Our practice has decided to implement the AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. How can we introduce the concept of nutrition as the fifth vital assessment to the entire veterinary practice team?”

Answer:

  • Integrating the concepts of proper nutrition or nutrition as a fifth vital assessment (5VA) into practice requires dedication of the whole team. The first step requires an explicit commitment by the practice’s leadership, the veterinarians.1
  • Veterinarians should discuss the AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats at a doctors’ meeting.
  • Also at the doctors’ meeting:
    1. Take a self-assessment quiz to determine if the practice has optimized the role of nutrition in patient care.
    2. Discuss how to integrate nutrition into patient care by reviewing the success factors that peers have suggested:
      • Define and implement the role of nutrition counselors2
      • Create and adhere to a written protocol2
      • Ensure consistent communication within the practice2
      • Make 5VA a belief and culture in the practice1
      • Provide continuous training of all team members2
      • Have passionate leadership about nutrition2
    3. Write the practice protocol.*
    4. Assign responsibilities for specific duties for all team members.
    5. Determine which tasks and procedures technicians will perform, and which doctors will perform. For example, who will obtain the patient’s history?3
    6. Create a new diet history form or use a sample as a template for the practice.**
  • The practice manager should then schedule a team meeting that will highlight nutrition as a vital role in the practice’s preventive health care.3
  • At the team meeting:
    1. Explain that the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and other members of the Pet Nutrition Alliance recommend that temperature, pulse, respiration, pain, and nutrition should be documented at every patient exam.3
    2. Discuss the AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines For Dogs and Cats.3
    3. Introduce concepts of nutrition as the fifth vital assessment.3
    4. Present the written practice protocol.
    5. Define the roles of each team member.3
    6. Review the questions that will be asked to obtain the patient’s diet history and to perform a nutritional assessment.4
    7. Devise ways to educate and encourage clients to participate in their pet’s care.3
    8. Empower the team to advocate for the pet and to work with the pet owner.3
  • Gain commitment from every member of the team and emphasize the need for a consistent message.3
  • Require team members to follow the Guidelines with their own pets.3
  • Enroll veterinary practice team members in continuing education that focuses on nutrition fundamentals. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Purina, and Proctor & Gamble all have online or onsite programs that address basic nutrition concepts.***

More supporting facts:

*A sample written protocol can be found in the tool “Implementing the Guidelines as Easy as 1-2-3” under the Nutritional Guidlines tools.

**Sample diet history forms can be found in the “Exam Room Tools” tools and the “Sample Exam Forms Incorporating Nutrition History” tools.

  • Feline and Canine Assessment Forms
  • Physical Exam Checklist
  • Canine Exam Form (Created by West Towne Veterinary Center-Dr. Ken Lambrecht)
  • Feline Exam Form (Created by West Towne Veterinary Center-Dr. Ken Lambrecht)

***Continuing education programs on nutrition are located in the “Training For Veterinary Practice Members” tools.

  • “Daily Nutrition Matters”
  • “Weight Coaches
  • Pet Wellness Continuing Education–“General Client Education”, “General Nutrition”
  • Pet Wellness Continuing Education and Client Tools-Home Cooked Diets
  • Pet Wellness Continuing Education and Client Tools-Ingredients
  • Pet Wellness Continuing Education and Client Tools-Disease
  • Pet Wellness Continuing Education and Client Tools-Weight
  • Veterinary Nutritional Advocate training
The Science Behind our Recommendations
1. American Animal Hospital Association. The convergence protocol: a blueprint to the preventive healthcare guidelines. Trends magazine.  2012;28(11)(suppl): S3-S5. 2. Success factors. Every Pet Every Time Web site; http://www.everypeteverytime.com/healthy-pets.html. Accessed June 20, 2013. 3. American Animal Hospital Association. Deploy your team. Trends magazine. 2012;28(9)(suppl):S12-S14. 4. Everhart, A. Nutrition: what to ask and why. Trends magazine. 2011; 27(10):27-31.