What's a Veterinary Nutritionist? - Cat Info Detective

What’s a Veterinary Nutritionist?

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Hey all you curious cats! Skye Blake here with some fascinating facts about veterinary nutritionists.

Join me to discover more…

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What Is Veterinary Nutrition?

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Veterinary Nutrition is a medical specialty that focuses entirely on the nutritional needs of animals, a complex subject requiring intensive study over many years.

If a veterinarian has a case that needs more specialized knowledge, he recommends the client consult with a vet nutritionist (just as he would send a cat needing complex bone surgery to a vet orthopedic surgeon).

vet holding 2 adolescent kittens

If a client has a special request, such as wanting to formulate a complete and balanced raw diet, a vet can set up a consult with a vet nutritionist.

You can also contact a vet nutritionist directly, although they usually want to work with both you and your vet to get the best results for your cat.

Find a board-certified veterinary nutritionist at…

American College of Veterinary Nutrition, ACVN

What Does a Vet Nutritionist Do?

vet office

A board-certified veterinary nutritionist is a veterinarian (DVM) who specializes in animal nutrition.

Other veterinary nutritionists have the same education as board-certified ones, but they haven’t taken the test to become a Diplomate.

Here’s a summary of some of the work a veterinary nutritionist does…

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  • works with you and your vet to create a diet for your particular cat’s needs, whether healthy or sick, to achieve and maintain good health
  • works with animal athletes such as racehorses for optimum performance and health.
  • creates specific diets for cats that have illnesses such as kidney, heart, or liver diseases, diabetes, or cancer
  • helps with obesity, which must be handled carefully with cats to prevent problems when losing weight too fast or too slowly
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  • Formulates and tests products for pet food companies to ensure complete and balanced diets (having all necessary nutrients for each species and stage of life)
  • Oversees veterinary technicians
  • Gives lectures and/or teaches nutrition courses to veterinarians or the general public.
  • Some work in animal related industries as nutrition analysts (pharmaceuticals, pet and livestock food, zoos, government regulatory agencies)

Vet Nutritionist Organizations

second opinion-vet

If you’re interested in finding a vet nutritionist, start here…

American College of Veterinary Nutrition, ACVN

There’s also a good website created by veterinarians and specialists, including Vet Nutritionist, Lindsay Bullen, DVM, DACVN…

About Us | VetScoop

How’s a Vet Nutritionist Different from Others?

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There are many different people claiming to be experts about feline and other animal diets.

Pet nutritionists, cat nutritionists, regular vets, board-certified veterinary nutritionists, behaviorists, people who run Facebook groups, YouTube gurus… all claim they have the answers to how best feed your cat.

Anyone can call themselves a pet nutritionist and there are courses available for certification.

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While they all seem sincere and earnest in their beliefs in the “right way” they’ve discovered, there’s a difference between veterinarian nutritionists and all the rest.

Their level of education and understanding of both the needs of any animal’s body and how it metabolizes nutrition from various ingredients, far surpasses anyone else.

library - veterinary college

Regular vets (DVM’s) are trained in nutrition to varying degrees depending on where they went to school, but nutritionists specialize in the complex details.

Other “experts” simply don’t have the amount of medical and nutrition training the board-certified veterinary nutritionists have (and have worked hard to get).

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Their knowledge is more likely to be missing important pieces needed to get the best answers.

This is important to you because missing information can make your cat very sick and even be fatal.

If You Want to Become a Veterinary Nutritionist

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If you’re interested in becoming a board-certified vet nutritionist, here are the general steps you must take…

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree at an accredited college (usually a 4-year course of study focused on general nutrition, math, communications, and biological sciences like biology, anatomy, chemistry, physics, and physiology)
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  • Then 4 years of veterinary school to become a DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine)
  • Then 4 years of specialty work (2 years study + 2 years residency training)
  • Complete and publish a medical journal
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  • Submit 3 detailed case study reports to board
  • Pass both a comprehensive oral, written, and practical national vet exam (the NAVLE (North American Veterinary Licensing Exam) and state license exam to become Diplomate of ACVN
  • Take continuing education to maintain Diplomate board-certified status

Vet nutritionists can choose to specialize…

  • by type (small or large)
  • by group within that type (companion pets, small mammals, farm or zoo animals)
  • by a particular species (cat, dog, horse, cow, amphibian, bird, etc.)

Veterinary Schools

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There are vet schools in the United States that offer degrees in animal nutrition.

A helpful way to evaluate them is to consider that “…fundamental nutrition courses are important but so are nutrition services programs and faculty members who are certified through the American College of Veterinary Nutrition”17 Great Schools with Vet Nutrition Programs (vettechcolleges.com)

people in a meeting - vets

Here are some reputable options…

generic person - scientist, lab equipment, vet, meds

Veterinary Nutritionist Certification Organizations

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“There are two major certification organizations for veterinary or animal nutritionists:

ACVN

  • American College of Veterinary Nutrition – if you want to become a Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionist (BCVN), this is the certification to pursue. Some veterinarians pursue this certification to add to their credentials. For those who are not already veterinarians, after completion of a veterinary/animal science degree, you must complete a two-year residency under the supervision of a BCVN.

AVNT

  • Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians – If you are a veterinary technician who wishes to become certified in nutrition, this is the certification to pursue. Once you have graduated from an AVMA-approved veterinary technician program and/or are a licensed technician, you must complete three years/4000 hours of work experience in the field, 40 hours of continuing education in animal nutrition, and documentation of advanced clinical or research experience. You must also pass a certification exam.”2 Veterinary Nutritionist Career (nutritioned.org)

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page. 

3 brown cats sitting together

All sources are at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping. 

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs.

Discover more about nutrition and vets at “Cat Health“.


Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own. Sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionist” by Angie Park, Top Dog Tips, April 11, 2022

How to Become a Pet Nutritionist or Veterinarian” by Dr. Patty Khuly, Hill’s Pet (hillspet.com), November 26, 2018

Veterinary Nutrition” – BluePearl Pet Hospital (bluepearlvet.com)

“Veterinary Nutritionist Career“, (nutritioned.org)

Veterinary Nutritionist Job Description: Salary & More” by Mary Hope Kramer, (thebalancecareers.com), Updated July 11, 2019

Vet Turned Nutrition Specialist Helps Pets Stay Healthy“, Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, mercola.com, March 13, 2021

Updated July 9, 2023

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