Nutritional resources to fit AAHA's guidelines

Nutrition is an important element of pet health care.

As stated by the AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats, “Good nutrition enhances pets’ quality and quantity of life, and is integral to optimal animal care. Incorporating nutritional assessment into regular animal care is critical for maintaining pets’ health, as well as their response to disease and injury. It requires little to no additional time or cost.”

Nutrition is clearly a good goal for practices to focus on, but how do you implement the suggested changes given by the guidelines? AAHA has provided resources, three booklets available through its website, that give helpful information to build awareness and promote implementation of those guidelines.

Nutrition: The First Step in Preventive Care

This booklet focuses on how to make a specific nutritional recommendation for every pet, every time.

Information included covers tips for ensuring patients follow nutritional recommendations, exercises on how to talk to clients about their pet’s weight, tips for best communication practices, and ways to get the whole team involved. One exercise includes potential client statements and questions that the team can practice responding to.

It also includes tips for ensuring compliance by talking to the client in a way they will understand the importance of nutrition. For example, give the recommendation verbally and in writing. Using multiple channels to deliver the message will better ensure it sticks in the client’s mind. Follow up the visit with a phone call or an email to ask how it’s going to answer any questions the client may have.

With a focus on nutrition, practices can meet client expectations. As AAHA compliance data indicates, 90% of pet owners would welcome a nutritional evaluation of their pets, but only 15% recall having received one.

Moving from Problem Solver to Problem Preventer

This booklet focuses on integrating the guidelines by focusing on the importance of preventative care. By providing good nutrition and talking about it from the earliest stages, veterinarians can show the benefits of preventative care instead of reacting to problems as they arise.

Information included covers an overview of preventative care, online tools from Partners for Healthy Pets to help with integration, what prevention means for the diagnostic laboratory, and how to effectively incorporate guidelines.

One important finding shows that preventative care appointments are more likely to be relaxed and produce more conversation, allowing clients to gather information and ask questions. Appointments focused on solving a problem or health issue tend to focus on the issue at hand and produce less helpful conversation.

Evolving to a Culture of Prevention

This booklet continues to focus on implementation of prevention and evolve the practice culture to fit with the prevention model. A blueprint to preventative care includes tips on how to do this—such as identifying the “critical few” components from the guidelines to implements and conducting regular staff training.

Other training tips include how get the whole team involved, presenting the same message during a client’s visit from doorknob to doorknob. Think about what each team member can do, ask, and be aware of while working with clients.

Some of this success and implementation will involve marketing your new preventative approach, emphasizing the value of preventative care, and taking the steps to measure your success. There can be no assessment of your practice’s success without a measured way to look at whether you accomplished your goals.