Two dog paws in front of a blue bowl full of dog kibble.

Congratulations to Canada’s Newest Veterinary Nutritionists!

The Ontario Veterinary College’s Pet Nutrition team is thrilled to announce that two of our team members successfully met the rigorous requirements of the European College of Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition to become Diplomates.  

Congratulations to Dr. Sarah Dodd and Dr. Moran Tal, our newest Canadian Veterinary Specialists in Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition!

Who is the ESVCN?  

The European Society of Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition is an international not-for-profit organization committed to furthering the advancement of nutrition for animals through research and education. An annual meeting and conference is organized for members to share their research and collaborate with their peers at the annual ESVCN Congress.

Who can join?  

A passion for animal nutrition, built upon a strong foundation of scientific knowledge, is needed to join. Membership is open to international graduates and students of post-graduate degrees in science, with a focus in veterinary and comparative nutrition. Members do not need to be veterinarians, nor do they need to be European! Post-secondary education is required, online or other paid courses and certifications will not be sufficient. Members are not recognized as specialists.

Who is the ECVCN?

The European College of Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition is an affiliated branch of the ESVCN. Through the European Board of Veterinary Specialization (EBVS), the ECVCN provides interested veterinarians the means to pursue and demonstrate advanced knowledge in veterinary and comparative nutrition by becoming EBVS® European Veterinary Specialists in Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition, also known as ECVCN Diplomates.  

Who can join?  

Only veterinarians who have fulfilled the requirements to become a European Veterinary Specialist in Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition may join as a delegate.  

How do veterinarians become an ECVCN Diplomate? 

Interested veterinarians pursue an intense, 4-year nutrition residency program under the supervision of an ECVCN Diplomate. This program allows them to pursue additional comparative nutrition education through the affiliated institution, conduct and share new research in animal nutrition, receive clinical training, and provide nutrition care of individual animals, often through a clinical service. The interested veterinarian applies to an existing residency program after completion of a 1-year rotating internship in veterinary internal medicine or surgery, or its equivalent, as defined by the ECVCN Credentials Committee. This application is similar to a job interview process. At OVC, we typically utilize the veterinary internship and residency matching program (hyperlink, AAVC’s Veterinary Internship and Residency Matching Program. Once accepted into the program, the veterinarian starts an intense 3-year program that includes clinical care of veterinary cases, research, and additional academic and continuing education. The ECVCN program at OVC is often combined with an additional post-graduate degree, such as a PhD or DVSc. Strict guidelines are provided for minimum hours dedicated to each area. 

Did you know? OVC’s Dr. Adronie Verbrugghe is currently the only Veterinary Specialist in Canada currently supervising a residency program in Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition.

Residents must conduct research and publish at least two papers based on their work in the veterinary and comparative nutrition field in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. They must also maintain a log of the clinical cases they have cared for and write 3 detailed case reports to submit to the ECVCN to demonstrate their advanced care through nutrition. These cases should be more varied and complex than those managed by the family veterinarian, often including commercial diet selection for patients with multiple medical conditions, homemade diet formulations tailored to the individual needs of the patient, and in-hospital feeding plans for enteral (feeding tubes) and parental (IV) nutrition.  

Did you know? Published case reports are often utilized by other veterinarians to help guide them on the treatment and care of similar patients in the future, further broadening the scope of how our residents can improve the lives of pets!

This log and publications are then submitted as part of the exam application package. If all requirements are fulfilled and the resident is accepted, after rigorous review by the ECVCN credentials committee, qualified residents will be invited to sit their board certifying examination at the next ESVCN Congress.  

The exam is intense, taking place over multiple days. It includes two 3-hour written portions, one on general veterinary and comparative nutrition, including all species and one on the resident’s specific species track; companion animals (inclusive of horses and exotic animals) or production animals; as well as a 1-hour oral examination. During the pandemic, ECVCN adapted to a virtual exam format. 

That sounds like a lot of work. Can’t I just take a course? 

It is! As a veterinarian, your course(s) could be included in your application if they meet international criteria for education, but to be recognized as a boarded specialist, you would still need to complete the 4-year residency and pass the exam!  

Dr. Tal ’s bio:

Dr. Tal smiling with her cat. The cat is frowning at the camera.

Dr. Moran Tal completed her DVSc and residency with the OVC Pet Nutrition team in 2018. Tal’s research focused on feline obesity/weight loss on fecal microbiota, as well as on the impact of storage conditions on feline fecal microbiota. Tal has authored 3 peer-reviewed publications and a textbook chapter in Obesity in the Dog and Cat and has presented 3 abstracts at international conferences. While sharing her research, Moran won the 2017 Waltham-ESVCN student award at the 2017 ESVCN Congress! She also won first prize in the AAVN Small Animal Case Report Competition twice, in 2016 and 2017. Moran has since joined Royal Canin, and is now the Global Regulatory Science Manager at Royal Canin. For more information on Dr. Tal’s accomplishments, you may find her publications here.

Dr. Dodd’s bio:

Dr. Dodd and her dog Peppa.
Dr. Sarah Dodd and one of her family members, Peppa

Dr. Sarah Dodd, a 2016 graduate from the Bachelor of Veterinary Science program at Massey University in New Zealand,  focused her research on alternative feeding practices and more specific plant-based diets for pets. She completed her MSc in the Department of Clinical Studies at the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College in 2018, and her PhD in the Department of Population Medicine in 2022.  Concurrently, she completed a residency with the European College of Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition. Dodd has authored and co-authored 8 peer-reviewed articles, 5 textbook chapters in Blackwell’s Five‐Minute Veterinary Consult Clinical Companion: Small Animal Gastrointestinal Diseases, and has given 15 presentations at international conferences. She was awarded Best Case Report and Best Literature Review Presentation at the ECVCN Residency Class in 2018 and 2019 respectively and won second prize in the AAVN Pet Nutrition Blog Writing Competition in 2017. Sarah is owner of Dodd Veterinary Services and provides consulting for private clients and pet food industry.  For more information on Dr. Dodd’s accomplishments, you may view her publications here.

Now that you are aware of the momentous feats involved in the process of becoming an EBVS® European Veterinary Specialist in Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition, we are sure that you are as proud as we are of our two completed residents! 

Congratulations to Dr. Sarah Dodd, BVSc, MSc, PhD, ECVCN Diplomate and Dr. Moran Tal , BSc, DVM, DVSc, ECVCN Diplomate!  

Written by Shoshana Verton-Shaw, RVT, VTS (Nutrition)

Edited by Dr. Adronie Verbrugghe, DVM, PhD, Dip ECVCN