Nutrition matters

Communicating the value of nutrition in pet health

Regular nutritional assessment and counseling can be a vital link in the chain of preventive care for pets. Good nutrition improves pets' life expectancy and quality, and discussing diet and nutrition can enhance your clients’ perception of the care you provide. Having a clear plan to talk about diet and nutrition can help you make sure this important topic gets the attention it deserves in every office visit.

During every exam

  • Check in with your clients on pet diet and feeding routines. Make it a point during each exam to ask clients what brands and formulas of food and treats they feed their pets. This is especially important for patients with conditions that may be affected directly by diet.  It’s particularly prudent to monitor dietary changes in light of investigations into potential diet-related conditions such as Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Even with healthy patients, it offers an opportunity to help clients understand the connection between diet and health, and lets them know they can rely on your expertise to help with nutrition decisions.
  • Ask about the pet’s food delivery system. Find out how clients are feeding their pets and whether the current method is working well. Talk about possible alternatives, such as slow feeders or devices that present a toy or puzzle, if those might be beneficial.
  • Use visual aids to help communicate. Sometimes images do a better job than verbal explanations in helping clients understand an animal’s condition. Pictures that show various animal weight profiles can often help clients recognize when their own companion animals are overweight or underweight. You can use the Body Condition Score image shown here and on our client-information page Your pet’s healthy weight when talking with dog and cat owners, and the equine obesity infographic in our Animal obesity toolkit with horse owners. Similarly, fecal scoring charts can help you explain what you are seeing in a patient’s stool sample. 
weight management chart

Between exams

  • Be aware of food-related recalls. Our sortable list of animal food recalls and alerts dates back a full year. You also can track recalls and alerts as they happen by following our AVMA Recall Watch Twitter feed.
  • Stay abreast of veterinary nutrition research and news. Keep nutrition in mind when you’re reading JAVMA and other publications. What you learn can be directed toward educating clients.
  • Consider creating a nutrition newsletter for clients, or including nutrition articles in your existing newsletter. You can feature important information and tips on general nutrition and diet issues, and share news about food recalls, diet-related research, and hot topics.

AVMA policies

Organic foods

Pet food health claims

Raw or undercooked animal-source protein in cat and dog diets

Related resources

Veterinary toolkit: Animal obesity

Adverse events reporting

Safe handling of commercially prepared pet food and pet treats

See also:

Partners for Healthy Pets

Pet Nutrition Alliance

AAHA nutritional assessment guidelines

WSAVA global nutrition guidelines 

Association for Pet Obesity Prevention

American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition's nutrition resources

Pet Food Institute