If you’re a vet tech who is passionate about animal nutrition, there are a number of different training opportunities you can pursue to gain more knowledge in this field. From continuing education to certification to specialization, there are options to suit every interest level.
Veterinary Technician Specialist (Nutrition)
For those who are interested in a career dedicated to animal nutrition, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) offers a nutrition specialty for vet techs. A Veterinary Technician Specialist in Nutrition, or VTS (Nutrition), is a vet tech that has completed specific training and testing requirements to join the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians (AVNT). This organization’s mission is “to advance the area of and promote excellence in the discipline of veterinary nutrition.”1
Veterinary Nutrition Technicians have all of the necessary skills to assist a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist with patient nutritional management. They are capable of performing nutritional calculations (such as resting energy requirement, maintenance energy requirement, daily energy requirement, etc.), correctly placing and utilizing feeding tubes, delivering total parenteral nutrition, and identifying food aversions and other feeding disorders.2 Additionally, these technicians understand the nutritional requirement associated with various life stages and disease states.2
Veterinary Nutrition Technicians work in a variety of settings. Some work alongside a veterinary nutritionist, in a university or specialty hospital, performing clinical veterinary nutrition. Others work in nutrition research, in a university or for a pet food manufacturer. Finally, some utilize their skills in alternative settings, such as animal health companies, professional organizations, and even zoos.
In order to become a certified Veterinary Nutrition Technician, you must:
- Be a graduate of an AVMA-approved vet tech program and/or a credentialed vet tech.
- Complete three years (4,000 hours) of work experience in animal nutrition, in a clinical or research-based role.
- Complete forty hours of nutrition-related continuing education (CE) in the preceding three-year period (at least 80% of which must focus on canine, feline, equine, and/or bovine nutrition and no more than 10% of which can be manufacturer-focused online continuing education).
- Document mastery of at least 80% of the skills on the AVNT Advanced Skills List.
- Document understanding of all items listed on the AVNT Advanced Knowledge List.
- Submit a clinical nutrition case log summarizing at least 40 clinical nutrition cases or submit a research log summarizing at least one year of veterinary nutrition research.
- Complete five detailed case reports, demonstrating an understanding of nutritional principles in at least two species.
- Create three Potential Examination Questions (multiple choice) according to AVNT guidelines.
- Submit two letters of recommendation by veterinarians or VTS (Nutrition) members3
If all appropriate documentation is received by the fall deadline, candidates are invited to sit for the AVNT exam at the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum in June.
Although specialization represents a significant time commitment, it is an excellent goal to work towards if you are interested in a vet tech career that is primarily focused on animal nutrition.
NAVC Pet Nutrition Coach Certification
While specialization is only an option for vet techs with several years of work experience in the field of nutrition, the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) offers a Pet Nutrition Coach Certification that is available to both new graduates and vet tech students. In fact, this program is offered to vets, vet techs, and all members of the veterinary team. The program, which is approved for CE, is designed to increase your overall level of familiarity with pet nutrition and your ability to educate clients on nutrition-related topics.4
The Pet Nutrition Coach program is delivered as an online curriculum that covers a variety of pet nutrition topics, followed by a final exam. Course topics include basic principles of nutrition, how to read a pet food label, and common pet food misconceptions. More importantly, however, this program offers a significant emphasis on client communication and educational tools.
While the Pet Nutrition Coach certification is in no way comparable to specialization, it provides both an opportunity to learn more about pet nutrition and an opportunity to have that learning recognized by others. Becoming a Certified Pet Nutrition Coach may boost your credibility with clients and coworkers, while also helping you determine whether you want to pursue further training in animal nutrition.
If the idea of committing to specialization or certification seems like too much, but you would still like to increase your knowledge base, look for CE opportunities in animal nutrition. Many pet food companies offer free online CE that can help you meet licensing requirements while also learning more about pet nutrition. Additionally, many veterinary conferences offer a nutrition track that provides additional in-person nutrition training.
Taking advantage of available learning opportunities can increase your nutritional awareness and confidence, resulting in improved care for your patients.
- Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians. Our Mission. Retrieved from https://nutritiontechs.com/homepage/about/
- Burns, KM. 2019. Veterinary Technician Specialist: Advanced Nutrition Skills. Proceedings NAVC Conference 2012. Retrieved from https://www.vetfolio.com/learn/article/veterinary-technician-specialist-advanced-nutrition-skills
- Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians. Candidate Info. Retrieved from https://nutritiontechs.com/candidate/
- North American Veterinary Community. Pet Nutrition Coach Certification. Retrieved from https://navc.com/certifications/pncc/