The American Animal Hospital Association today released its Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats.
The guidelines were developed on the basis that good nutrition enhances pets’ quality and quantity of life and is integral to optimal animal care.
“Incorporating nutritional assessment into the routine examination protocol for every patient is important for maintaining optimal health, as well as their response to disease and injury,” said Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, executive director of AAHA. “The goal of the new guidelines is to provide a framework for the veterinary practice team to help make nutritional assessments and recommendations for their patients.”
The guidelines were, in part, prompted by results that AAHA found through its compliance study, which was published last year. The study found that 7 percent of pets that could benefit from a therapeutic food were actually on such a regimen.
“The compliance discrepancy along with the many factors considered in assessing the nutritional needs of a healthy dog or cat, as well as the pet with one or more medical conditions, led to the development of the AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats,” the organization said.
The guidelines break down nutritional assessment into “screening” and “extended” evaluations. As AAHA described it, screening evaluations are performed on every animal. If a pet is determined to be healthy and without risk factors, it is cleared from additional nutritional assessment. When one or more nutrition-related risk factors are found or suspected based on the screening evaluation, the pet should undergo an extended evaluation.
The factors to be evaluated, as outlined in the guidelines, include the animal, diet, feeding management and environmental factors. AAHA noted that certain life factors, by themselves, may not call for an extended evaluation if the animal is otherwise healthy.
The guidelines outline what to look for in healthy animals, animals with disease conditions or recommended nutritional changes, and hospitalized animals.
In addition, the guidelines provide recommendations on client communication and educational tools for veterinary staff.
The guidelines, which were made available through an educational grant from Hill’s Pet Nutrition, are available here.
AAHA reported that it is developing educational workshops and Web conferences based on the guidelines. They will be available this fall.