Vet Techs and the Veterinary Nutrition Specialty

Vet Techs and the Veterinary Nutrition Specialty

Today’s veterinary care sector understands that effective care is not simply about treating the animal for a current illness or injury, but ensuring that the animal remains in generally good health throughout its lifetime.

This is especially important among pets, as pet obesity is rapidly becoming as serious a problem as obesity in humans is. The tendency to feed pets table scraps and other forms of inappropriate food has resulted in the increased incidence of obesity and diseases related to poor nutrition, which can reduce the animal’s lifespan and quality of life.

One result of this increased emphasis on proper nutrition for pets has been the rise of specialized veterinary care professionals, including veterinary nutrition technicians. These individuals work to ensure that pets receive the proper nutrition, both at the veterinary practice and with their owners.

What is a Veterinary Nutrition Technician

The veterinary nutrition technician is a vet tech who has become certified in the field of animal nutrition by the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians (AVNT). By obtaining this certification, the vet tech demonstrates that he or she has obtained a high level of skill in the specialty of veterinary nutrition. The AVNT is currently recognized by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) as the primary certifying agency for vet techs in this field.

The Skills and Duties of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians

The field of veterinary nutrition involves a variety of skills and duties on the part of the vet tech.

Those vet techs who become specialists in nutrition will have the following duties that they will perform, both under the direct supervision of a veterinarian and independently:

  • Determining if the animal’s body weight is proper for its age, size and breed, as well as recognizing the signs of obesity in animals.
  • Assessing the animal’s nutritional status at every examination. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) currently regards nutritional assessment to be a vital component of any exam.
  • Assisting the veterinarian in evaluating the animal for potential food related allergies or illnesses.

Working with Animal Owners

A major component of the veterinary nutrition technician’s duties will be working with pet owners to ensure that they understand the importance of proper nutritional care for their beloved companion animals.

In many cases, owners may unknowingly contribute to their pet’s obesity and resultant poor health by feeding them table scraps or rich foods that are inappropriate for the animal’s current nutritional needs. In other cases, while the food may be of the proper type, the amounts may be inappropriate for pets and owners that enjoy a more sedentary lifestyle.

By instructing the owner in the best form of nutrition for his or her pet, a vet tech can help improve the health, lifespan and quality of life for the animal. Because vet techs are often involved in instructing the owners in how to best care for their pet, being able to inform them of the proper nutritional practices is a vital component of any overall pet wellness strategy.

Becoming a Veterinary Nutrition Technician

Becoming a veterinary technician requires that the vet tech receive certification from the AVNT. A candidate must have already successfully obtained certification as a vet tech, including graduation from an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredited institution as well as being licensed to practice in his or her home state.

After that, the vet tech must complete the following steps:

  • Have at least 4,000 hours or three years of work experience in animal nutrition. This must be documented experience from three years before the application to the AVNT.
  • The vet tech must have at least 40 hours of approved continuing education relating to animal nutrition. These courses must have been completed within three years of the candidate’s application.
  • The vet tech must provide evidence of his or her skills in the field of veterinary nutrition. This evidence includes completion of a veterinary technician skills form, a case log covering the year before the candidate’s application, five detailed case studies, and two letters of recommendation.

Finally, the candidate must take and pass the AVNT exam. As veterinary nutrition is a newly recognized specialty, the first AVNT exam will be given in June 2013. Once the candidate has passed, he or she will be a certified veterinary nutrition technician.

The Advantages of Certification

Veterinary technicians are currently enjoying robust growth in their field, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimating that vet techs will see above average growth in salary and job opportunities. By becoming a veterinary nutrition technician, a vet tech obtains a higher level of skill in a specialty that is becoming increasingly important for veterinarians and pet owners alike. As such, a vet tech who has become a certified specialist in nutrition will enjoy improved career and salary options compared to those who lack certification in this important veterinary care specialty.