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Clinical Nutrition

Nutrition is key to feline healthNutrition is an essential part of preventative health care and managing disease.

Penn Vet is one of only a handful of veterinary schools in North America with board-certified small animal clinical nutrition specialists on staff.

The Clinical Nutrition Service provides nutritional support recommendations and management expertise regarding a wide variety of life stages, medical conditions and dietary preferences for dogs and cats. We are available for consultation with doctors within our clinic, to referring veterinarians, and to pet owners.

Learn about what we do and how you and your veterinarian can work with the Clinical Nutrition Service at Penn Vet's Ryan Hospital. You may also visit our 'client resources' tab below to find out more about companion animal nutrition.

Recent media coverage includes an article in the Huffington Post on organic diets and a MyFoxPhilly story on exercising your pet

 

 

What is a clinical nutritionist?

  • A small animal clinical nutritionist, or veterinary nutritionist, is a veterinarian with a background in clinical practice who has undergone extensive training in nutrition, in addition to having experience teaching and conducting research, and has been board certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN). For more information, visit ACVN's Frequently Asked Questions.

What does a clinical nutritionist do?

  • A clinical nutritionist generally provides their expertise to improve the care provided to pets being treated primarily by other veterinarians. In this case, we serve a supportive role, providing advice on feeding strategies, diet, and monitoring to the primary clinicians. This consultation service is available for pets being treated at PennVet and by outside veterinarians. For more detail, see the "Consultations" section below.
  • A clinical nutritionist may also work directly with pet owners (with input from their primary veterinarian) to provide nutritional advice and counseling. For more detail, see the "Appointments" section below. 
  • Depending on the pet’s health status and other factors, feeding plans may include commercially-available over-the-counter or therapeutic diets, home-prepared diets, diets specially prepared for tube-feeding, parenteral (IV) nutrition, and dietary supplements.
  • In addition to making recommendations specific to diet selection, clinical nutritionists provide information on ideal amounts, timing, and frequency of feeding, as well as the formulation of a plan for monitoring a pet’s response to dietary therapy.

How to get help from Clinical Nutrition at Penn Vet

  • Have your veterinarian arrange a consultation. For details, please see the "Consultations" section below.
  • Schedule an appointment. Please see the "Appointments" section below for details.
  • In order to best help your pet, and those of others, the Clinical Nutrition Service does not provide advice directly to pet owners who have not had an appointment with the service. If you want advice related to your pet’s nutrition, or have questions regarding pet food or supplements, please either schedule an appointment with our service or contact your veterinarian and request that they consult with the Clinical Nutrition Service.

Can I call the clinical nutrition service for advice without an appointment?

  • When you speak with someone who does the same job that you do, they understand the technical details of what you describe about your day more thoroughly than someone with a different job. If you were a software engineer, it would be more difficult to explain the reason you made a particular technical decision to a friend that is an artist, than to one of your professional colleagues. The same applies to veterinary medicine. Veterinarians have a very specific and detail-oriented language and an understanding of the implications of decisions that members of other professions do not. Your pet receives the best care when decisions regarding medical care are made by you and a veterinarian who knows your pet, sometimes with the input of other experts.
  • If you choose to schedule an appointment with the Clinical Nutrition Service, the nutritionist then becomes a veterinarian who knows you and your pet, and can thus make personalized recommendations and provide appropriate advice directly to you. If you and your veterinarian choose to request consultation with the Clinical Nutrition Service, then the nutritionist will act as an expert who provides advice only to your veterinarian. In this case, your veterinarian’s clinical impression and training are very important to providing the information that allows the nutritionist to make the best recommendations, and your veterinarian’s interpretation of this advice is crucial to implementing changes for your pet. While you may know more about many aspects of your pet than anyone else, no one can replace your veterinarian for this purpose.
  • This is why providing medical advice to a pet owner regarding a patient that a veterinarian has not personally examined is not in the pet’s best interest, considered unethical, and is not legal.


Consultation with the nutrition service is available to veterinarians (within or outside of PennVet) only.Penn Vet Nutrition, dog on feeding tube
Depending on the complexity of the case and nutritional plan, a brief consultation (in person or by phone) may fulfill the pet’s needs.

For more complex cases, the pet’s veterinarian provides the clinical nutritionist with information about: 

Based on the information provided, the clinical nutritionist will communicate with the pet’s veterinarian to formulate a nutritional plan for the pet. 

For legal and ethical reasons, it is important that all advice given to a pet owner come from a veterinarian who has evaluated the pet and has a relationship with the pet’s owner. The pet’s veterinarian will be the contact person for questions and concerns regarding the pet’s response to the feeding plan.

Depending on the pet’s health status and other factors, feeding plans may include commercially-available over-the-counter or therapeutic diets, home-prepared diets, diets specially prepared for tube-feeding, parenteral (IV) nutrition, and dietary supplements.

In addition to making recommendations specific to diet selection, clinical nutritionists provide information on ideal amounts, timing, and frequency of feeding, as well as the formulation of a plan for monitoring a pet’s response to dietary therapy.

Charges for consultations are billed to the veterinarian’s hospital and vary with the type of consultation and nutritional plan prescribed.

To request consultation with the Clinical Nutrition Service

  • For urgent consultations, please call 215-898-4218 and specify that an emergency clinical nutrition consultation is needed, so that we can be contacted directly.
  • You may download the consult and diet history forms or request them by fax (Call the Referral Office at (877-PENN VET or 877-736-6838).
  • The forms and any information pertaining to this consultation that you would like to include (e.g., clinical laboratory results) can be emailed or faxed to us.
  • Email: nutritionconsult@vet.upenn.edu
    FAX: 215-573-4617, Attn. Clinical Nutrition Service
  • Please indicate your name and the patient identifying information on any faxes so we can direct this information to the appropriate case.
  • We will contact you within 48 hours although depending upon the nature of the consultation it may take longer to accomplish all aspects of the request.

To refer a case, please call the Ryan Veterinary Hospital Referring Veterinarian Services at 215-898-4218 and request that the patient be seen by either the Clinical Nutrition Service, or the most appropriate out-patient service and indicate that you are also requesting that the Clinical Nutrition Service be consulted as part of the referral.

 

Outpatient appointments with the Clinical Nutrition Service are available.

Pet owners may wish to schedule an appointment with the Clinical Nutrition service for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons are:

Specific medical conditions:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Food allergies
  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Liver disease
  • Obesity
  • Pancreatitis
  • Skin disease
  • Urinary stones

General concerns:

  • Choosing the best diet for a pet
  • Determining amounts to feed
  • Evaluating dietary supplements
  • Feeding alternative diets
  • Finding a diet that meets particular pet owner specifications
  • Formulating a balanced home-prepared diet
  • Optimizing performance in working dogs

In order to obtain the most benefit from an appointment with the Clinical Nutrition Service, it is important that we are able to review a pet’s diet and medical history and contact the pet’s primary care veterinarian before the appointment. This allows us to spend the appointment discussing topics relevant to the pet and answering the pet owner’s specific questions, rather than gathering this information.

  • For this reason, appointments should be scheduled 1-2 weeks in advance.

To schedule an appointment with the Clinical Nutrition Service, please call 215.746.8387 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

  • Please provide contact information for the pet’s primary care veterinarian at the time the appointment is scheduled.
  • Complete the diet history form (pdf) and submit it by email, fax, or mail.
  • Contact your primary care veterinarian and request your pet’s medical record be faxed, mailed, or emailed to the Clinical Nutrition Service.

To submit these documents:
Email: nutritonconsult@vet.upenn.edu
Fax: (215) 573-6050
Mail:Dr. Amy Farcas,
Clinical Nutrition Service
Ryan Veterinary Hospital
3900 Delancey St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010 

 

 

Faculty/Clinicians
Name   Title
Penn Vet, Dr. Amy Farcas, nutrition Amy Farcas, DVM, MS, DACVN
 Lecturer, Nutrition
Kathryn Michel, Penn Vet, nutrition Kathryn E. Michel, DVM, MS, DACVN  Professor of Nutrition, Clinician Educator
Ariel Mosenco, Penn Vet, medicine, nutrition Ariel Mosenco, DVM, DACVIM  Resident in Nutrition, Staff Veterinarian in Internal Medicine

 

Nurse Practitioner
Name Title
Charlotte M. Higgins, CVT, VTS (Nutrition)
Nurse Practitioner – Nutrition Support

General Information About Pet Nutrition and Pet Food: Useful Links

Nutrition Resources
Making Sure Your Pet Receives Appropriate Nutrition
Pet Food Recalls

Periodically, recalls and alerts issued regarding pet food, including dog and cat foods. The information is based on reports and alerts received from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and/or the manufacturers.

To report an adverse event associated with pet food, submit a report to the FDA.