Dial a diet recommendation

December 15, 2017
Lisa P. Weeth, DVM, DACVN

How teleconsultation between primary care veterinarians and nutrition specialists can conquer geographical limitations on patient care.

"Can someone call my nutritionist in Manhattan to make sure this food is OK to eat?" (Shutterstock.com)While many veterinary specialty groups offer what they refer to as “telemedicine” services, these veterinarian-to-veterinarian communications on diagnostic interpretation, interventional therapy or treatment planning would be more accurately described as “teleconsultations” (as true telemedicine refers to veterinarian-pet owner communication via phone, email or video conferencing technologies).

A veterinary specialist offering teleconsulting services is able to review and interpret the medical record notes and findings of the primary care veterinarian (PCV) remotely and give professional recommendations directly back to the PCV. This allows for greater access to veterinary specialists for all veterinary patients without being limited by geographic region. A teleconsulting provider may also offer in-person appointments and be able to provide direct telemedicine services to the pet owner after establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.

The field of veterinary nutrition lends itself well to the telehealth and teleconsulting service model. Veterinary nutrition specialists are trained in nutritional biochemistry, medicine and food science and have good working knowledge of over-the-counter and veterinary-exclusive diets. Incorporating PCVs' firsthand knowledge of patients and caregivers, nutrition specialists can remotely review diet and medical history, identify nutritional risk factors and optimal diet characteristics, and provide dietary recommendations that work for a given family.

To get a bit more specific, this could look like finding a renal therapeutic diet option that avoids a particular ingredient for a cat with renal disease and a food-responsive dermatitis, or developing a complete and balanced home-cooked diet for a dog with inflammatory bowel disease, protein-losing nephropathy and hypertriglyceridemia where there is no commercial diet option available.

Geographic location needn't put limits on patient care-even highly individualized nutrition needs.


Dr. Lisa P. Weeth is the primary consultant at Weeth Nutrition Services in Los Angeles.