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Nutrition Nuggets
 
 
Your dog's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your dog, how much food to feed, and the differences in dog foods, so your dog gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

Nutrition: The Fifth Vital Assessment?

March 09, 2012 / (1) comments

When I was in veterinary school, students were taught to evaluate three vital signs in every patient: temperature, pulse and respiration rates (also known as a TPR). This was drilled into our heads over and over again. No patient, sick or apparently healthy, should walk out of the exam room without a TPR written in its chart. This is good advice and certainly goes a long way toward ensuring that we don’t overlook our pets’ potential health problems.

Soon after I left vet school, a fourth vital assessment was added to the list: pain. Many pets are good at masking pain. Owners may think that their dogs or cats are simply slowing down when in fact they are hurting. Veterinarians now have many safe and effective tools available to treat animal pain, so making this assessment can go a long way toward improving quality of life.

In 2010, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) published their Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. This is a great tool for helping veterinarians incorporate nutritional evaluations into the work-up of their patients. AAHA and their partners are now taking this to the next level, challenging veterinarians to make nutrition the fifth vital assessment with the website everypeteverytime.com.

According to everypeteverytime.com, "90% of pet owners want a nutritional recommendation, but only 15% of pet owners perceive being given one." Feeding pets an appropriate amount of nutritionally balanced food made from quality ingredients is one of the best ways for owners to promote their health and longevity. If veterinarians start to consider information about nutrition to be just as vital as a patient’s TPR, we can do a better job at helping owners to make sure that their pets are getting what they need from their diets.

The benefits of nutritional assessments don’t stop there, however. As I recently talked about in the post Therapeutic Diets: When Food is Medicine, specialized diets are important tools in the management of many diseases. Unfortunately, pets are not being offered these therapeutic diets as often as they should. AAHA estimates that "only 7% of pets that could benefit from a therapeutic food are actually on one."

Putting information about a pet’s nutritional status on par with its other vital assessments will make pets healthier. Both the AAHA guidelines and everypeteverytime.com are written primarily for veterinarians, but owners can also get a lot out of them. Take a look; familiarize yourself with the guidelines. If your vet doesn’t ask about your pet’s diet during your next visit, you will have the information you need to initiate the discussion yourself.

 Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: advent / via Shutterstock

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Comments  1

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  • Standard Assessment
    03/09/2012 06:44am

    Once again I'm convinced that my vet is awesome. With every exam (even if it's a weekly checkup for a sick critter), he always asks and makes note of current diet and how well the critter is eating.

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.

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