Communicating a Nutrition Recommendation to the Client

A common obstacle that often undermines a veterinary professional’s nutrition recommendation, when sufficient nutrition history is not gathered, is that the recommendation does not align with the client’s own goals or beliefs. As part of the nutritional history, when asking what the pet is being fed, we should also explore the client’s rationale for feeding a specific food or brand. Exploring the client’s rationale for feeding a specific food or brand gives the practice team an understanding of the pet owner’s dietary viewpoints and will help avoid misunderstandings about the practice’s pet nutrition recommendations. In developing a nutrition recommendation, equal consideration must be given to animal-, diet-, environment-, and human-related factors. Similar to the nutritional assessment, developing a nutrition recommendation is an iterative rather than linear process in which returning to the nutrition history at any point may be required to gather additional information to better align a nutrition recommendation with the goals and beliefs of the client (Figure 4).

Figure 4

A general framework for communicating a nutrition-related healthcare recommendation.
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Another potential barrier to a veterinary professional’s nutrition recommendation is the client’s suspicion of veterinary practices being businesses that make healthcare recommendations.74 This skepticism can be fueled when a nutrition recommendation involves a commercial pet food. In this case, it is important to recognize that there are two decisions for clients and, therefore, two separate recommendations to be made. The first recommendation is the nutrition-related healthcare recommendation (a nutrition change to manage the health of the animal preventively or to address a nutrition-related health concern). The second recommendation, when required, is a product-specific commercial diet to support the nutrition-related healthcare decision. Separating these recommendations teases apart the question of motivation (business versus healthcare) behind an overall nutrition recommendation.

These guidelines are supported by generous educational grants from Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc., Purina® Pro Plan® Veterinary Diets, and Royal Canin®.