Back to School: NAVC’s Pet Nutrition Coach Certification

Ellen I. Lowery DVM, PhD, MBA

A Professor of Practice at Kansas State University, Olathe, Dr. Lowery serves as graduate faculty in the School of Applied and Interdisciplinary Studies, developing and teaching classes in the veterinary biomedical and professional science masters programs. She is also an ancillary faculty member in the Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology and Public Health departments at K-State Olathe’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Prior to joining K-State Olathe, Dr. Lowery was director of the U.S. Professional and Veterinary Affairs department at Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc. She is currently president of the American Association of Industry Veterinarians, is on the board of directors for PRIDE Veterinary Medical Community, and serves on the Veterinary Oral Health Council. Dr. Lowery earned her doctorate in comparative pathology, her doctorate of veterinary medicine, and her bachelor’s degree in animal science from Kansas State University. She also has a master’s of business administration in leadership and marketing from the University of Kansas.

Kara M. Burns MS, MEd, LVT, VTS (Nutrition)

The director of veterinary nursing for NAVC Publishing and editor in chief of Today’s Veterinary Nurse, Kara is a licensed veterinary technician with master’s degrees in physiology and counseling psychology. In 2011-2012, she was granted an honorary VTS (Internal Medicine) and a VTS (Dentistry), respectively. Founder and president of the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians, she teaches nutrition courses around the world and as part of the VIN/Veterinary Support Personnel Network and VetMedTeam. She is a prolific author and an international conference speaker, focusing on topics of nutrition, leadership, and technician utilization. Kara holds positions on many boards in the profession, including American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition executive board technician liaison; WVC Technician Education Manager; NAVTA President; LGVMA board treasurer; International Society for Sports Nutrition; and the Pet Nutrition Alliance executive board.

Back to School: NAVC’s Pet Nutrition Coach Certification
Incorporating nutrition into the practice is good medicine, good business, and the right thing to do for our patients and our clients. Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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NAVC Certifications

The goal of NAVC’s Pet Nutrition Coach Certification program is to assist the entire veterinary healthcare team in integrating nutrition as a cornerstone of patient care.

Nutrition is essential to optimal pet health. In veterinary medicine, nutrition is one area that affects every patient that comes into the hospital. When looking at the three components that affect the life of an animal—genetics, environment, and nutrition—nutrition is the one factor that the veterinary healthcare team can impact the most. Proper nutrition and feeding management is a critical component of preventive and therapeutic care, supporting the quality and longevity of pets’ lives. Our clients have easy access to a lot of information, and unfortunately a lot of myths and misinformation, around pet foods. This can mean that clients are coming in believing they are more educated on pet nutrition, with very strong preferences for the types of ingredients they want or, more often, don’t want, in their pets’ food. This provides an excellent opportunity for the veterinary team to work with their clients, provide a nutritional assessment and recommendation that meets the pets’ needs and the clients’ preferences, and ultimately provide both the patient and the client with the best care.

The American Animal Hospital Association published nutritional assessment guidelines for the veterinary profession. The guidelines state that “Good nutrition enhances pets’ quality and quantity of life, and is integral to optimal animal care. Incorporating nutritional assessment into regular animal care is critical for maintaining pets’ health, as well as their response to disease and injury.”1 Veterinary healthcare teams should be the reputable source of information and care for pet health, and this includes nutrition. The pet food industry is a multibillion-dollar business and can be very confusing to our profession and to our clients. Clients often make pet food decisions based on personal likes (preferences) and what “speaks” to them from the product packaging or company advertising.

It is not necessary to know details about every pet food, or to be able to refute every myth or misperception clients have about their pets’ food. By understanding the fundamentals of pet nutrition, and being able to cut through the confusion and chaos in the pet food industry and have crucial conversations about pet food with clients, the veterinary professionals are positioned to be the trusted coach clients are looking for to provide the very best nutrition plan to help their pets live long, healthy, vibrant lives.

To help veterinary teams best support some of these goals, and become the trusted source of nutrition information for clients, the NAVC Certifications is launching a Pet Nutrition Coach Certification program at VMX 2019, which will be available through the online NAVC Certifications platform. Veterinary professionals can access valuable nutrition education that provides them with a foundational understanding of the importance and application of nutrition in optimal healthcare for dogs and cats. This program will help veterinary healthcare teams cut through the noise and confidently recommend the nutrition that fits what their client wants and what their patient needs.

There are many great resources available to the veterinary healthcare team to increase knowledge and skills in pet (dog and cat) nutrition.1,2 We do want to emphasize that this program is not intended to graduate veterinary specialists in nutrition. The goal of the Pet Nutrition Coach Certification program is to provide a practical, action-oriented, iterative series of modules, written by experienced nutritionists, practitioners, and educators, to assist the entire veterinary health care team in integrating nutrition as a cornerstone of patient care. We want to strengthen the nutrition core of the veterinary healthcare team and empower them to competently and confidently have that pet food discussion with clients and be able to make a specific recommendation for the best care of their patients.

The program will take participants through eight self-paced educational modules starting with understanding nutrition as the fifth vital assessment and the central role that the entire veterinary healthcare team has in providing optimal pet care. Subsequent learning modules will provide education and learning on the fundamentals of nutrition, nutritional requirements of cats and dogs, important calculations for effective nutritional management, navigating nutritional myths and misperceptions, meeting client preferences for natural or raw diets, effective communication to support shared goals, and successfully integrating pet food recommendations and sales into hospital protocols.

For more information on the modules included in the course, go to

Hippocrates said, “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” Veterinary health care teams recognize that nutrition is important to their patient’s health and want to make the best food recommendation. Clients want the best for their pets and for their pets to live long, healthy lives. Incorporating nutrition into the practice is good medicine, good business, and the right thing to do for our patients and our clients.

The Pet Nutrition Coach Certification program is a self-paced, online learning module with a cost of $199. To learn more, visit


  1. Baldwin K, Bartges J, Buffington T, et al. AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. JAAHA 2010;46:285-296.
  2. WSAVA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines Task Force. Nutritional Assessment Guidelines. J Small Anim Pract 2011;52:385-396. Protection Status