Robert Backus specializes in small animal clinical nutrition with special interests in nutritional aspects of feline diabetes and obesity. Backus is a graduate of the University of California Davis, where he received his veterinary and doctoral training. He is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition and director of the Nestlé Purina Endowed Program in Small Animal Nutrition. When not working, he enjoys playing with his grandsons and sharing anecdotes about his cat, DT, who is now retired from research.
Allison M. Wara, DVM, DACVN
Clinical Instructor of Veterinary Nutrition
Director of the MU Small Animal Physical Rehabilitation and Nutrition Clinic
Allison Wara received her bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Guelph and her doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the Atlantic Veterinary College in Canada. Following graduation, she returned to her hometown of Ottawa where she practiced for several years as an associate veterinarian.
She relocated to the Columbia area in 2012 to pursue a clinical nutrition residency for board certification by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. Following completion, she joined the MU faculty as a clinical instructor in veterinary nutrition, teaching senior year and graduate-level veterinary students. She also serves as the director of the MU Renew Animal Clinic, which provides unique therapeutic options for patients via physical activity and optimal nutrition. Wara is also undergoing accreditation to become a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner.
In her downtime, she enjoys the outdoors. Her favorite activities include hiking, biking, swimming and skiing. She shares her home with two cats, Brady and Ike, and a Swiss mountain dog, Regan, who loves to join her on the trail.
Tabitha Hookey, DVM
Tabitha Hookey received her bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of New Brunswick in 2006 and her doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the Atlantic Veterinary College in 2012. Upon graduation, she remained on the East Coast of Canada where she practiced as an associate veterinarian in Fredericton, New Brunswick for four years. She recently relocated to Columbia to begin her residency in clinical nutrition at the University of Missouri. Hookey is thrilled to have joined the Veterinary Health Center’s Clinical Nutrition team and has a special interest in the problem of canine and feline obesity. She shares her home with her significant other and their three pets: a cat named Winnie, and two dogs, Mimi and Hugo. Hookey enjoys traveling, hiking, cooking and spending time with her family, friends and animals.
Catherine Ruggiero, MS, DVM
Catherine Ruggiero received her bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University in 2007 and a master of science degree in biological sciences from Fordham University in 2010. She attended veterinary school at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, where she received her doctor of veterinary medicine degree in 2014. She spent three years as an associate veterinarian in small animal general practice in upstate New York before returning to the University of Missouri to begin a clinical nutrition residency. Her interests include geriatric and senior pet nutrition, as well as client education and research. She is excited to be back in Columbia with her significant other, two mixed breed dogs, and cat. She enjoys spending time outdoors, preferably with her dogs, and especially on the water.
Lauren R. Young, DVM
Lauren Young received her doctor of veterinary medicine from Mississippi State University in 2006. Afterward, she moved to the East Coast, where she practiced general small animal medicine and surgery for seven years in Maryland and New York before pursuing a small animal nutrition residency at the University of Missouri in 2013. She completed her residency in 2015. In November she began a post-doctoral research fellowship, which was awarded through the Morris Animal Foundation and Blue Buffalo Cancer Foundation. Young’s research focus is on vitamin D supplementation in dogs, particularly as it may be of use in cancer patients.
Young has a soft spot for cats and now shares her home with three, Hera, Calvin and Jade. In her free time, Young loves traveling, cooking, reading and being active outdoors.