Assessing the Impact of a Pilot Nutrition Curriculum on Students' Confidence and Ability to Perform Nutritional Assessments on Overweight Dogs and Cats for Use in a Veterinary Outreach Program

J Vet Med Educ. 2022 Oct;49(5):594-602. doi: 10.3138/jvme-2020-0162. Epub 2021 Jul 16.


Obesity is a growing concern for dogs and cats. Although veterinary input is critical to prevent and manage obesity, conversations addressing overweight pets are challenging and require training to perform effectively. This study assessed the impact of a nutrition curriculum developed for use in a veterinary outreach program on student confidence and ability to perform nutritional assessments, particularly on overweight pets. The curriculum was developed by students and a Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionist focusing on (1) performing nutritional assessments and (2) discussing the findings with owners. Initial implementation and evaluation occurred with 32 students. Pre-study and post-study surveys were conducted asking students to rank their confidence in 14 aspects related to nutritional assessments, determine opportunities for change from a case summary, and describe their experience using the materials. Five students in the outreach program performed an additional nutritional assessment and developed a plan for a hypothetical case. Results were analyzed for significance via the likelihood ratios Chi-square and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests. Students showed significant increase in confidence for 11 of the 14 questions and significant improvements at determining opportunities for change (p < .05). Feedback was positive and supported the feasibility of using the materials with the outreach program. Overall, the findings support that the curriculum provides a positive learning experience and prepared veterinary students for performing nutritional assessments and creating management plans for obese pets. This article introduces the curriculum as a successful model for providing access to additional self-paced curricular units to veterinary students.

Keywords: client communication; nutrition course design; nutrition education; nutritional assessments; obesity; obesity management; overweight; student preparedness; veterinary medicine education.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cat Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Cats
  • Clinical Competence
  • Curriculum
  • Dog Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Dogs
  • Education, Veterinary* / methods
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Obesity / veterinary
  • Overweight / veterinary
  • Students