Veterinary Record 172:439-440 doi:10.1136/vr.f2569
  • News and Reports
  • BSAVA Congress

Standardising approaches to nutrition and pain in companion animals

(left) Marge Chandler and (right) Sheilah Robertson, who described the work of the WSAVA's Global Nutrition Committee and Global Pain Council during the BSAVA congress

Photographs: S. Burden/BSAVA

THE World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) took the opportunity provided by the BSAVA congress in Birmingham this month to highlight progress it had made with two key initiatives.

The WSAVA's Global Nutrition Committee (GNC) was created in 2010 and aims to have a nutritional assessment confirmed as the fifth vital assessment in a standard physical examination (after temperature, pulse, respiration and pain), and for the veterinary team to provide nutritional recommendations for each individual animal as an integral component of patient care. It has already created a set of nutrition guidelines, which were launched in 2011 and have since been endorsed by 19 veterinary organisations in 16 countries. The guidelines aim to help vets and pet owners ensure that pets are fed according to an optimal and individually tailored nutrition plan.

At the WSAVA's world congress in New Zealand in March, the GNC launched a ‘nutrition toolkit’, which contains a range of resources for practices and owners, including a body condition score chart, documents outlining the calorie requirements for healthy dogs and cats, nutritional assessment checklists, and a hospitalised patient feeding guide. It also contains advice sheets for owners on selecting the right food for their dog and cat and on searching for nutritional information on dogs and cats online. The toolkit is available at

Speaking at the BSAVA congress, Marge Chandler, co-chair of the GNC, explained that the initiative had arisen following an American Animal Hospital Association study in 2010 that had looked at owners’ perception of nutrition and the advice they were being given. It had shown that over 90 per cent of the pet owners wanted a nutritional recommendation from their vet, but only 15 per cent left a practice believing that they had received the advice they needed.

The GNC aimed to raise awareness of the importance of nutrition and to provide tools and information for the veterinary team, and to help educate owners.

A nutritional assessment, she explained, allowed the veterinary healthcare team to ensure the best care for healthy pets, to ensure that proper nutritional therapy and advice was given for pets with medical conditions and allowed assessment of whether the diet a pet was being fed was adequate. This was particularly relevant for ‘unconventional’ diets, such as those that were homemade, or those that included excessive treats, or some of the raw diets that might not be properly balanced.

Some of the documents in the toolkit – such as the calorie requirement chart – were intended as starting points for vets to use in practice. The calorie chart, for example, would give a practitioner an indication of how many calories the dog or cat in front of them might require, but would not necessarily be the answer for every pet for the rest of its life. In the next stage of work, the committee was aiming to make some of its guidelines more user friendly for practice (at present, some of them were extremely comprehensive) and less USA-centric.

Pain council

The second WSAVA initiative highlighted at the BSAVA congress was its Global Pain Council (GPC). Describing the work of the council, Jolle Kirpensteijn, the WSAVA president, explained that its aim was to make consideration of pain in animals a global entity.

Council member, Sheilah Robertson, described what had been achieved so far. The council had a commitment to establish a global pain-free environment for animals. Animals experienced pain during their lives, but because they were non-lingual, their suffering often went unnoticed and untreated. ‘There's a lot of animals suffering out there just because people aren't listening to the animals or not knowing what to look for,’ she said. This led to the ‘pain gap’ – a high incidence of pain in animals, but not a lot of treatment. ‘Our goal is to try to close this gap.’

The GPC had developed a guidance document for all vets working with small animals. This ‘pain treatise’ would hopefully be published later in 2013. It would contain information to guide practitioners to recognise, assess and manage pain in dogs and cats. It also contained a list of references and resources for vets, and took account of regional differences in the availability of analgesics.

Another part of the GPC's remit was to assist vets in obtaining analgesics in parts of the world where they were currently limited. The council needed to come up with ideas for what vets in these parts of the world could do with the drugs that were available to them, but also it had to help them lobby for better access to the drugs they needed.

The final goal was to provide continuing education globally, to get ‘everyone on board with the whole plan of making it a pain-free world for animals’.

In future, the GPC hoped to take some parts of the pain treatise and back them up with web-based resources. It wanted to conduct a survey of regional pain management needs and to get a feel for what drugs were available. It also wanted to develop regional continuing education programmes and to work with regional academic institutions.

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