I am a third-year veterinary student at the University of Surrey with a strong passion for small animal nutrition. All our nutrition teaching has been integrated into our modules and in our first year, we learnt about the role of nutrition in preventative medicine. However, when I have seen practice, and indeed when pet food companies come and talk to us, nutrition is only discussed as part of disease and treatment. Which got me wondering… why is this? So I am currently undertaking a research project which is part of my degree to discover just how much vets are implementing nutrition in their day to day consults. With the ever advancing pet food markets developing specific diets for different breeds as well as medical conditions, I’m interested to see just how much you use nutrition when it comes to disease treatment, prevention or management. In order to find out this information, I have formulated a short survey aimed at UK small animal vets.
As a small animal vet you will be no stranger to Pongo the 40kg diabetic Labrador that waddles through the consult room door on Monday morning with chronic osteoarthritis, the dog who only has his wet food three times a day with “just a few treats here and there”.
My question is how do we tackle these pets before they reach this point? What are vets doing in practice to work with owners to manage their animals’ dietary health?
How aware are vets of the range of diets available? With such a wide variety of diets and brands available, it can be a confusing task for some owners to make the correct diet decision from their animal. I wonder do you feel that it’s the vets job to guide your client into making an informed decision to ensure the optimum benefits of accurate nutrition? The challenge, of course, is how, in a ten-minute consult slot when you’re already running over, with a full waiting room, just how easy is it to discuss Pongo’s extra sausage or two with Mrs Jones?
The aim of my project is to identify when and where nutrition is being implemented and when and where it isn’t, but could be. I would like my data to help feed manufacturers and educators to begin to bridge these gaps and ensure the benefits of targeted nutrition are seen by both vets, pets and clients. We would like to know what barriers are coming between vets and effective implementation of targeted nutrition, so that this information may be used in the future to break down these barriers and improve the integration of nutrition discussion in day to day consults.
Please help me, by spending five minutes completing my survey, all data will be anonymised, but I am very happy to share my results with you if you are interested.