How does a nutritional assessment get incorporated into a pet’s physical exam?


  • For every patient, obtain a nutritional history including activity level, body weight, body condition score (BCS) and muscle condition score (MCS).1-3
  • Perform a physical exam and identify any nutritional risk factors.1-3
  • Nutritional risk factors include: life stage considerations, abnormal BCS or MCS, poor skin or hair coat, systemic or dental disease, a pet that receives more than 10% of his/her total daily caloric intake from treats or table food,  unconventional diet, gastrointestinal upset, and inadequate or inappropriate housing.1
  • If the pet has a normal physical exam and no nutritional risk factors are detected, validate that the client is doing well and provide a specific dietary recommendation.1-3 You might say, “You are doing a great job. Continue feeding (amount of dry and canned food) twice daily and let’s recheck in one year.”
  • If a pet has nutrition risk factors or an abnormal physical exam, an extended evaluation should be performed. Based on the evaluation findings, a specific dietary recommendation is made (specific brand, dry/wet form, amount to feed, and monitoring plan).1-3
  • The assessment and recommendation should be recorded in the pet’s medical record at every exam, every visit.2,3
The Science Behind our Recommendations
1. Implementing the guidelines is easy as 1-2-3. Pet Nutrition Alliance Web site. Accessed July 30, 2013. 2. Tips for implementing nutrition as a vital assessment in your practice. Pet Nutrition Alliance Web site. Accessed July 30, 2013. 3. Baldwin K, Bartges J, Buffington T, Freeman L, et al. AAHA nutritional assessment guidelines for dogs and cats. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc. 2010 Jul-Aug; 46(4): 285-96.