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Nutritional calculations: a guide for the veterinary healthcare team

02 October 2014
15 mins read
Volume 5 · Issue 8


Nutrition is one of the most important considerations in the maintenance of health and plays a critical role in the management of many diseases; a reflection of its acknowledgement as the fifth vital assessment (after temperature, pulse, respiration and pain). With the plethora of commercial diets now available, it can be particularly challenging for pet owners to decide what, and how much, to feed and they may approach the veterinary team for advice. To assist in the process of diet choice, this paper provides a selection of simple calculations relating to the nutrient and energy requirements of dogs and cats and comparison of different diets. These are designed to be used on a practical level in a clinical setting by all members of the veterinary healthcare team.

Clinical nutrition spans an understanding of basic nutritional principles to the application of nutrition in optimising health and the wellbeing of companion animals. In developed society, dogs and cats are most often fed commercial diets (Hill, 2009). In the UK, it is estimated that 13 million (46%) of households own a pet and the value of the UK pet food market is now £2.6 billion (Pet Food Manufacturers' Association (PFMA), 2014a) yet, traditionally, while 90% of pet owners would like a nutritional recommendation, only 15% perceive being given one (American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), 2003). More recent findings suggest that around 30% of pet owners use ‘instinct’ when deciding how much to feed (PFMA, 2014b), demonstrating a need for accessible and accurate nutritional advice from the veterinary healthcare team. However, when communicating with clients about nutrition and making nutritional recommendations, it is also important to consider that 68% of pet owners do not follow professional guidelines when deciding portion size; an acknowledged contributory factor to the UK pet obesity epidemic (PFMA, 2014b).

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