Nutrition is the foundation of pet health and wellbeing and should be a central component of every canine and feline patient’s healthcare plan. An objective nutritional assessment is the initial step in a systematic approach to nutritional management. When performed at each exam visit, the assessment considers such evolving factors as the patient’s age, health status, and lifestyle-related risk factors. Based on the assessment, patient-specific nutrition recommendations can be made. Besides health maintenance, these recommendations often have specific therapeutic goals such as weight loss or dietary support of chronic or acute disease conditions.
Client attitudes toward pet nutrition, informed by commercial or nonscientific information, are often based on individual biases and subjective but strongly held beliefs. For this reason, effective client communication is an important factor in achieving adherence with dietary recommendations. Nutrition conversations with clients should focus on messaging content as well as the communication process, with the goal of ensuring that the client has a positive perception of the practitioner’s nutritional recommendations. A key element of productive discussions on pet nutrition is to understand the client’s viewpoint on topics such as pet food choice, dietary rewards, and weight control.
Integrating nutritional management as a vital part of the practice’s culture requires the commitment and engagement of the entire veterinary team. A unified approach to implementing an effective nutrition program will promote optimal pet health, therapeutic success, a strong veterinarian-client-pet relationship, and a long-term client association with the practice.