Updated: Jan 10
There was a great response from TollerTails.com readers to our June article Talkin' About Tummies: Dog Nutrition with Canine Nutritionist Christine Ford. And quite a few of you messaged or emailed me asking for Toller Tips on how to find a reputable Dog Nutritionist and how I went about finding a certified dog nutritionist.
So, woofy, woof, I rubbed my paws together and got to working on some Toller Tips on how to find a reputable pet nutritionist.
Acutally, finding a certified or reputable dog nutritionist is similar to finding a nutritionist or dietitian for humans. It takes some research and asking a lot of questions to find a dog nutritionist who has actual expertise and experience in pet nutrition.
In most countries, pet nutritionists aren’t licenced or governed by a regulatory body. So, it’s important that dog owners sniff out the nutritionist for us and advocate for us dogs!
Here’s some tips on where to start if you are looking for a dog nutritionist.
Ask your dog breeder first. If you got your dog through a dog breeder, then ask them if they work with a pet nutritionist. Ethical and reputable dog breeders are highly engaged in their dog communities. Often, dog breeders have spent countless hours developing a canine nutrition plan in addition to a breed plan for their kennels with the goal of ensuring their dogs have the best start. Some dog breeders work or consult with a dog nutritionist or veterinarian, who has an interest in integrative veterinary therapies and diet. An ethical breeder can usually provide you with solid information on dog nutrition.
Ask Your Veterinarian or Holistic Veterinarian and their staff. Veterinarians, Holistic Veterinarians and their staff, such as Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVTs) are another source for finding local experts whether it’s helping find a reputable dog trainer or dog nutritionist.
Animal nutrition is one of the areas licenced Veterinarians, Holistic Veterinarians and RVTs study as part of their training, or as part of any continued professional education licencing requirements. However, that doesn’t mean pet nutrition is an active part of their practice.
Sometimes Veterinarians, especially Vets who incorporate integrative therapies in their practice, work closely with certified dog nutritionists to provide holistic or pet nutrition services. Asking for a referral is something Vets who include integrative therapies in their practice can help you with during your search.
Also, talking with your Vet and their staff can be helpful in assessing the pet nutritionists offering services in your area. Vets and RVTs see cases in their practices where pet nutritionists, who did not have the proper expertise, may have complicated or aggravated a pet’s health issues. So, checking with your Vet or Holistic Vet may be one way to narrow down the list to find reputable pet nutritionists in your area.
Ask your dog trainer. Dog trainers see a lot over the course of their dog training careers. If you are working with or have worked with a dog trainer, then ask them if they know any reputable and accredited dog nutritionists. Make sure to emphasize that you are looking for a dog nutritionist who not only has experience, but who has put in the hours of in-depth learning and is certified.
Don’t Rely on Google Searches or Online Reviews Alone! Entering “dog nutritionist” into Google or any search engine will fetch millions and millions of search returns. Relying on a Google search alone doesn’t guarantee you are connecting with an ethical and reputable dog nutritionist. Same thing goes for online reviews. Don’t purely rely on online reviews to assess whether or not a pet nutritionist is reputable or not. While online reviews can provide good insight, they should never be your only source for assessing a pet nutritionist’s qualifications.
Ask Your Fellow Dog Friends. Dog parents talk a lot! They share information about Veterinarians, doggie daycares, dog walkers, pet sitters, our favourite toys and on and on. You never know who in your doggy circle of friends has used the services of a pet nutritionist. Dog owners can be a great resource, but make sure to ask them: have they themselves used the pet nutritionist and why? Some pet nutritionists specialize in specific aspects of pet nutrition like cancer or elder dog care. Knowing why and what specific reason your dog friend used a dog nutritionist is important.
What to ask when you find a pet nutritionist?
Never hesitate to ask someone, who is advertising or claiming to provide pet nutrition services for the following:
How many years have they been providing pet nutrition services?
Do they have a speciality regarding pet nutrition? (Some pet nutritionists have experience with chronic illnesses, cancers and so forth.)
Proof of pet nutrition expertise, such as their pet nutrition educational certifications. While a pet nutrition isn’t a regulated field, there are legitimate programs of study and certifications that ethical reputable pet nutritionists have often fulfilled and hold.
References for current and past clients.
Proceed carefully or walk away, if your pet nutritionist:
Refuses or avoids providing their credentials or providing any bona fides regarding their pet nutrition experience or services. There are many paths of learning and experience to becoming a reputable pet nutritionist. Regardless of the path, a reputable pet nutritionist will always be willing to share their path and explain their credentials to you.
Does not have a business licence or necessary permits. A pet nutritionist, promoting or offering services for a fee should have a basic business licence and any necessary permits. Whether they own and operate a doggy daycare, a pet food store, dog training, dog walking or grooming services in addition to pet nutrition services, any reputable pet nutritionist should have a basic business licence. Having a basic business licence is one way to help identify a credible service provider from a fly by night business or disreputable service operator.
If they are advocating a specific brand of food or a specific diet, then you may want to ask them why? Like humans, there is no one size fits all dog diet or food brand. Each dog has their own needs and health profiles. If someone is promoting a single diet or food, then that’s a sign you need to do some more digging and ask more questions such as:
Are they a sales representative of that specific brand?
Do they have scientific evidence based research showing how the single diet that they are promoting works for your dog?
If they pressure you in any way into using their services. If at any point, a pet nutritionist tries to guilt you or suggests you are a bad dog owner if you don’t use their services, then consider walking away. Reputable and ethical pet nutritionists will never pressure you into using their services.