What is a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist® and how can your dog or cat benefit from a consultation with one?

Posted July 29, 2020


Many pet owners think of their dogs and cats as family members.  And pet owners want to provide their dogs and cats diets on which they will thrive. This means avoiding diets that do not meet all a dog’s or cat’s nutritional requirements, diets that a pet will not eat, or diets or foods that could be potentially harmful. But with over 125 companies producing dog and cat foods in the United States,1 it can be very difficult to determine which foods are best to feed a dog or cat. If a pet has one or more medical conditions, it can be especially difficult. For many diseases affecting dogs and cats, nutritional modification is an important component of their overall management. A board certified veterinary nutritionist® is a veterinarian who specializes in animal nutrition, is uniquely qualified to help create nutritional plans, and can help manage medical conditions in animals.


A board certified veterinary nutritionist® is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN®). The ACVN® is the AVMA-recognized specialty organization for nutrition. Board certified veterinary nutritionists are veterinarians who have gone on to complete advanced training in biochemistry, metabolism, medicine and veterinary nutrition. Training involves intensive clinical, teaching, and research activities spanning at least two years. After completion of a training program, credentialing process, and a comprehensive 2-day written certifying examination, a board certified veterinary nutritionist® is uniquely trained in the nutritional management of both healthy animals and those with one or more diseases.  Board certified veterinary nutritionists understand the underlying causes and specific nutritional strategies that are used to prevent and treat diseases.  Board certified veterinary nutritionists understand that nutrition is critically important to maintain overall health and ensure optimal performance, as well as to manage the signs and progression of specific diseases. A board certified veterinary nutritionist® is uniquely qualified to recommend specific therapeutic diets, formulate critical care nutrition plans for hospitalized pets, and formulate home-prepared diets to manage the complex medical and nutritional needs of individual animals. Consultation with a board certified veterinary nutritionist® will ensure that a pet is receiving an appropriate diet for their age and size. The nutritional plan can address medical condition(s) as necessary and improve a dog’s or cat’s overall health.


To provide the best diet for a dog or cat, a board certified veterinary nutritionist® can provide guidance through the challenges facing veterinarians and pet owners. A board certified veterinary nutritionist® will provide balanced, customized nutritional plans for individual animals, whether this involves commercial or home-prepared diets.  While recipes for home-prepared dog and cat diets can be found on the Internet and in books written by veterinarians and non-veterinarians with varying levels of nutritional training, the majority of these diets were found to be inadequate when compared to recommendations for nutrient intake using ingredient databases and recent scientific findings.2-5 Nutrition consultations for medical conditions are made generally through a referral from the animal’s primary veterinarian, who also supplies the necessary background medical information for a complete overview of the animal’s current health status. The nutritional plan can address one or more medical conditions, even when commercial therapeutic solutions are not available, and improve overall wellness.




  1. Website: petfoodindustry.com/directories/211-top-pet-food-companies-current-data?page=1 Accessed 03/24/2020.
  2. Stockman J, Fascetti AJ, Kass, PH, et al: Evaluation of recipes of home-prepared maintenance diets for dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 242: 1500-1505, 2013.
  3. Streiff EL, Zwischenberger B, Butterwick RF, et al: A comparison of the nutritional adequacy of home-prepared and commercial diets for dogs. J Nutr 132:1698S-1700S, 2002.
  4. Heinze CR, Gomez FC, Freeman LM: Assessment of commercial diets and recipes for home-prepared diets recommended for dogs with cancer. J Am Vet Med Assoc 241:1453-1460, 2012.
  5. Larsen JA, Parks EM, Heinze CR, et al: Evaluation of recipes for home-prepared diets for dogs and cats with chronic renal disease. J Am Vet Med Assoc 240:532-538, 2012.