Contributed by Dr. Diana Drogan, DVM.
You know how vital nutrition is for yourself, and it isn’t any different for our pets. The proper diet can play an important and sometimes lifesaving role for the furry members of your family. In fact, at some point, your vet may recommend or prescribe a special veterinary diet.
More often than not, veterinarians are asked, “Why does my pet have to eat special food?” Typically, when a pet needs to eat a veterinary diet, like Hill’s cat food or dog food—and only the veterinary diet—her current diet contains an ingredient (or several ingredients) that cause systemic reactions or discomfort. Sometimes this can manifest as skin or gastrointestinal hypersensitivity in a pet with food allergies.
Your vet may also prescribe a special diet because the current food is missing crucial ingredients your pet needs to support a condition or improve clinical signs that your pet may be exhibiting. For example, if your cat is diagnosed with feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) or feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), your vet might prescribe a food with ingredients to help balance urine pH. This would help control inflammatory triggers and prevent urinary stone formation or urinary obstruction.
However, it is important to remember that a veterinary diet is medicine and should be treated like any other pill or treatment a vet would prescribe. Therefore, the veterinary diet should only be fed as instructed and only to the pet that needs the specific dietary intervention. It’s especially vital to keep this in mind when you have a multi-pet household in which multiple pets get fed at the same time, or in some cases, free-fed.
Say, for example, your vet prescribed a kidney support diet to one of your pets. That diet will have reduced amounts of protein. For a healthy cat or dog with normally functioning kidneys, this diet would not have adequate amounts of protein to support her dietary protein requirements. There may be some diets that your veterinarian prescribes that may be safely fed to all animals in your household, such as a urinary-support or weight-reducing diet. Just be sure to check with your doctor whether a specific diet is safe for the other pets in the house to eat or not.
You should always discuss these and any other lifestyle concerns with your pet’s veterinarian if a veterinary diet is recommended before it is purchased to make sure it’s the right choice for you and your pets. To order a veterinary diet, you must have a prescription from your vet. You can send a copy of a valid prescription authorization by fax to 1-800-619-7973 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.