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.
The guidelines provide a series of questions to be asked, body condition and muscle condition scoring systems, and methods of acquiring and analyzing information related to nutritional status. They provide recommendations for healthy patients as well as patients that are sick, including those requiring critical care. There are additional resources provided for veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and pet owners.
The guidelines can be found at aahanet.org/resources/NutritionalGuidelines.aspx. Stay tuned—medicine and nutrition are dynamic. These guidelines will be updated to reflect new and innovative techniques and nutritional knowledge for the betterment of veterinary medicine and the benefits of our patients and companion-animal family members.
Joseph W. Bartges, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, DACVN
Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences
College of Veterinary Medicine
The University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996