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© 2018 AAVMC. Nutritional changes recommended by veterinarians to clients can have a major role in animal-patient health. Although there is literature on best practices that can inform veterinary communication training, little is known specifically about how veterinarians communicate their recommendations to clients in real-life interactions. This study used the qualitative research method of conversation analysis to investigate the form and content of veterinarian-initiated proposals for long-term dietary change in canine and feline patients to further inform veterinary communication training. We analyzed the characteristics and design of veterinarian-initiated proposals for long-term nutritional modification as well as the appointment phases during which they occurred, in a subsample of 42 videotaped segments drawn from 35 companion animal appointments in eastern Ontario, Canada. Analyses indicated that veterinarians initiated proposals at various points during the consultations rather than as a predictable part of treatment planning at the end. While some proposals were worded strongly (e.g., "She should be on."), most proposals avoided the presumption that dietary change would inevitably occur. Such proposals described dietary items as options (e.g., "There are also special diets.") or used mitigating language (e.g., "you may want to try."). These findings seem to reflect delicate veterinarian-client dynamics associated with dietary advice-giving in veterinary medicine that can impact adherence and limit shared decision-making. Our analyses offer guidance for communication training in veterinary education related to dietary treatment decision-making.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Veterinary Medical Education

Publication Date





514 - 533