Nutrition of dogs and cats


Ratification Date: 31 May 2018


The nutritional status of cats and dogs is a very important indicator of their health and welfare, and should be assessed by veterinarians as part of a holistic approach to veterinary care.

All pet foods sold in Australia, including pet meat and pet treats, should be compliant with Australian Standard AS5812–2023 Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food to ensure safety of pet food for consumption by pets.


Deficiencies or excesses in calories, vitamins and minerals, as well as potential food toxicities, can affect the health of dogs and cats, and must be assessed by veterinarians. Obesity and emaciation are the two extremes of body condition and have serious implications for pet health. Obesity is recognised as being a disease on the rise in companion animals. Pet owners should strive to avoid diet and body condition-related extremes.

In 2011 (Revised, 2013) the Global Nutrition Committee of the World Small Animal

Veterinary Association (WSAVA) produced small animal nutrition guidelines with the specific aim of promoting the importance of nutritional assessments by the veterinarian at every pet visit (https://wsava.org/global-guidelines/global-nutrition-guidelines/). WSAVA launched a global initiative to promote nutritional assessment as the ‘5th Vital Sign’ that should be assessed in the standard physical examination, along with temperature, pulse, respiration and pain assessment.

WSAVA has also launched a nutritional toolkit (http://www.wsava.org/nutrition-toolkit) that “includes practical aids for the veterinary healthcare team to make nutritional assessment and recommendations more efficient”, including a diet history form, hospitalised patient feeding guide, body condition score charts and calorie recommendations for dogs and cats.

PetFAST (which stands for “Pet Food Adverse Event System of Tracking”) is a voluntary joint initiative of the AVA and the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA). It is a system to track health problems in dogs and cats suspected of being associated with pet food, treats or pet meat. It is designed to identify possible patterns which might point to a cause. Veterinarians in Australia can make a report to PetFAST by submitting details of adverse events that they suspect are associated with pet food, treats or pet meat.

AVA and PFIAA monitor PetFAST reports for case similarities that may indicate a possible or emerging problem. If a trend is identified in these reports, or a cluster of cases, a joint committee will be formed to discuss what action should be taken. This may include alerting the manufacturer and alerting veterinarians about syndromes to look out for as well as management of cases, where possible.

The Australian Standard AS5812-2023 Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food was recently reviewed with the assistance of the AVA PetFAST team. The Standard covers production of pet food, including pet meat, from sourcing, receipt and storage of ingredients, to processing (including heat treatment), packaging, labelling and storage of products, in order to assure their safety for pets. The Standard also includes instructions for the uniform application of information provided on labels.


  • Veterinarians are the professionals best placed to assess the optimum nutritional requirements for any individual dog or cat and should strive to keep pet owners informed of the importance of optimum body condition for pet health and wellbeing.
  • Veterinarians are ideally placed to provide sound dietary recommendations and these should be made in line with current scientific knowledge. Some disease conditions may be treated or alleviated by dietary management and this should be done under veterinary guidance.
  • When formulating a nutritional program, deficiencies or excesses in calories, vitamins and minerals, and an awareness of potential toxicities of the many nutritional sources available, must be considered.
  • Breed and species differences must be understood in the formulation of nutritional programs.

Related AVA documents

AVA Standards of Care: Regular Health check Standards for Dogs and Cats, page 3 (Checklist for Review at each consultation, Body Condition Score 1-9)

Date ratified by AVA Board: June 2018