Thursday, May 26, 2011

What's the best way to educate vets about pet nutrition?

I received an email recently from a veterinarian who commented that when he attended vet school 20 years ago, he took one nutrition course -- that was it. He said he hoped that situation had changed.
I think we all know it has not. Most US veterinarians would admit that their formal education on companion animal nutrition consisted of one basic course that, in some cases, had to be taught by a professor from another program (usually the animal science department or something similar) because no veterinary faculty had the knowledge or expertise to teach it.
 Any information on nutrition received after veterinary school usually comes via a handful of pet food manufacturers that sell through the veterinary channel. And not to disparage them, their products or their information, but let's face it: That information is by its very nature prone to be limited and biased.
Several pet food professionals in Europe have told me the situation is the same in most countries there, at least the ones with well-established pet food markets.
I don't have statistics on this -- except from Italy, where the Associazione Nazionale Medici Veterinari Italiana (national veterinary association) recently did an online survey showing 85% of vets there get requests from clients for advice on petfood -- but we all know the first source many pet owners turn to for information on pet nutrition is their veterinarian.
Considering this, the lack of nutrition knowledge and education among these professionals is one key reason, I believe, that so much misinformation about pet nutrition and petfoods abounds online and among other consumer media. Today's pet owners are highly involved, aware and hungry for knowledge. If they can't get it from their first source (their veterinarian), they'll turn wherever they can, including and especially the Internet.
The veterinarian I heard from issued a challenge: "Surely, there is a way for ... your industry in general to do a better job educating veterinarians, so they can help you educate the public."
Do you agree this is a role for our industry?

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