Pet owners have many choices when buying dog and cat food. Some are basic foods providing an economical choice that is nutritionally complete; others are premium or super-premium foods. This trend will continue as owners seek the best nutrition available for their pets.
Pet nutrition has come a long way. As a veterinarian, I see significantly fewer problems with urinary tract stones than when I first started in practice. Dry, flaky skin that was common years ago is less so now.
There also are therapeutic diets that require veterinary supervision. My second Bernese mountain dog, Vern, had abnormal kidney values that I noticed when he was neutered. The problem increased over the next few months, and I thought we were going to lose him. After a medical work-up that including a kidney biopsy, he was diagnosed with renal dysplasia.
We gave him medication that controlled his high blood pressure and started a special kidney diet with low total protein and a high-quality protein component. He lived longer than average for a Bernese mountain dog.
Special veterinary diets are also used for pets predisposed to bladder stones. These foods are formulated to help prevent and even dissolve some types of stones.
My cat Daisy vomited all the time. Her weight and blood chemistry were normal, but clearly something was wrong. After consultation with a feline specialist, we tried a high protein/low carbohydrate diet designed for diabetic pets. It worked like a charm, and she lived a long happy life.
Diarrhea is a common complaint in pets, but it will usually self-correct in a few days. We always check a stool sample in these patients and sometimes treat for parasites. Often a special diet is prescribed for the short, or even long, term.
Chronic loose stool also can be a big problem. Before an involved medical work-up with endoscopy and biopsy, we try a therapeutic high-fiber diet. Diets that are very low in fat may be used for pets that are prone to pancreatitis.
A pet with a food allergy may benefit with a super purified, limited antigen diet. Changing the protein fraction may help control itching and intestinal distress. Older dogs or dogs that have seizures may benefit from new diets that are designed for improving brain health.
My current dog, Millie, began limping as she aged, so I started her on a new diet designed for joint health. It has worked so well that I have yet to give her any medication for pain.
High-calorie pudding-type diets can help pets that have a feeding tube or need supplemental feeding while recovering from illness. Weight loss foods are used for pets at unhealthy excessive weights. Used incorrectly, these diets can be problematic, but with veterinary supervision, they can be lifesavers.
While commercial food is appropriate for the majority of pets, therapeutic diets can be a tremendous benefit for those who have specific needs.
Lawrence Gerson is a veterinarian and founder of the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic. His biweekly column is intended to educate. Consultation with a veterinarian is necessary to diagnose and treat individual pets. If you have a question you’d like addressed in Pet Points, email email@example.com. Please include your name and municipality or neighborhood.