How many people do you know who say they have their dream job? I can honestly, without hesitation, say that I do; and most people have never even heard of it.
As a child, I was absolutely fascinated by animals, their husbandry, diets, instinctual behavior, everything. By 6 years old, I had memorized over 500 dog breeds and every breed of cat. If someone would have told me then that I would grow up to become a clinical pet nutritionist I would’ve most likely been very excited.
In my early teens, I can remember loving to read labels of our pets’ food — the colorful packaging, the ingredients, the things that it promised, etc. I recall finding corn as the first ingredient of our dog’s kibble and thinking, “Wow, corn is healthy for us, it must be healthy for dogs.” Later on when I found out the truth, I felt personally hurt. My beloved dog Joey had passed away a few years prior, and I attribute his death to a poor quality diet that we were led to believe was a wonderfully healthy option.
In college, I started taking all the necessary veterinary courses, as my original plan was to become a veterinarian with a focus on nutrition. However, to my dismay, the veterinary nutrition course was literally one hour long, and it was taught by a representative of a major corn-based food company. I left the class feeling defeated and frustrated. One hour in six to eight years of schooling did not sit well with me. We were learning how to treat every symptom without learning about treating the root cause of many different issues.
After deciding to trade veterinary medicine for animal nutrition, I was accepted into the Academy of Natural Health Sciences Clinical Pet Nutrition program where I completed a 1,000-hour program on pet nutrition. Very different from my one-hour class. It was a life-changing experience that has led to me helping over 1,000 cats and dogs in the past 10 years.
As a pet nutritionist, I spend my days conducting appointments either out of Premier Pet Supply in Beverly Hills, or on site at clients’ homes. I also host Pet Wellness Night in Oakland County and around the state, where I teach pet owners about proper nutrition, preventable diseases, supplements, allergies, etc.
I started Next Generation Pet Wellness as a way for people to get unbiased information about pet nutrition. I am not paid or sponsored by any brand of food or company, and I will always remain that way. It’s so difficult for pet owners to research online, or even in a store, and not feel overwhelmed by all the choices. I don’t sugar coat things, and because I’m not tied to any specific brand of food, I can be completely honest and remain impartial.
You may be wondering if you would ever need a pet nutritionist or know someone who might. I see dogs and cats (and other pets) from every walk of life and every budget.
A pet nutritionist can help:
Puppies and kittens whose owners want to start them on a great diet
Pets that have been on antibiotics (especially when young)
Pets that have been spayed or neutered before they finished growing
Pets that exhibit signs of allergies/sensitivities (i.e. itching, licking, excessive shedding, bald patches, tear staining)
Pets with stomach issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, constipation and nausea
Any senior pet
Pets with cancer
Pets with diabetes
Pets in renal failure
Pets with bladder issues (stones, crystals, UTIs, etc.)
Pets who need to lose weight
One of my favorite things about my job is helping pets lose weight. Who doesn’t love a good before-and-after photo? I love being able to add years onto a cat or dog’s lifespan, and I truly love seeing how happy they get when they move freely and without pain. It motivates me beyond measure. I also love a good challenge — from an 18-year-old picky eater to a dog with 50-plus different allergies, I love them all.
Our very own Samantha Henson is the founder of Next Generation Pet Wellness and licensed Clinical Pet Nutritionist.