Online Animal Nutrition Courses & Certificates

You should know that the term “Animal Nutritionist” doesn’t actually mean that much. The term is not protected, and anyone with an interest in nutrition for animals can call themselves an “Animal Nutritionist”. Generally speaking though, most job positions require a bachelors in a related field – such as Biology, Animal Science, Animal Nutrition, Food Science or Biochemistry in order to be hired as an “Animal Nutritionist”.

There are two protected titles when it comes to Animal Nutrition – a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, and a veterinary technician specialty in nutrition. These have very specific requirements and board examinations. Otherwise, it’s important to look at the level and type of education received by the indivudal – be it a university level program (aka bachelors, master’s, phD), or a certification program.

I’ve gone-ahead and divided up the courses/certificates into five categories to allow for comparison:

  • Non-RACE/IAABC approved courses/certificates
  • RACE approved CE – usually for veterinary professionals
  • IAABC approved CE – usually for certified behavior consultants/trainers
  • University level courses/certificates
  • Further Professional/Education Opportunities

Each course I’ve broken down the hours of instruction, and who exactly teaches the courses so that you have an idea of how much instruction you may receive on the subject. I’ve also included the cost of the courses in $USD to allow a good comparison between programs.

Hopefully all this information will allow you to not only choose a course for yourself if you’d like further educational opportunities, but allow you to understand the education and background of those who have undergone these courses/certifications already.

Non-Degree Certificates, Not RACE/IAABC Approved

Non-degree certificates are generally recognized as lacking a general standard as far as scientific accuracy, and standardization of content. This is by no means an inclusive list of programs, however these are the most popular that I could find online.

Dog’s Naturally Pet Nutrition Certification $295

Apx 10 hrs, not RACE approved

Taught by Dana Scott, written by Meg Smart DVM PhD

“In short, Certified Pet Nutrition Specialists are able to pick up any can or bag of pet food and perform advanced analysis to determine the quality of the nutrients, which nutrients are missing, and which supplements will fill the nutritional holes processing produces.”

Academy of Natural Health Sciences Clinical Pet Nutritionist (C.P.N) $2,275

Apx 500+ hrs of study, no mention of actual instruction hours, no RACE approval

Taught by Unknown

“Our Clinical Pet Nutritionist® (C.P.N.®) animal careers course is a professional training, designed to help anyone who has both a love of health and animals to educate pet owners about adjunctive natural health methods. Graduates may choose to be in private practice or work with other professionals in the fields of animal health, athletic performance, or veterinary nutrition.”

Non-degree Animal Nutrition Certificates – RACE APPROVED CE

For those who are un-aware veterinary professionals are required to do yearly continuing education in order to maintain their license, this CE has to be “RACE Approved”. RACE Approved CE has to go through an approval process with the AAVSB, be presented by an individual with advanced certification or training in the subject, and be scientifically accurate – you can find the full policies here.

The below list is by no way all-inclusive as far as CE for veterinary professionals – most large veterinary conferences will have CE offered on nutrition, and have board-certified or phD nutritionist speaking about dog food or the nutritional management of disease. You can also find individual nutrition CE through websites like DVM 360, Vetfolio, and more. I highly recommend getting on an email list to receive updates on upcoming CE topics so you can listen-in.

Hill’s, Purina & Royal Canin Small Animal Nutrition Continuing Education $0

Ongoing RACE Approved CE

Taught by various specialist in the veterinary field

Current courses focus on gastrointestinal disease, skin conditions, life-stage nutrition, metabolism, weight loss, and practice management. Though these programs are sponsored by pet food companies they often speak to a wide variety of nutrition related topics including the nutritional management of disease, and conjunctive therapies. However, they rarely speak to homemade diet formulation.

University of Tennessee – Nutritional Case Management Certification $99

10hrs RACE CE

Taught by Angela Witzel, DVM, AVCN

A good overview of animal nutrition and how we can use nutrition to influence different diseases processes. Gives an overview of different prescription diet options on the market – with comparative tables to allow ease of recommending diets. Gives information on the metabolism of different nutrients, how different disease process influence metabolism and how we can manipulate the diet to support pets and provide them with relief. Courses do speak to general macros, vitamins and minerals of concern with different disease processes, but does not offer information on diet formulation. Does offer a presentation on evaluating homemade diets for balance on a basic level.

8hrs RACE CE

Taught by ACVN Diplomat and phD in Animal Nutrition

A good foundation on metabolism, and basic nutritional needs for dogs and cats. A nice overview on AAFCO regulations, how to read a pet food, converting guaranteed analysis to dry matter, and pet food ingredient definitions. No information on diet formulation, or evaluating homemade diets for balance.

VetGirl Certificate in Animal Nutrition $250

12 hrs RACE approved CE

Taught by various internal medicine and veterinary nutritionist specialists

This is not a standardized course, but more a compilation of lectures that have been given through the VetGirl platform. The requirements for certification often change depending on lectures that are available. Usually have information about: pet food myths, food allergies, gastrointestinal disease, weight loss, novel diets, pet food marketing, and WASVA guidelines.

Non-Degree Certificates, IAABC Approved

This list is by no way all-inclusive, as there are some individual lectures available at conferences. For those who are un-aware the IAABC is the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants – this certification requires yearly continuing education and has standards as far as who can present information (must be a degree-holding expert), and information presented must be scientifically supported. You can see the full CEU policy here.

Dog Science Certificate in Canine Nutrition $447

30 hrs, 3 mini-courses – not RACE approved

Taught by Linda Case, MS Animal Nutrition

A comprehensive program in basic nutrition, feeding management throughout life, & pet food evaluation and selection, designed for dog enthusiasts & professionals. Learn the latest research regarding canine nutritional science, recommendations for food assessment & selection, and best feeding practices for dogs throughout life. Includes: Basics of Canine Nutrition (metabolism protein, fat, carbohydrates, energy needs, digestibility), Lifestage & Lifestyle Nutrition – including performance dog nutrition, and finally the history of dog food – commercial and homemade, pet food marketing, and how dog food is made.

CASI: Canine Nutrition Certificate $800

Apx 50+ hours – not RACE approved

Taught by Susan Dillon, Diploma in Human Nutrition through Huntington College, and taken courses at Purdue University and Colorado State University in Animal Nutrition.

“The Certificate in Canine Nutrition (Cert.CN) program is a solid science-based foundational exploration of nutrients, life-stage nutrition, digestive anatomy, and other topics related to this area of study. This program provides the solid foundation of knowledge necessary to understand canine nutrition. This program of study is not cursory and basic; we have designed this program of study to be more comprehensive and advanced than any other program available for personal interest. This program of study would be of interest to anyone wanting to gain a solid understanding of canine nutrition and possibly prepare themselves for an advanced program of study in the future. While this program does not include coursework in consulting skills, professional ethics or business practices, it is comprehensive with regards to topics in nutrition science.”

University Courses / Certifications Animal Nutrition

Below are a list of university level courses that can be taken online and focus on companion animal nutrition – there are other courses available in person, or that cover other species such as farm-animal, equine or exotics. But I did not include them in this list. Eight veterinary schools within the USA have requirements for animal nutrition in order to apply, as there are only 30 veterinary colleges in the USA, most veterinarians will have taken at least one of these (or similar) courses as part of their education.

Purdue University: Principles of Animal Nutrition $1,537.14

Single 3 unit course, apx 45 hours of instruction, can apply for RACE approval

Taught by Dale Forsyth, phD Animal Nutrition

“In this single course, learn all aspects of nutrition for domestic animals, from fundamentals of nutrition through feeds and feeding. The principles apply to all mammalian and avian species, but there will be an emphasis on swine, beef cattle, dairy cattle, poultry and horses. Feeds most commonly used in the United States will be emphasized, but feeds and principles of their use that are important to animals throughout the world will be considered.”

North Carolina Animal Nutrition Certificate ~$9,000

Four 3 unit courses, apx 180+ hours of instruction, can apply for RACE approval

Taught by Shannon Pratt Phillips, phD Animal Nutrition

“The University Certificate in Animal Nutrition is designed to allow people to gain recognition for learning the basics of animal nutrition at the undergraduate level. People who successfully complete the required courses will learn about livestock, horse, and companion animal nutrition.”

This certificate is more rounded – with emphasis on large animal nutrition, but does have several companion animal courses.

Southern Illinois University Companion Animal Nutrition Certificate $1,500

Apx 50 hours comprised of several mini-courses, can apply for RACE approval

Taught by Amer AbuGhazaleh, phD Animal Nutrition

“This online program is designed to give pet nutritionists, veterinarians and vet techs, pet breeders, pet shop owners, and pet enthusiasts the opportunity to take advanced training and rigorous science-based education on the various aspects of pet nutrition with special focus on canine and feline nutrition. After the completion of this program, participants will receive a non-degree diploma in Canine and Feline Nutrition from Southern Illinois University.”

Illinois University Companion Animal Nutrition Certificate $6,408

Apx 1-1.5 yr program, requires 3, 3 unit courses – total of around 120+ hrs. Can apply for RACE approval.

Taught by Kelly S. Swanson phD Animal Nutrition, Maria R. C. de Godoy phD Animal Nutrition

“The Companion Animal Nutrition Certificate program is an online non-degree program that gives industry professionals, veterinarians, animal scientists, pet breeders, and pet enthusiasts the opportunity to take in-depth courses on various aspects of companion animal nutrition. Course topics include canine and feline metabolism, nutrient functions and requirements, pet nutrition and disease, pet food ingredients, principles of diet formulation, pet food processing technologies, good manufacturing practices, pet food regulations, and market trends.”

Advanced Online Degrees in Animal Nutrition

University of Glasgow – Masters in Animal Nutrition ~$15,000

Full graduate program for a Master’s in Animal Nutrition. This is a three-year course taken part-time, taught by university professors with phD in related Animal Nutrition fields. This program requires a bachelors degree in a related field and relevant and substantial industry experience to apply.

ACVN Diplomat – A Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist

Require a veterinarian license (minimum of 8 years of education) , clinical rotation of at least 1 year, plus an additional two years residency under an ACVN diplomat, publication in a veterinary medical journal, three detailed case reports, and a two-day written examination. Depending on the residency program, additional graduate level coursework may be required.

Veterinary Technician Specialty Nutrition – VTS Nutrition

Requires a veterinary technician/nurse license, 3 years of experience as an RVT/CVT/LVT/RVN, 40 hours of CE units in nutrition, the completion of a knowledge test, and skills test, clinical or research case management plus 5 detailed case studies, plus an examination, and two recommendations from certified nutrition/veterinary professionals.

There are a lot of options out there for advanced certifications in animal nutrition, and I know deciding which course or certification would be best for your situation may be overwhelming. Personally I think starting small and working your way up is the best idea , but you can definitely go full-force into a higher education certificate if you desire.

Thus far, I’ve taken a fairly traditional route on veterinary continuing education – getting a majority of my CE at local veterinary conferences like Western, DVM 360, Vetfolio, along with the Hill’s, Royal Canin, Purina CE and at my local specialty hospital. However I’ve also invested in a couple additional courses with NAVC and University of Tennessee and I am currently undertaking the Dog Science Courses. After completed I’m debating if I should go into something like the University of Southern Illinois Certification or skip straight onto my end-goal of my Animal Nutrition Master’s.

Only the future will tell.

Do you plan on taking additional courses or certifications? Do you have experiences with one of the courses mentioned?

About the Author: Nikki is a Registered Veterinary Technician (Veterinary Nurse) and Dog Mom with over a decade of experience with dogs and cats. Since graduation from college (BS Biology, AS Animal Health -2013) she has adopted two mixed breed dogs – Ranger and Ash, and has focused her time learning about pet food and nutrition.

Nikki shares information on a range of dog nutrition topics: from how to create a homemade complete and balanced dog food recipes, to how to choose a dog food. Nikki strives to give dog parents the information they need in order to make the best nutrition decisions for their pup!

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