Making effective nutrition happen in small animal care

Posted on March 14, 2016

Cat with vet nurseA recent campaign by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) called for nutritional assessment to be regarded as the fifth vital sign that should be performed on every patient on each visit.

The inclusion of nutritional assessment on the list of physical parameters considered to be vital (the other signs being temperature, pulse rate, respiration, and pain assessments) was to emphasise the importance of nutrition in the maintenance of a pet’s good health. Unfortunately, simply ‘acknowledging’ its importance does not typically translate into effective feeding practice. 

Some may think that what is being referred to as 'effective nutrition' involve relatively advanced techniques such as placement of oesophagostomy or gastrostomy feeding tubes. While the skills for knowing how to place feeding tubes are very important, and indeed very useful in many cases, what is typically required usually starts with an overhaul of patient treatment sheets used in the hospital. Clinicians need to specify exactly how much to feed, what food should be fed and how often. In turn, the nursing staff should be very specific in recording exactly how much of the food they offered was consumed. Only after working out exact amounts of food being consumed (not just what was offered), can nutritional assessments become the norm in veterinary clinics.

There also should be open dialogue between clinicians and the nursing team in regards to failing to meet patients’ nutritional needs and what further action is required to ensure adequate nutritional intake. Finally, the way to truly ensure that patients’ nutritional needs can be met requires full working knowledge of the various feeding tube options available and becoming completely comfortable employing these techniques in practice.

Read Dan's full post on the BVA community.

Learn more about enhancing nutritional support of hospitalised small animals on our up and coming CPD course - Making effective nutrition happen - addressing the needs of critically ill patients.

Professor of Emergency and Critical Care Medicine and Clinical Nutrition at Royal Veterinary College (RVC)

Dan started his veterinary career in New York after graduating from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. He joined RVC in 2005 and became Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care in 2010.