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Canine Nutrition Degree and Certificate Program Information

Read details about how to prepare for a career in canine nutrition. Find out what type of educational program offers studies in this field, what admission requirements must be met and what topics are addressed in the curriculum. Get details about licensing and certification requirements, as well as employment outlook and salary information for veterinarians.

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Essential Information

Canine nutrition is a small specialization that falls under the general heading of veterinary medicine. Canine nutritionists are responsible for prescribing and monitoring the meal plans for ill or injured dogs. While there are no degree or certificate programs related specifically to canine nutrition, individuals who are interested in specializing in the field can enroll in a small animal clinical nutrition residency program at a 4-year university within a veterinary department.

Small animal clinical nutrition residency programs are 2-year programs designed for individuals who have already earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from an accredited university. The residency programs are designed to provide postdoctoral students with specific clinical training in providing nutritional health plans for small animals, such as dogs and cats. Programs accredited by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) typically prepare graduates to take the ACVN certifying examination.

Education Prerequisites

Typically, students must have a DVM before they can participate in a residency program to specialize in small animal nutrition. Some schools may allow master's degree-holders with strong academic standing to enroll with an additional year of training. Most programs demand at least one year of clinical veterinary experience prior to application, though licensure might not be required. Pre-residency internships are encouraged.

Program Coursework

Most animal clinical nutrition residency programs do not rely on traditional courses, though students who have not met all academic prerequisites must usually take additional courses along with completion of clinical rotations. Typically, students' responsibilities are divided between clinical experiences in veterinary clinics or hospitals and teaching practicums. In clinical rotations, students cover the following topics:

  • Nutritional consultation
  • Devising feeding plans
  • Critical care nutrition
  • Commercial diet recommendation
  • Animal weight loss plans
  • Nutritional plans for metabolic diseases
  • Therapeutic diets for small animals

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Although not all veterinarians become animal nutritionists, canine nutritionists must usually become veterinarians. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not offer specific data for the specialty. However, the agency reported that veterinarians held about 56,020 jobs in 2012, with a projected employment increase of 36% between 2010-2020. The median annual salary of a veterinarian was $84,460 as of May 2012.

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.

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