There are several different types of animal nutritionists, many who specialize in agricultural animals or exotic species, but the most common type of animal nutritionists is one that works in developing commercial types of pet foods. These specialized experts in dog nutrition are hired by private dog food manufacturers, research groups, agricultural feed companies and of course by private owners that are concerned about their dog's specific nutritional requirements.
In general most people that are considered to be dog nutritionists will have at least a Bachelor level degree in agriculture or animal science, life science or nutritional science combined with food science or another related type of field. In addition a great number of public, private sector or even government based dog nutritionists will have Master's or even Doctorate level degrees in Agriculture or some aspect of animal nutrition.
Animal nutritionists working with pet food companies constantly test and make improvements on the quality and palatability of their foods. As animal nutrition research shows what minerals and vitamins need to be included in a dog's diet, the dog nutritionist makes the appropriate changes to feed ingredients and processes to ensure that the food is nutritionally balanced.
In most cases humans choose to feed their dogs a specific brand of dog food because of marketing. However, how good or bad that brand may be when compared to other brands on the market is often not a factor as people simply look to brand names. While most brand name foods are very nutritionally balanced for the average dog in average health, they may not be at all suitable for a dog with a specific health condition.
For some owners, especially those with dogs with health conditions such as food allergies, digestive sensitivities or other types of gastro-intestinal disorders, finding a nutritionally sound and appropriate food for their pet may be a real challenge. Pregnant and nursing dogs as well as puppies may also have very different nutritional needs than the average dog and may require additional additives or various types of foods to supplement a commercially available diet.
There are private consultants that work as dog nutritionists that can help breeders, kennel owners and private individuals to design a perfectly balanced and highly nutritious food plan for their dog or dogs, regardless of the specific condition that is occurring for the dog. Often these professionals work closely with breed groups, vets and other researchers to address health concerns that may be directly related to nutritional deficiencies or imbalances.
Consulting with a dog nutritionist may vary depending on the type of situation you are facing. In most cases the nutritionist will want some specific types of blood work completed to determine the current health status of the dog. This can include blood tests, urine samples and even fecal sample testing to check for protein levels and other issues both in the body and in waste materials. It will also help rule out parasite infestations and other conditions that may be causing poor nutritional health for the dog.
From the tests the dog nutritionist and the vet can work together to eliminate any other possible health issues. This is particularly used when dogs have very non-specific types of symptoms such as excessive weight gain or loss, failure to maintain their weight or lack of appetite and energy. The nutritionists will also require samples of the current dog food, schedules for feeding as well as information on your dog's normal behavior, temperament and general health record.
With all this data and specific health concerns eliminated, the nutritionist will evaluate your dog's diet and supplement with minerals, vitamins or trace elements that may be lacking in the current feeding regime. Often these are breed specific with some dog breeds having slightly different requirements, especially for the trace elements in the diet.
Often a dog nutritionist will also start your dog on a specific type of diet, especially in the cases where some type of food allergy is suspected. All commercial foods will be eliminated from the dog's food and a simple, bland diet of chicken or duck and rice is started. After a week to normalize on this diet, the nutritionist will start adding other foods, vitamins and minerals to the diet, monitoring for any type of reactions. The nutritionist, through this gradual testing process, will then be able to develop a safe, healthy and nutritionally balanced diet that avoids all of the food types of allergens.
Owners may want to consult a dog nutritionist even when their dog is doing wonderfully. Often people that are switching to the whole foods type of diets, sometimes referred to as BARF diets, what to be sure they are feeding their dogs correctly. BARF which can stand for either "bones and raw foods" or "biologically appropriate raw foods" is a type of holistic dog food diet. Bones and lean meat from poultry, fish, beef and lamb is combined with raw vegetables, fruits, some whole grains and vitamin and mineral supplements to make up a very natural type of diet.
Dogs of all breeds do very well on these types of natural diets. It is important, however, for owners to correctly balance the diet to avoid nutritional deficits. This includes managing and monitoring how much protein your dog is consuming in relationship to other important ingredients such as vegetables and fats. Each and every element must be provided in the raw foods to prevent nutritional imbalances that can lead to significant health concerns.
Puppies can also benefit from the use of a dog nutritionist, especially if you are bottle feeding or supplementing the mother's milk for the puppies prior to normal weaning. In addition litters that appear to be developing slower than normal or that are lacking in energy and appetite may also have nutritional deficiencies that are affecting their overall growth and development.
If your dog is not energetic, has a dull or lifeless coat, seems to be constantly tired or lethargic with no diagnosed health problems you may want to consider his or her food. Working with a dog nutritionist can help your dog in gaining back his or her energy and vitality and ultimately promoting better overall health.