Duties that are carried out in animal nutritionist jobs vary depending on the company, organization or agency for which the individual works. Most all of the responsibilities of an animal nutritionist revolve around giving advice to people who own animals so they can make the best decisions concerning diet plans for their pets, for livestock or for animals that live in a zoo. They make suggestions concerning the best feed options available, they test and retest products such as pet foods, and they come up with feed plans and nutritional programs for animals. Animal nutritionists evaluate the chemical composition and nutritional value of grass, forage, feeds and supplements that nutritionally enrich feeds, primarily for farm animals of all types, including birds and fish. It might be said that an animal nutritionist is also a professional educator, because many of them teach and encourage understanding of the effect that diet has on the physical and mental health of animals.
An animal nutritionist might work in a variety of environments, including pet food manufacturers and stores, schools of veterinarian medicine, farms, zoos and health clinics for animals. He or she could also work as an independent consultant for a variety of customers, including pet owners, farmers, breeders and pet food and feed manufacturers. Most of these professionals, however, work for a zoo or in agriculture. Although an animal nutritionist studies the nutritional needs of various species, he or she can choose to specialize. For example, one who works in agriculture might specialize in advising and working exclusively with hog farmers or only with cattle farmers, and another animal nutritionist might work for a zoo and specialize in the dietary needs of felines.
Farmers, pet owners, and zoo keepers might consult with an animal nutritionist when needing to feed animals who are sick, old, very young, pregnant or injured, because those animals' nutritional needs typically change during such times. This is why some pet food manufacturers offer different formulas of feed. For example, dog food formulas are available in many stores for puppies, senior dogs and dogs who are overweight. The same can be said for the variety of cat foods that are available. An animal nutritionist not only gives advice regarding nutritional requirements in the diets of animals, he or she also makes suggestions for how to provide feed at the most economical prices.
Many pet owners and some farmers, however, sometimes disagree with following the advice of a nutritionist, especially when it comes to economical feed. There are ingredients in economical dog and cat foods that are considered very questionable when it comes to their effect on the health and well-being of animals. An increase in the many illnesses and diseases, including cancer, that afflict animals has caused many pet owners and some farmers to return to the all-natural food sources for animals that were used in times past and that produced and kept pets and livestock healthy and free of disease.