Looking to hire a pet nutritionist to formulate custom balanced recipes for your pet? Read this first!

April 26, 2021

Last month (March 2021), I shared a post to Instagram (@nolorlin) explaining what to look for and a few questions to ask your "pet nutritionist", before hiring them, to avoid potentially being scammed. This was a post I really wanted to create after receiving so many messages from people (both overseas & within the United States), sharing "recipes" they paid for, but in reality were just BARF or PMR ratios. Others were unknowingly purchasing custom meal plans from people who hadn't even taken a single canine or feline nutrition course in their life, instead they were just using free balanced recipes available online and formulated by other qualified and licensed professionals, then scaling them up or down for paying clients. Nothing about that is customised or tailored to your pets' individual needs.

Seeing this day in and day out, and hearing so many stories of people being ripped off, especially when their only goal was to provide the absolute best for their pets, it really upset me. Because I have never seen someone lay out information like- what questions to ask, what courses are even considered reputable etc, I sat down and tried my best to come up with somewhat of a "guide" or just a bit of reading material to help you spot a "fake," and in all honesty, I really just want to save you from wasting your hard earned money on a scammer, no matter where you live.

Below, I have shared the same visuals I uploaded to Instagram, and beneath that, I will just add the text that is in the images (skip past the images to read the written text!). I will also provide the actual links to certain websites, where applicable! (I also fixed typos that were in the photos...)


Are you certified or licensed in any capacity? Where did you obtain said certificate/license? Am I able to contact the institute & verify this claim? 
(You need the individual’s first & last name + year/date of completion)

Pet Nutritionist, Certified Animal Nutritionist and many other common titles are unfortunately not protected terms.

Are you following NRC guidelines & recommended allowances when formulating? 
In commercial formulation, FEDIAF & AAFCO guidelines come into play.

FEDIAF- trade body representing the European pet food industry. Commercial pet foods in the United States will need to meet AAFCO's nutritional adequacy labelling requirements, but AAFCO does not inspect, nor do they verify these nutrient requirements are actually met. 

AAFCO guidelines do not consider EPA + DHA, so they often need to be supplemented in the diet.

When paying for custom meal plans for your pets, you can opt to have meals formulated following the National Research Council's (NRC) guidelines and set recommended allowances, FEDIAF's, or AAFCO's (or all three in some instances- usually applicable to commercial formulations).

Do they demonstrate they have a complete & clear understanding of how to provide my pet with a balanced diet that best suits their individual needs?

Are they able to explain these concepts to me in a manor in which I understand? 
Failure to do so demonstrates a lack of understanding. As knowing & understanding are two very different things & they are not mutually exclusive!

Can they explain the entire process/everything that goes into formulating a custom balanced recipe?
What is to be expected when I opt for one of your paid services?

Where are you pulling your nutritional data from? 

A nutritionist claims they have their own personal data after doing their own analyses when formulating...okay, do you have proof? 
Have you published this data? Why not? 
How many samples were tested? 
Where is the lab located? 
What kind of report did you run? 
If they cannot provide you, the paying client, with these reports, then it is more than likely they do not have any. 

Monica Segal's published books are the only books currently in circulation, that provide reports on the nutrient analyses of some raw meaty bones. This data is used by many people, globally, when formulating. Having food analysed in a lab can cost thousands of dollars. I know. I have contacted labs that do these nutritional reports and have data posted on the United States National Food Database. 

Want an example: I was quoted to have a "detailed" analysis done on 6 raw meaty bones.
To have less than 10 samples (of each) analysed, with a report reflecting the estimates on Calories, Carbohydrates, Moisture, Ash, Fat, Protein in addition to the following (which costs extra): Manganese, Zinc, Magnesium, Copper, Iron (& a few others. I used Monica's data as a reference point), that would have cost me upwards of $150,000 USD.

Yup. You read that right.

And to get an even more detailed report, including amino acid profiles etc, we're looking at well over $200,000.

And I am being modest with my estimates.

How do they react to me asking valid questions that have not been previously answered on their website or page?
Are they dismissive? 

Do they “ghost” me? 

Do they talk in circles & not answer my question? 

Are they rude in their reply if my question hasn’t already been answered & I need further clarification? 

Are they professional AT ALL TIMES? 
Do they discourage me from working with others because they claim only they can provide me with this service? 

Do they spend more time convincing me of why someone else is “bad” instead of why they’re the one for the job? 

Are you able to hear from numerous paying clients, unaffiliated w/ said company or individual? 
NOT a friend, family members, ambassadors, groups that promote them etc... 

How was their experience? 

Was there anything out of the ordinary you should be aware of? 

When I make a purchase, what am I to expect from you- person formulating my recipe?
Am I able to contact you with questions? 

Am I able to adjust my recipe if I notice an intolerance? 

Do you provide any additional resources for me to utilise during this process? 
This is especially important for first time raw feeders or puppy owners.
No one-on-one support, no additional resources....no thanks.

Cheaper does not = better! 
Those of you who purchased a pet from a breeder, think of it in those terms.
How many times have you heard, a well bred pet is going to cost you? If a breeder spends time, energy & money into making sure they are bettering a breed, doing genetic testing, selecting desirable temperaments, doing vet checks, socialising young pets, even starting crate/obedience/potty training (for puppies) etc... would that not come with a higher price tag?

In terms of the service you are purchasing from your nutritionist, ask yourself, what am I paying for

Do I get applicable nutritional data (in as much detail as possible)? 

If you have a puppy- am I getting adjustment plans? 

Am I getting a shopping list or any other custom documents?

Am I getting anything at all, besides a basic recipe printout from a balancing software?

What are their biases? 
Example: “Fat based formulation” or “Carb based formulation”?
And does this align with your personal views? 

I personally prefer a certified nutritionist who leans more towards formulating with raw fat, before resorting to carbohydrates because carbs are not a staple in a carnivore's diet. Instead, carbs are sometimes necessary under special circumstances- ie. food intolerances, medical diagnoses etc...which is also why the custom element of the paid service is so important!

Do they automatically go to formulating with supplements & carbohydrates, instead of first using whole foods/meat to meet nutrient requirements?
Example: This is a very common one- using oatmeal or brown rice to meet manganese requirements, instead of including green tripe, steamed mussels or red meats like beef/lamb to up the manganese intake in the raw diet. 

A manganese supplement would be a better fit than carbohydrates and plant matter.

Am I truly receiving a CUSTOM balanced recipe? 
Do these foods/supplements meet the needs of my pet? 

Did the nutritionist listen to my concerns, my preferences, what I am able to source, my pet’s allergies/intolerances, medications they may be on etc...?


Custom balanced meal plans ARE NOT structured like a ratio diet & should never list several different ingredients as interchangeable, stating “any of these can be substituted or rotated into the diet.” 

SOME things can be substituted, but not all. 

Example: Swapping a duck foot for a chicken foot because you could not source duck feet one week.

NOT- “feed 60g of beef heart, chicken heart, lamb heart, duck heart, goat heart or pork heart.” 
THAT is a fed flag. 
And you may have just paid for a PMR or BARF ratio plan that you could have done yourself, for free. 

Allowing for the interchanging of many ingredients in a single recipe, without the nutritionist revisiting the recipe, to potentially re-balance it, is a HUGE RED FLAG. 

Also statements like, “just a pinch”, “a dash of...”, another red flag.
If a recipe calls for a "dash/pinch" of an ingredient, without providing a specific & corresponding unit of measurement in grams, teaspoons, tablespoons etc, this would be cause for concern.

Another red flag for me is seeing a large amount of vegetables or fruits (and sometimes too many eggs) in a custom balanced recipe.

This signals to me, the person formulating the meal plan may not understand animal nutrition or bioavailability, they may not know or understand that dogs can synthesise Vitamin K on their own when a minimal amount of fibre based vegetables are incorporated into diet, and that high protein balanced diets also allow for Choline to be synthesised. 

Instead, like many who purchase balancing softwares or programs, they may be blindly adding foods to make boxes go "Green," without first taking the time to study and understand nutrition and how to provide proper balance. 

Balance is more than just making something say 100% or making a box go green. You must understand how different minerals, fatty acids, vitamins interact with one another. You should understand the difference between recommended allowances and safe upper limits. You should know how to select bioavailable sources to meet those recommended allowances. You should know the difference between formulating to meet nutritional needs using Metabolisable Energy and Metabolic Weight.

There are so many moving parts to fully understanding how to provide a balanced raw diet and they go far beyond just purchasing balancing software.


Are you a veterinary nutritionist? 
That's wonderful!
A real board certified Veterinary Nutritionist can very easily be looked up. 

In the United States, many primary care veterinarians work closely with a veterinary nutritionist & will recommend one, but you can also find one on the Diplomate Directory: https://acvn.org/directory/

Are you a certified/licensed canine or feline nutritionist?
Where did you obtain your license?
Here are a few well known & respected programs within the US & around the world:

CASI- Companion Animal Sciences Institute
Certificate in Canine Nutrition (Cert.CN) program & Advanced Canine Nutrition Certificate (Cert.ACN)

BCCS- British College of Canine Studies
Accredited specialised canine related courses

University of Illinois- Animal Sciences
Companion Animal Nutrition Certificate (non-degree program) 

iPet Network Level 3 Diploma in Canine Nutrition
OFQUAL Regulated Qualification: Course in Species-Appropriate Canine Nutrition

ISCP- The International School for Canine Psychology & Behaviour Ltd
Diploma in Canine Nutrition

HATO- Holistic Animal Therapy Organisation
Australia’s leading course provider in holistic animal nutrition


Simply taking one or even multiple courses is not all it takes to know how to formulate custom balanced recipes for paying clients.

It is up to you, as the nutritionist, to actively and continually seek out further education so that you may have a better understanding of topics you are unfamiliar with or that were not covered in depth within course material.

Taking the Dog's Naturally Magazine course and claiming to be well-versed in animal nutrition because they told you, you can call yourself a "Certified Raw Dog Food Nutrition Specialist," after watching a 9 hour video on "nutrition" does not mean you are equipped with the knowledge to create proper balanced meals, following set nutritional guidelines.

Imagine going for a root canal & your dentist says, "yeah, this is my first time performing a root canal on a patient. But don't worry! I just watched a 5hr youtube tutorial, so I got this."


Hope this post ends up being helpful to some of you!

Follow me on instagram @nolorlin for more raw-feeding content & recipes- I post every single week!


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