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Perceptions and attitudes towards human and companion animal nutrition, nutrition education and nutrition guidance received from healthcare professionals

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Title: Perceptions and attitudes towards human and companion animal nutrition, nutrition education and nutrition guidance received from healthcare professionals
Author: Kamleh, May
Program: Population Medicine
Advisor: Khosa, Deep
Abstract: Attitudes and beliefs of pet owners strongly influence their decision-making surrounding their pets’ diet. Thus, guidance in nutrition choices is an essential component of clinical practice. Despite the increasing emphasis on changing dietary practices to improve health, graduates of many healthcare programs, including veterinary medicine, do not feel they receive sufficient nutrition education to prepare them to consult on nutrition. As a result, nutrition counselling rates and compliance to nutrition recommendations in medical and veterinary clinics historically and presently remain low. This research had two primary studies. The first study investigated the attitudes of incoming veterinary students of their own nutrition, pet nutrition and importance of nutrition education. The second study explored pet owners’ perceptions towards nutrition information received at veterinary clinics and the extent that their health beliefs influence their intention to comply with medical and veterinary nutrition recommendations. Through a mixed-methods approach, in-depth thematic analysis of qualitative data informed design of two online questionnaire tools, analyzed using descriptive statistics and multivariable modelling. Incoming students reported low accessibility of and low confidence in seeking pet nutrition information. Students relied on and trusted the veterinarian for pet nutrition advice but expressed mistrust of pet food companies’ motivations. Despite considering nutrition education important, students perceived overall low emphasis on nutrition in the veterinary curriculum. Factors positively associated with students’ perceived confidence in their nutrition education included academic self-efficacy (OR=2.20) and presence of board-certified veterinary nutrition faculty (OR=2.43). The determinants of pet owners’ perceived effectiveness of veterinary nutrition recommendations were: education level (OR=3.96), suburban living (OR=1.51), being a cat versus a dog owner (OR=1.75), feeding commercial dry diets (OR=2.16), visiting the veterinarian more than once a year (OR=3.68) and trusting the veterinarian (OR=1.45). In the context of using the Health Belief Model as a theoretical framework, perceived benefits of nutrition guidance and self-efficacy were the strongest predictors of intention to comply with medical and veterinary nutrition recommendations. Outcomes of this research have health promotion and educational implications and shed light on the importance of incoming students’ own perceptions on nutrition and pet owners’ perspectives on nutrition information received from medical and veterinary professionals.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/17482
Date: 2019-09
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