• Good nutrition is vital for the health of animals and for treating many disorders. The World Small Animal Association (WSAVA) Global Nutrition Committee (GNC) has launched an initiative to make nutritional assessment the fifth vital assessment; the other four assessments being temperature, pulse, respiration and assessment of pain. To aid in this nutritional assessment a nutritional assessment checklist is now available.

WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee guidelines and toolkit

  • The WSAVA website includes guidelines for nutritional assessment and a 'toolkit' to aid practitioners in incorporating this assessment in their everyday assessment of patients.
  • WSAVA GNC toolkit Global Nutrition Toolkit includes:
    • Diet history form.
    • Hospitalized patient feeding guide.
    • Body condition score charts for dogs and cats.
    • Muscle condition score sheets for dogs and cats.
    • Average calorie recommendations for adult dogs and cats.
    • Nutritional assessment checklist.
    • Owner's guide to nutrition information on the web.
    • Information for owners for picking the right diet.

What is a nutritional assessment?

  • Nutritional assessment takes into account the following aspects of nutrition:
    • Animal specific factors including age, lifestage, activity level, and nutrient sensitive disorders requiring specific dietary management.
    • Diet specific factors including the safety and appropriateness of the diet, nutrient imbalances, food spoilage or contamination, poor quality or unbalanced commercial or homemade diets.
    • Feeding management and environmental management factors including frequency, timing, location and method of feeding. This also includes over or under feeding, feeding of treats, scavenging, hunting, the pet's housing, competition for food from other animals, access to the outdoors, and environmental enrichment.

Nutritional assessment parts: screening and extended

  • Screening assessment:
    • Performed on every pet at every visit.
    • Includes dietary history, body condition score and muscle mass score, evaluation of teeth and coat.
    • Includes consideration of lifestage, eg a reproducing bitch.
  • Extended evaluation:
    • Performed if any areas of concern are found on screening assessment.
    • More in depth questioning on area of concern (eg unbalanced diet, overweight pet) and possibly further diagnostics (eg serum T4 Thyroxine assay (free) on overweight dog).

Body Condition Score (BCS) and Muscle Mass Score

  • Body condition score Body condition scores Body Condition Score - Dog is based on the amount of body fat:
    • Validated by dual energy absorptiometry (DEXA) in cats and dogs.
    • Visual assessment for evidence of a waist.
    • Palpation of fat over ribs, which in pet dogs should be felt but not seen and rump.
    • WSAVA is a 9 point scale, with 5 normal for cats and either 4 or 5 normal for pet dogs (a very athletic dog may sometimes be normal at 3/9).
    • A 9/9 (obese) indicates 40 to 45% body fat; some animals may have more than 45% body fat.
  • Muscle Mass Score Muscle Condition Score Chart - Dogs is determined separately from the BCS as muscle mass can be lost with retention of body fat (eg diabetic cats often lose epaxial muscles and retain inguinal fat mass):
    • Four point system from normal (1) to severe muscle loss (4).
    • Visual assessment.
    • Palpation of temporal muscles, muscles over the shoulder, spine and pelvis.