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Diet History

Obtain a complete diet history to include brand, flavor, and form, feeding amount per meal and amount per day, treats, dental chews, supplements and food used to medicate are all important to create an effective assessment. The WSAVA Short Diet History Form is a useful tool for the team to collect information.

  • Always provide a written diet history form, and consider having the owner complete it in advance to the hospital visit for routine examinations.
  • With the limited time in the exam room, it can be helpful to have the pet owner complete a diet history form in advance of the appointment. This can either be in the exam room, or even sent to the owner in advance of the visit for routine annual exams.
  • The additional time to complete the diet history form allows the owner to better recall and record the details of the diet.
  • Having the written form helps to ensure that questions are not missed, and the data is more complete.

Follow up the written form with face to face questions to clarify and fill in the gaps.

  • Despite the usefulness and value of the written diet history, there is no replacement for the face to face interaction with the client. The time saved by using the form can allow time to clarify or fill in the gaps  that are not captured on the form, or questions that may come up as a result of the answers the pet owner provided.
  • Avoid leading and closed ended questions, and use open ended questions that allow owners to share the complete daily feeding experience. One study has demonstrated that question design can influence the accuracy and completeness of a nutritional history.1

  • Shift from “What” closed questions to “Tell” open ended questions:
    • What food are you feeding Max?” versus “Tell me about Max’s diet.”
  • Use the “Funnel” approach: 
    • Tell me about the day and the life of Lily”.
    • “Would you tell me about Lily’s normal eating habits”.
    • Describe Lily’s eating habits over the past three days”.
  • Be aware of topics that the owner may feel sensitive about answering truthfully, such as practices of feeding treats.
    • Instead of asking if the owner feeds treats, ask them to tell about what type of treats the pet is fed. This second way of posing the question helps the owner to feel more comfortable and more information is likely to be shared.

Consider all household members, and what each may be feeding the pet.

  • The pet owner attending the visit may not be the only one feeding the pet. To get a better complete picture, as about other members in the household and what type of feeding or treating interactions they may have.
  1. Mac Martin C., et al. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015; 248: 1203-1214)