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New resource offers nutrition guidance for dogs and cats

The American Animal Hospital Association has released 2021 “Nutrition and Weight Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats.” The guidelines “encourage veterinary practices to claim their role as experts in pet nutrition and take the lead in helping prevent and treat obesity,” according to AAHA.

Every physical exam should include five vital assessments, the association says: temperature, pulse, respiration and pain—which are common in assessments—and nutrition, which AAHA says veterinary teams tend to skip.

“Veterinary teams shy away from the nutrition conversation because it’s not easy and can bring up a lot of emotions in clients,” said AAHA chief medical officer Dr. Heather Loenser. “These guidelines provide very specific communications tactics to be sensitive to the emotional response, while also addressing internet myths and sensitive topics like obesity.”


“Regular monitoring and tracking of body weight, body condition score and muscle condition score allow the veterinary team to track trends over time, spotting disease earlier and providing evidence-based intervention tips for clients,” said AAHA deputy CEO Dr. Janice Trumpeter. “These guidelines emphasize starting nutrition conversations early and continuing them at every annual exam.”

According to the announcement, the guidelines give veterinary teams insight into:

  • What triggers an extended nutritional assessment.
  • Different nutritional support for hospitalized patients.
  • Calculating beyond resting energy requirements.
  • Factors to consider in obesity prevention, such as age, sex, breed, lifestyle, and spay and neuter status.
  • Nutrients of concern for diseases and specific conditions.