Veterinary groups collaborate on nutrition consortium


Educational push hopes to make hospital team, pet owners 'nutrifluent'

ATLANTA — It's no secret; obesity is a world-wide epidemic in animals and people.

It poses such health risks that five national and international veterinary organizations have formed a consortium and are cooking up new educational materials and programs for veterinarians, technicians and pet owners in hopes of moving the scales.

In fact, the American Animal Hospital Association's (AAHA) release of its newest nutritional assessment guidelines snared new partners including the American Veterinary Medical Association, World Small Animal Veterinary Association, Hill's Pet Nutrition, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America.

The goal, says Michael T. Cavanaugh, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, executive director of AAHA, is to increase compliance with nutritional recommendations. To help, the consortium will be serving up educational resources for veterinarians including webinars and educational symposia beginning in September. All of the activities will work to compliment the association's recently released nutritional guidelines for veterinarians and veterinary team members, Cavanaugh explains. The work, however, extends far beyond the obesity epidemic and is meant to provide comprehensive guidance to veterinarians and team members on a multitude of nutrition-related issues surrounding health status, age and other medical conditions.

Gregg Takashima, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, president of AAHA, explains the association was motivated to establish a credible and fluid set of recommendations for veterinarians, especially since pet owners are getting much of their nutritional advice from other sources.

"This is a trend we feel needs to change...," he says. "By making nutrition a cornerstone of veterinary medicine, we can solidify the veterinarian-client-patient relationship."

Neil Thompson, president and CEO of Hill's Pet Nutrition, adds that the company is committed to help. "Hill's is here as a catalyst... and to benefit the industry overall."

Dr. Tony Buffington, a veterinary nutrition expert at The Ohio State University's veterinary college, explains that AAHA's new guidelines were built on making nutritional assessment a standard practice during every veterinary examination. In fact, he says, the nutritional guidelines were created to offer a kind of framework to help spur evaluation and consultation regarding nutrition.

Buffington co-authored the guidelines with Kimberly Baldwin, CVT, VTS, ECC; Joe Bartges, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, Dipl. ACVN; Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVN; Mary Grabow, DVM; Julie Legred, CVT; and Donald Ostwald Jr., DVM, Dipl. ABVP.

The recommendations, Buffington explains, help veterinarians assess a series of nutrition-related risk factors, from body and muscle condition scores to dental abnormalities, skin, hair coat or other medical conditions.

The guidelines also help veterinarians and veterinary technicians create a nutrition plan for hospitalized and non-hospitalized patients based on varied factors including age, concurrent medical conditions, health status, etc.

As Dr. Janet Donlin of Hill's adds, we want to make the entire hospital team "nutrifluent" and there will be a number of educational resources in development to help with client communication.

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