Canine nutrition is a small specialization of veterinary medicine that focuses on the prescribing and monitoring of meal plans for ill or injured dogs. While there are no degree or certificate options specifically in canine nutrition, individuals interested in the field can enroll in a veterinary department clinical nutrition residency program at a 4-year university. These programs normally last 2 years and are designed for those with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree who are seeking postdoctoral training.
In some instances, master's-level students may apply if they have strong academic standing and participate in an additional year of training. In either case, all prospective enrollees must have at least one year of clinical veterinary experience. Pre-residency internships are strongly encouraged. Programs accredited by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) prepare graduates to take the ACVN certifying examination.
Clinical Nutrition Residency
Most animal clinical nutrition residency programs do not rely on traditional courses; they mostly entail teaching practica and clinical rotations. Lectures often cover the following topics:
- Nutritional consultation and plans for metabolic diseases
- Devising feeding plans
- Critical care nutrition
- Commercial diet recommendation
- Animal weight loss plans
- Therapeutic diets for small animals
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Although not all veterinarians become animal nutritionists, canine nutritionists usually become veterinarians. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not offer data for the specialty. However, employment for veterinarians is expected to grow at an above average rate of 9% between 2014-2024 with a mean annual salary $99,000 as of May 2015.
Certification Options and Licensure Requirements
ACVN offers board certification for small animal clinical nutritionists, including canine nutritionists. A DVM and completion of a residency program is required to qualify for testing (www.acvn.org). Additionally, all veterinarians must gain state licensure before they can legally practice in a clinical setting. Typically, aspiring veterinarians must pass a national board exam before they can gain licensure.
Although there are no degree or certificate programs specific to canine nutrition, clinical nutrition residency programs allow veterinarians to study canine nutrition in their postdoctoral training. Additional certifications are available for small animal nutritionists once they have completed their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and completed residency requirements.