Heart disease, diabetes, renal disease, obesity, osteoarthritis, cancer, allergies, colitis – just a few of the diseases or conditions that dog food is now specially formulated to combat. Called prescription or therapeutic dog foods and available only through veterinarians, these diets are the in forefront of the fight to keep our dogs healthy, happy and by our sides for as long as possible.
Dr Mark Morris SR, DVM, developed the first veterinary prescription diet in 1940 when he was treating a patient suffering from renal failure. Deciding nutritional therapy would work as effectively, if not more so, then the current drug treatment of the time and by taking away some of the strain on the kidneys in processing nutrients, he felt that the dog would live longer with a better quality of life. By lowering the protein levels in the food, his patient indeed lived longer then anyone expected and the first Prescription Diet® was born. Since then, Hill’s Pet Nutrition™ has developed dozens of these specialty foods and as new information is discovered about treating disease through diet, they will continue to bring innovative products and therapies to help our pets live longer after diagnosis.
Eukanuba/Iams run a strong second place in developing these specialty diets and Medi-cal/Royal Canin Veterinary Diets® and Purina both have prescription-formulated foods. The variety of several companies making therapeutic diets for the same condition is a big benefit for the pet owner – if one brand of Rx food does not agree with you dog, there are others to chose from without lowering the chance of success in helping with the treatment of the disease through diet.
Why Feed Prescription Dog Foods
Prescription dog foods are only available through a veterinarian much like any other conventional prescription therapy. Nutritional therapy is an important part in the treatment of all disease whether it is for humans or animals. Take the treatment and maintenance of diabetes – nutritional therapy is imperative to the treatment, maintenance and even the prevention of the disease. It is no different for dogs as their genetic make up is extremely similar to human genetic make up.
A handful of the prescription diets are for short-term use only to assist in the recovery from a specific disease or condition. However, more often then not a therapeutic diet is prescribed for the remainder of the animal’s life and hopefully, that is a long and happy life.
These diets tend to be more expensive per meal however, the money saved in vet bills is well worth the extra cost. The significant difference in controlling diseases such as Colitis and diabetes through diet is far superior then any medication as rarely are there any side effects to nutritional therapy if the food is prescribed properly.
Are Prescription Diets Dangerous
Prescription diets are formulated for specific conditions and since specific conditions often require either the increase, decrease or elimination of certain nutrients. Deficiencies or toxic levels can develop that put an already healthy pet at risk. With cats or dogs that free-feed (a bowl of kibble is always available to them) and live in a multi-pet home this can be difficult. Talk to your vet about alternatives or slowly train the pets to eat when the dish is put down for them so it is easy to monitor who eats which food.
What if I Feed a Homemade Diet but my Vet Wants Fluffy on an Rx Diet?
Some of the prescription diets can be replicated at home. For example, a gastro diet for colitis, acute and chronic diarrhea, etc is basically boiled chicken and white rice well supplemented so no nutritional deficiencies can develop. However, many of the more complicated diets such as the cancer diet, brain diet and urinary tract diets are nearly impossible to replicate at home because of the amount of nutrients added to the base product. If your vet feels that Fluffy will be happier and healthier on a prescription diet then there is a good reason for it and you should heed their advice for Fluffy’s sake.
The Cost behind Prescription Diets
The unfortunate part of these high-end prescription diets is the cost. Many people balk at the price yet will hand over the cash to purchase medication without thinking twice about it. This seems backwards as many conditions are not treatable with medication or it they are, the drugs have negative side effects. Food is the most natural of treatments yet one of the most effective for many conditions. Nutritional therapy and drug therapy often go hand in hand as a means to combat a condition from all angles and if your doctor recommends a food, take that recommendation like you would if it were a drug. These foods are more expensive because of the years of research that goes into them much like medication and the quality of the ingredients that goes into each product. In almost every case however, vet bills are lower then they would be without the food so the money all balances out in the end.
Think of it a different way. If you or someone you loved developed cancer, a heart condition, colitis, kidney disease or began to go senile and a doctor said to you that if you eat this food, the symptoms would lessen or reverse entirely, would it not make perfect sense to you to eat the food? Would it then make sense to not give your dog that nutritional boost it needs to combat the illness? Food for thought.