The role of nutrition in the management of diseases has often centred on correcting apparent nutrient deficiencies or meeting estimated nutritional requirements of patients. Nutrition has traditionally been considered a supportive measure akin to fluid therapy and rarely it has been considered a primary means of ameliorating diseases. Recently, however, further understanding of the underlying mechanisms of various disease processes and how certain nutrients possess pharmacological properties have fuelled an interest in exploring how nutritional therapies themselves could modify the behaviour of various conditions. Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and certain amino acids such as arginine and glutamine have all been demonstrated to have at least the potential to modulate diseases. Developments in the area of critical care nutrition have been particularly exciting as nutritional therapies utilising a combination of approaches have been shown to positively impact outcome beyond simply proving substrate for synthesis and energy. Application of certain nutrients for the modulation of diseases in veterinary patients is still in early stages, but apparent successes have already been demonstrated, and future studies are warranted to establish optimal approaches. This review describes the rationale of many of these approaches and discusses findings both in human beings and in animals, which may guide future therapy.