Each animal has its distinct nutritional needs. For example, a growing puppy requires about twice the calories as an adult dog of the same breed. Pets with health conditions like kidney disease also require dietary changes. Your pet’s size and breed also play a role in their caloric and nutritional needs. Since they have unique systems, it’s easy to see why one pet diet may not suit everyone.
While pet parents want to feed their fur babies with the best food, understanding what they truly need can be difficult. There are complexities behind pet nutrition that owners can’t grasp just by doing a mere Google research. You need the help of experts for this. But who do you call for nutritional advice?
The first person that will pop-up on your mind whenever expert pet health assistance is a veterinarian. They are the go-to source of information and a trustworthy voice of reason. But if you’re a pet parent who’s concerned about your furry companion’s nutrition, you might have scoured the web for vital information and came across the term pet nutritionist.
But what is a pet nutritionist? More importantly, is a vet a pet nutritionist? If no, then how do they differ? Basically, pet nutritionists are, first and foremost, veterinarians. They have similar training and credentials as regular veterinarians, but their knowledge of pet nutrition and diet extends further. If human doctors have different types of medical specialties such as oncology and dermatology, so do veterinarians.
So after finishing veterinary school, they spend one year of clinical experience and two years in residency training for pet nutrition. And if they want to be board certified, they must complete and publish a peer-reviewed medical journal. After that, they need to pass a grueling two-day comprehensive examination. It includes oral, written, and practical exams.
Once they fulfill all the requirements and pass the exam, they receive a diplomate status in the specialty of Veterinary Nutrition. They can then add another title, DACVN or Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, after their name. This additional certificate makes a pet nutritionist undoubtedly qualified to offer nutritional advice. But what about general veterinarians?
Given the grueling process of becoming a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, there are only less than 100 diplomates in the USA. There is a chance that your town doesn’t even have one. So where should you go if you need help with your pet’s diet and nutrition? Can you go to a veterinarian?
Although they didn’t specialize in nutrition, regular veterinarians still have a basic foundation for pet nutrition. But is this enough to make them qualified to offer advice for your pet’s diet? According to Dr. Jeff Werber, DVM, this depends on the knowledge and comfort of the individual veterinarian.
He explained that most vets are trained to answer basic questions. But there are some situations when they may not be able to help. If the issue involves something more specific, the vet may refer you to a board-certified nutritionist instead.
You can expect this to happen if your pet suffers from certain medical conditions, such as cardiac or kidney disease. Your furry companion may benefit from a specialized therapeutic diet. You might also need the help of a pet nutritionist if your pet has multiple medical conditions. They can develop a specially formulated diet to address both conditions. Additionally, if your pet needs to feed through a tube, your vet may refer you to a pet nutritionist for a special liquid diet.
For pets, the food bowl is usually the center of their universe. Even some sleeping pets wake up whenever they hear the whir of a can opener or the clatter of kibbles onto a bowl. They will usually eat anything you offer them. But feeding your pets with just any food on the market is not a good idea. It’s crucial to do research whenever you choose pet food.
You need to give your pet the optimal nutrition that they deserve and require. This pet diet means a complete and balanced meal for some and a specialized diet for others.
Looking to get your pet spayed or neutered? Read ”Should I Spay or Neuter My Pet? Is It Cruel?” to learn more.