The American Animal Hospital Association Nutritional Guidelines detail how to incorporate nutritional assessments into wellness visits. The American College of Veterinary Nutrition uses a “Circle of Nutrition” to illustrate the 3 core assessment variables: factors specific to the animal, the diet, and the feeding management/environment. Animal-specific factors include age, physiologic status, and activity and are called nutrient-sensitive disorders (eg, intolerances, allergies, and organ-specific diseases). Diet-specific factors include safety and appropriateness of the diet and are called diet-induced disorders (eg, nutritional imbalances, spoilage, contamination). Feeding management and environmental factors include frequency, location, and method of feeding and are called feeding-related and environment-related disorders (eg, over- or underfeeding, excessive use of treats, poor husbandry, competitive eating). This article provides a checklist for screening for risk factors. For example, the history form asks about such things as gastrointestinal factors, other medical conditions, and treats. The physical examination portion includes body condition score, muscle condition score, dental disease, poor skin or hair coat, unintended weight loss, and new medical conditions. This simple form allows for a consistent screening evaluation for each patient and could be administered at intake by a trained veterinary technician. Risk factors or concerns identified can be pursued with the veterinarian later in the visit. The article introduces muscle condition scoring as an adjuvant assessment to body condition scoring. This measure is still being validated, but its intent is to identify subtle muscle loss that may be an early indicator of a medical problem for which early intervention can be valuable. The article also includes diagrams on body and muscle condition scoring and a table that lists useful websites for clients and staff education. Guidelines were sponsored by a grant from Hill’s Pet Nutrition
Commentary: The effect of nutrition on the quality and length of life of pets is well established, and incorporation of this aspect of routine wellness visits is becoming an expected standard of care. This detailed article also includes a section on what constitutes an extended evaluation, how to interpret the results, and how to institute a plan.
AAHA nutritional assessment guidelines for dogs and cats. Baldwin K, Bartges J, Buffington T, et al. JAAHA 46:285-296, 2010.