By Dr. Cathy Alinovi DVM
When most people go to the veterinarian it is assumed the veterinarian is trained in the skills that are needed. Graduation from a veterinary curriculum means “trained and ready to serve your pets.”
Any veterinarian can provide any service. There are specialty services that may require additional training – like orthopedic surgery or spinal manipulation – but none of these services require that the veterinarian be board certified.
Some veterinarians find they have a special interest in a particular field and want more depth to their training. Be it dermatology, behavior, or herbal medicine, these doctors return to school, perform research, and publish their results before “sitting for the board” exam. Once the board examination is passed, that veterinarian is a specialist in that area, but can still practice all other areas of medicine if he or she chooses. An internal medicine veterinarian can still perform surgery, as an example.
On the other side of the coin, a general practice veterinarian can provide any service as already mentioned, like surgery or internal medicine. The purpose of board certification is two-fold: provide the doctor more training in a specialty field, and increase the body of knowledge in that field – both of which benefits more pets.
Some pet owners may need the services of the board-certified veterinarian to resolve their pet’s health issue. Some general practitioners may consult with a specialist on a case.
At no point is the generalist precluded from practicing in the specialty field – except in the field of veterinary nutrition. For some reason, the American College of Veterinary Nutrition is different.
While every veterinarian in this country is considered capable of practicing all aspects of veterinary medicine upon graduation and passage of the national veterinary board exam, general practice veterinarians are strongly discouraged from giving nutrition advice to their clients.
It would be possible to argue it’s because veterinarians receive little to no training in nutrition in school, but the same can be said for orthopedic surgery. (Either field would be an elective for further training.) Therefore, lack of training isn’t the explanation why general practice veterinarians are discouraged from giving nutritional advice.
Is it about control? Is it that the ACVN wants to change the entire veterinary health care system in this country and model it after human medicine where only specialists can practice? Can pet owners afford such a paradigm? Is this an unfair practice behavior opening the ACVN and veterinary medicine to libel?
If the veterinary nutrition industry were open to growth like every other specialty area, the ACVN would offer courses in continuing education for the general practitioner. They do not offer this at this time. The ACVN is a closed association- I then begin to wonder what, or who, is behind this?
Dr. Cathy Alinovi is from Indiana and now retired from her practice. Certified in Veterinary Food Therapy, Veterinary Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Therapy, and Aromatherapy, Dr. Cathy’s approach is committed to the health of our pets and continues to educate pet parents with her writing, books and research in pet health. Learn more at drcathyvet.com