Weekly Wag: What Does Your Vet Know About Pet Nutrition?

Veterinary practice has changed a lot in the last thirty years. Vets used to focus on large animals raised for food. Now veterinary practice is used for companion animals. Nutrition research on farm animals used to be conducted by animal scientists looking for the most efficient and profitable methods of producing meat or milk. Now small animal  nutrition is a minor part of vet training, the focus is more on animal diseases.

Nutrition is now recognized as a specialty in veterinary medicine. The American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) administers a nutrition certification program based on training, clinical experience, publication, and examination. By 2007, 61 of 75,000 veterinarian members of American Veterinary Medical Association had achieved this certification. Twenty years after ACVN’s founding, nutrition barely registers on the veterinary radar.

Cover of "Feed Your Pet Right: The Author...

Pet food companies are deeply entrenched in veterinary education and have an interest in developing strong relationships with vets who will promote their product. One example: Hill’s Pet Nutrition, maker of Science and Prescription Diets; Hill’s is closely associated with the Mark Morris Institute. The institute offers short courses on pet nutrition to veterinary schools, free of charge. Hill’s is not alone in investing resources in veterinarians and students. Source: Feed Your Pet Right-Marion Nestle, PH.D., M.P.H. and Malden Nesheim, PH.D.

We have shifted to a more holistic approach, studying the whole animal and not just treating the symptoms. Animal naturopaths are often mistaken for holistic veterinarians and while they both respect the animal as a whole, their roles are quite different. Holistic veterinarians are all initially conventionally trained and then later seek out the additional training in holistic methods using more natural treatments.  Animal naturopaths are focused on promoting health rather than treating disease.

Things to remember when a diet is recommended to you:

by Shawn Messonnier, DVM

  • Most veterinarians (and few pet store employees) do not have any significant training in pet nutrition.
  • Veterinarians often know nothing more about nutrition than the small amount they were taught in veterinary school. The textbooks and other nutritional information provided to students and veterinarians at continuing education seminars usually come from pet food companies that do not make “natural” diets.
  • The majority of pet foods on the market contain animal and plant by-products, chemical preservatives, additives, and many artificial ingredients. These are not as healthy as those that contain wholesome meats, vegetables, and more natural preservatives.
  • Prescription diets are usually no better than nonprescription diets when it comes to the quality of ingredients. Whenever possible, homemade diets are preferred for animals with various ailments. If necessary, prescription diets (plus a lot of nutritional supplements) may be given to some patients, but are best used for a short time while the animal heals.

4 thoughts on “Weekly Wag: What Does Your Vet Know About Pet Nutrition?

  1. Pingback: Weekly Wag: What Does Your Vet Know About Pet Nutrition … | Nutrition For Pets

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