet planted firmly in both the academic and practical worlds of specialized nutritional medicine. For more information on Dr. Parr, otherwise known as The Kibble QueenTM, visit her website: www.kibblequeen.com.
And for the record, Bruno made a full recovery thanks to the incredible care provided by the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Bruno went on to be featured on CBC news: www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/estevan-dog-bruno-stuck-well-27-days-1.3846262. Dr. Parr was exceedingly grateful for the opportunity to consult on Bruno’s case and was overjoyed when he returned home to his family.
What made you decide to specialize in nutrition?
Like many members of the Future Vets Club (FVC), I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian from a young age. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I decided I also wanted to be a nutritionist for animals.
When I was in grade seven, I worked for a parrot breeder in Shakespeare, Ontario and quickly acquired a number of birds that required rehabilitation, including being transitioned from entirely seed-based diets to more balanced diets of pellets, fruits, and vegetables. At one point I had 14 birds, ranging from Zebra Finches, to a breeding pair of Rainbow Lorikeets, to an Umbrella Cockatoo! I was fortunate to have an incredibly supportive family that allowed me to slowly take over our small bungalow to provide housing and enrichment for my all birds (and other critters)!
Amongst my birds, Cyadi, my small Zebra Finch, was a chronic egg layer. Eventually she was unable to perch as her bones had become frail from all the calcium she was using to lay eggs every day. My mom and I went to the Stratford Public Library (yes, this was before Google!) to find resources on how to stop her from laying so many eggs and looked for calcium doses to replete her calcium stores. There was very little published on Zebra Finches, so I ended up reviewing egg-laying hen literature and extrapolated a dose of calcium from laying hens to a bird that was Cyadi’s size. I then cooked egg shells (a source of calcium carbonate) in our oven to sterilize them and I added precisely measured amounts to Cyadi’s diet daily. On top of this, I had to find a loving home for my other Zebra Finch, Cylar, whom Cyadi kept laying eggs for, and she gradually stopped laying eggs every day.
By providing my homemade calcium supplement on top of Cyadi’s diet daily, her bones started to strengthen and she was eventually able to perch again. I told my parents, “I healed her through nutrition!” and that was the beginning of a budding nutritionist!
Shown above: Dr. Jackie Parr's birds
What advice would you give to undergraduate students?
My undergraduate degree (BScH) is in Animal Biology from the Ontario Agricultural College. Some of the best nutrition classes were in my third and fourth years of my degree. I especially loved pet nutrition and wildlife nutrition. My fourth year of my undergraduate degree was my favourite year because I was studying things I loved. This made getting the grades I needed to apply to veterinary school a tiny bit easier. I’m glad I wasn’t in a big rush to apply to veterinary school early. In the overall scheme of things, the debt from one additional year of undergrad, did not make or break me financially. It was really an investment in my future.
In the final year of my Animal Biology degree, I applied to the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC). In my veterinary school application letter, I wrote about my plans to focus on nutrition as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). I always thought I would have to complete a PhD after veterinary school to be able to focus on nutrition. It wasn’t until I attended the Veterinary Leadership Experience (http://veterinaryleadershipinstitute.org/programs/vle/) as my class president after my second year of veterinary school, that I met my first Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist® and first DVM/PhD pet nutritionist. This was a life changing experience that stemmed from my networking efforts and my ongoing involvement in leadership activities. I cannot emphasize the importance of networking enough. Likewise, I cannot emphasize the value of leadership roles enough. These newly found mentors gave me direction and focus. I knew from that point forward that I needed to work incredibly hard to be selected for a residency in small animal clinical nutrition.
In 2008, that meant applying for internships in the US because there were no clinical nutrition residency programs in Canada. My internship was the first step to getting a year of experience as a practicing veterinarian to be able to apply for a residency. After a lot of hard work I was accepted into a small animal rotating internship at Angell Animal Medical Centre in Boston, MA (www.mspca.org/angell_services/angell-internships/).
When I graduated from OVC in 2009, I loaded up everything I owned in a U-Haul truck and drove myself and my two dogs to Boston, MA to start a new adventure! Moving to a new country by myself was challenging, but I learned a lot about how resilient I am, and it made me less fearful of “big moves” and “big life decisions”. No matter where you are, you can make friends if you are genuinely kind and take the time to get to know others. I could not have made it through my internship without my intern mates and long-distance calls to my sister.
During my internship, I started applying for residency positions. There was only one small animal clinical nutrition residency to apply for in all of North America for 2010, and my hefty emergency receiving schedule at Angell as an intern meant I had to interview for the position over Skype (which seems like an everyday occurrence nowadays, but it was not the norm in 2009). Come “match day” (i.e. the day everyone finds out if they got a residency or not), I didn’t match and I was devastated. Nine years of hard work and I had failed. Well, turns out that the age-old saying, “When one door closes, another one opens,” is true. The Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist® I had been spending every spare moment I had with at Angell told me that she would take me on as a resident if we could find funding. That was the dream! She was who I wanted as my mentor all along!
My mentor and I worked hard to approach companies and academic institutions for funding with a plan for my 3-year residency in small animal clinical nutrition (for more information on residency programs visit: https://acvn.org/residency-information/) combined with a graduate degree from a local university. Our hard work paid off! The OVC agreed to provide funding for my 3-year residency in exchange for 2-years of work as a post-doctoral fellow following the completion of my training in Boston.
Despite this funding and working on weekends at Angell as a veterinarian for the General Medicine Service, I still acquired a lot of debt during my training. The tuition for my Masters degree in Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition was $70,000 USD alone. By the time I came back to Canada, I had a quarter million in debt (which is actually quite good for 12-years of schooling and an international training!), but that meant I would need to live in student housing without a vehicle during my post-doc. It was a very challenging time with a lot of financial stress. I was already adept at collecting free food from events and even kept a container in my backpack if the opportunity presented itself. I walked or rollerbladed everywhere and salvaged a rolling suitcase for grocery store trips. During a bout of desperation when I owed money on my 2012 tax return, I Googled how much you could get for a kidney in Canada and then quickly realized I would have needed nine kidneys to pay off my student debt! Fortunately my sister was able to help me pay my tax return and I paid her back as soon as I started working. The day I found out I passed my 2-day board examination to become a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist® I had $20 CAD in my bank account and my credit card was maxed out. So I walked from student housing to Williams (a local coffee place) and ordered a slice of chocolate cake and a glass of water to celebrate. I started work the following week.
Now that I’ve been working full time for almost 5-years, my financial advisor tells me I’m in a better financial position that most people my age. I attribute this to how strict I had to be with my budget during my 14-years of training. While the financial stress students’ face is not ideal by any means, it will help you develop financial management skills to be able to pay down your debt, start saving, and really think about big purchases in the future.
A little bit more about me!
Adjunct Professor, Department of Clinical Studies, Ontario Veterinary College:
This is a volunteer role that I’m incredibly grateful for! Some people may think it’s a bit crazy to volunteer (unpaid) to provide lectures, develop exam questions, and read 100+ page theses, but I truly believe it is important to give back to the profession and mentor the next generation.
I have been an Adjunct Professor since summer 2015 and this position allows me to:
Continue teaching students (i.e. the future of the veterinary profession!), which is something I’m incredibly passionate about.
Be involved in research (e.g. assisting with research projects and review of student research manuscripts for publication).
Provide mentorship to graduate students and small animal clinical nutrition residents (e.g. sitting on advisory or examination committees, reviewing theses, etc.).
For more information on the amazing work being done at the OVC visit:
Pet Nutrition at the OVC: https://sites.uoguelph.ca/ovcpetnutrition/home/team/
Clinical Studies webpage: https://ovc.uoguelph.ca/clinical-studies/faculty/Jacqueline-Parr
Owner, On Parr Nutrition, Inc.
I founded On Parr Nutrition, Inc. in 2013 when I returned to Canada after training in Boston, MA for 4-years. This is my personal company, so it is something I work on between my other roles. My company is branded The Kibble QueenTM (which was a nickname given to me in vet school). In fact, I recorded a TEDx-style talk, called a MicDrop, at the Uncharted Veterinary Conference (https://unchartedvet.com/) in April 2018 on my journey to becoming The Kibble QueenTM (https://unchartedvet.com/mic-drop-wear-your-own-crown-its-the-only-one-that-truly-fits/). Right now I am focused on speaking engagements, writing, and social media through my company.
For more information on The Kibble QueenTM visit:
Blogs for Dr. Andy Roark: https://drandyroark.com/?s=jackie+parr
Founding Member, Canadian Academy of Veterinary Nutrition (CAVN)
In 2018, a small group of Canadians with expertise in veterinary nutrition came together to form the CAVN! We consist of Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionists®, veterinarians (DVM) who are completing or have already competed a residency in veterinary clinical nutrition, and Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVT) with their Veterinary Technician Specialty (VTS) in nutrition. Our Mission is to advocate for evidence-based animal nutrition and for veterinary nutrition education across Canada.
To find out more about the CAVN visit: