Want to know which I consider the most underutilized specialty group in veterinary medicine? OK, so the title gave it away. Nutritionists––and possibly behaviorists––get the least respect among veterinarians. Consequently, people like YOU use them less than you should.

On Monday we’ll talk about behaviorists and what it is they do (and why you should care). For today it’s all about nutrition, and why (and when) it matters that a nutritionist intervene on your pets’ behalf. 

To be honest, mostly it matters because most veterinarians are not as well trained in the art and science of nutrition as we are in so many other aspects of our profession. Our education here happens at the level of administering nutrients and ensuring your pets get them to the tune they require them. 

Beyond that––like when it comes to sourcing specific food ingredients and making sure your pets get a balanced diet from a variety of sources, or when treating specific diseases through nutrition––we’re not as qualified as we sometimes think we are.

Most of that has to do with the fact that very little is known about nutrition relative to other areas in veterinary science. The other part has to do with the fact that little knowledge in one area leads to less time spent on it in school. Moreover, veterinary medicine has outsourced much of its food research to pet food companies––which means that nutritionists work for the corporate world and not for veterinary schools. 

Nevertheless, this field has been growing lately, finally expanding into the university setting and teaching a new generation of veterinarians new tricks...like how to treat diseases through careful selection of ingredients...like when it’s appropriate to recommend homemade diets...like which pet foods are the best for your specific breed, species, wellness state...like whether raw food really does make a difference to your pets’ teeth and coats, etc...

Though most veterinarians don’t routinely recommend you seek out the assistance of a nutritionist...many of us do. And even when your veterinarian doesn’t recommend one in particular, you can always ask for a referral. Almost all veterinarians will comply with this request, whether they believe a nutritionist can help you or not. 

For your part, you just need to understand that nutritionists are available to you. And that you can access one through AAVN.org, the American Association of Veterinary Nutritionists’ Web site. 


Dr. Patty Khuly