Leading Off: A slice of advice on assessing your patients' nutritional status

Mar 01, 2011

Dr. Joseph W. Bartges
People are more aware of the role of nutrition in their lives, and this awareness is applied to family members including their pets. Nutrition is integral to preventive healthcare and managing diseases. To provide an adequate and appropriate nutritional plan, it is necessary to assess a patient's nutritional status and requirements. Nutritional assessment is an easy process that requires minimal expense in time and finances. It should be routine for all veterinary patients regardless of health status. Often, it involves a team approach that includes veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and staff—and, most important, clients.

On a snowy weekend in Denver in November 2009, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) brought together a task force composed of two veterinary technicians; three veterinary nutritionists, including one who was also an internist; and two general practitioners (see boxed text). The charge for the task force was to develop nutritional assessment guidelines for cats and dogs that could be used daily in private practice to provide optimal patient care. The guidelines were to provide a framework for veterinarians and staff to assist them with evaluating and making a nutritional recommendation for every pet. These recommendations were to be based on a pet's life stage, medical conditions, and lifestyle and were to be reviewed and updated frequently. Because of the extensive involvement of clients in the daily dietary management of these patients, we were also to provide recommendations to veterinary staff on client communication and suggestions for educational tools for the client to aid in communicating their recommendations.