Nutritional assessment guidelines, consortium introduced

Webinars, workshops to help practices incorporate nutritional assessment protocols
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Only 7 percent of pets that could benefit from a therapeutic food are receiving such a regimen, the American Animal Hospital Association learned through its compliance study. AAHA announced the first steps toward turning that around, Aug. 1 at the AVMA Annual Convention in Atlanta.

The association has published nutritional assessment guidelines, the latest in a series of guidelines designed to help achieve client compliance with veterinary medical recommendations. The AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats were published in the July/August issue of JAAHA and the September/October issue of Trends Magazine.

Funded through an educational grant from Hill's Pet Nutrition, the guidelines are now available online here.

In tandem with the guidelines, AAHA has founded the Veterinary Companion Animal Nutritional Consortium to take the message of the impact of nutrition on health to a global level and empower veterinary health care teams to serve as the experts on nutrition for their patients.

Initial members of the consortium with AAHA are the AVMA, National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, Canadian VMA, World Small Animal Veterinary Association, and Hill's.

AAHA Executive Director Michael Cavanaugh said the purpose of the guidelines is to help veterinary health care teams develop nutritional assessment protocols.

Dr. C.A. "Tony" Buffington, professor of veterinary clinical sciences at The Ohio State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, chaired the committee that prepared the guidelines. He said the input of veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and veterinary nutritionists was essential in creating the guidelines.

"Our charge was to develop a document that was useful, so veterinarians could incorporate that into their practices," Dr. Buffington said.

AAHA President Gregg Takashima said, "Far too often, pet owners are getting their nutrition information from sources other than their veterinarian, and this is a trend that we feel needs to change."

The guidelines break nutritional assessment into basic screening and extended evaluations. Screening evaluations are meant to be performed on every animal at every veterinary visit. If one or more nutrition-related risk factors are found or suspected, the pet would undergo the extended evaluation.

The basic evaluation tool is available to veterinarians now and includes body- and muscle-condition scoring. The extended evaluation tool will be released by October.

Dr. Buffington said this is a systems biological approach to nutrition, using tools that are evidence-based, not eminence-based.

Neil Thompson, president and CEO of Hill's, said, "Nutrition should become a cornerstone of proper veterinary care" and should be addressed with every pet on every veterinary visit.

The guidelines explain that with a little practice, an appropriate nutritional approach can be incorporated effectively into daily practice without additional time or expense.

How will outcomes be monitored? Thompson said two to three years from now, he wants to revisit the 7 percent compliance point and assess the progress being made through this initiative.

To help practices start putting the guidelines to use, AAHA is offering three progressive web events as well as regional workshops.

The webinars began Sept. 9 with an overview of the guidelines presented by Dr. Buffington. On Sept. 23, the second webinar will feature Drs. Kate Knutson and Susan Thorson on implementation of the guidelines in practice. A prerecorded webcast on nutrition communication will be available Oct. 4 through 17, hosted by Drs. Laurie Miller and Paul Cleland.

All three web events will be available on the AAHA website after the broadcast.

Then, the workshop "Nutrifluent: Speak the Clients' Language and Have Them Eating Out of Your Hand" will be presented in 14 cities in the U.S. and Canada, beginning with Denver this October and ending with Boston in May 2011.

Visit for more information and e-mail the AAHA Member Services Center at infoataahanet [dot] org (info[at]aahanet[dot]org) to receive instructions on how to register.