Nutrition Can Positively Impact Pet Wellness: AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats Now Available

DENVER—Nutrition is integral to optimal pet care. However, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) found through its Compliance Study that only seven percent of pets that could benefit from a therapeutic food were actually on such a regimen. The compliance discrepancy along with the many factors considered in assessing the nutritional needs of a healthy dog or cat, as well as the pet with one or more medical conditions, led to the development the AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines.

“Incorporating nutritional assessment into the routine examination protocol for every patient is important for maintaining optimal health, as well as their response to disease and injury,” said Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP, AAHA executive director. “The goal of the new guidelines is to provide a framework for the veterinary practice team to help make nutritional assessments and recommendations for their patients.”

The guidelines break down nutritional assessment into “screening” and “extended” evaluations. Screening evaluations are performed on every animal. If a pet is determined to be healthy and without risk factors it is cleared from additional nutritional assessment. When one or more nutrition-related risk factors are found or suspected based on the screening evaluation, the pet should undergo an extended evaluation.

The factors to be evaluated include the animal, diet, feeding management and environmental factors. Certain life factors, by themselves, may not call for an extended evaluation if the animal is otherwise healthy. Low or high activity level, multiple pets in the home, gestation, lactation, and age, all create a need for closer scrutiny. The guidelines also discusses what to look for in healthy animals, animals with disease conditions and/or recommended nutritional changes, and hospitalized animals

Because of the extensive involvement of the client in the daily dietary management of the patients, client communication and rapport is important for improved pet health. The guidelines provide recommendations to veterinary staff on client communications and suggestions for educational tools for the client to aid in communicating their recommendations.

The AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines were made possible through a generous educational grant from Hill’s Pet Nutrition, are now available online at The Association is also developing educational workshops and web conferences based on the guidelines. These educational opportunities will be available this fall. For more information please contact Jason Merrihew at 720/963-4479 or


The American Animal Hospital Association is an international organization of 6,000 veterinary care teams, comprised of more than 45,000 veterinary professionals who are committed to excellence in companion animal care. Established in 1933, the Association is well-known among veterinarians for its leadership in the profession, high standards for veterinary practices and pet health care, and most importantly, its accreditation of companion animal practices. For more information about AAHA, visit the Association online at