Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Prescription Diets as Part of Medical Treatment

If your dog or cat gets sick, many times there is a diet that could decease or control the disease problem. There is not a diet for every disease, but with present day veterinary medicine, there are quite a few that help.

Pet With Early Kidney Failure
About 85 years ago, there was a veterinarian in New Jersey that commercialized the first diet specific for an ailment in a dog. His name was Dr. Mark Morris and he formulated a pet diet for kidney failure. Today, that commercial diet is one of many produced by Hill’s Prescription Diets. Additionally, there are multiple companies producing diets specific to cat and dog ailments. Some examples of other companies that focus on prescription diets are: Eukanuba, Purina, and Royal Canin. There are others. I am familiar with these companies and prescribe their products. These same companies have a commercial line of products that do not require a prescription and can be found in pet shops and supermarkets. Although they are good quality foods, they are not the same as the prescription diet.

You can now find a range of dog and cat foods that have been created as nutritional aids in the treatment and dietary management of dogs and cats with specific health problems. Today vet-prescribed dietetic foods - often known as therapeutic diets – or prescription diets play a major role in modern veterinary practice, supporting the treatment of many canine and feline diseases, either as the sole therapy or as part of the total treatment.

The science behind these formulations is often ground-breaking, each providing a proper balance of total nutrients while satisfying special dietary needs. Such foods can support or replace drugs and dramatically increase a dog or cat’s chances of living a longer and healthier life.
Some of the more commonly prescribed therapeutic diets offer nutritional support for dogs suffering from
·         Heart conditions, high blood pressure or fluid retention;
·         Diabetes mellitus, constipation and diarrhea;
·         Dermatitis and inflammatory skin conditions;
·         Gastrointestinal conditions such as enteritis gastritis pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease;
·         Severe food allergies or intolerance;
·         Inflammatory joint conditions, or arthritis (or for healthy dogs predisposed to joint disorders);
·         Kidney failure or liver disease;
·         Clinical obesity;
·         Urinary and bladder disorders.
·         Feline Urological Syndrome

·         Hyperthyroid disease in cats
I have chosen two examples of disorders as representative samples of special diets.
Measuring Vital Signs
Kidney Disease

Older dogs may suffer from a gradual loss of kidney function. The kidneys normally act as selective filters, maintaining the body's electrolyte balance and eliminating important waste products such as urea, an end product of protein metabolism. The kidneys also help regulate calcium and phosphorus balance.

Early symptoms of kidney disease include increased thirst and urination, weight loss and pale gums, due to anemia. When kidney function is reduced, waste products begin to build up in the bloodstream, making the animal feel ill. Mild cases, however, often produce no symptoms. They may only be discovered with a routine blood test. 

Hill's RX Diet for Kidney Disease
Feeding a special diet can slow the progression of kidney disease in many dogs. Sodium restriction lessens the risk of high blood pressure, a common consequence of kidney disease. Also, dogs in kidney failure tend to develop increased serum phosphate, so phosphorus restriction is necessary.

The work load on the kidneys is reduced through dietary management by providing the dog with just enough high-quality protein (complete protein, such as egg or cottage cheese, is often used) to meet its needs, but no more. The end result is less stress on the kidneys, a lower level of urea in the blood-stream, and a dog that feels better.

Intestinal Problems
Therapeutic diets are commonly used for dogs that experience vomiting or diarrhea. Consisting primarily of boiled meat and rice, these bland diets are nonirritating and easily absorbed by the intestinal system. 
Royal Canin Diet for Intestinal Disorders
Following a gastrointestinal upset, most dogs are initially held off food for 24 to 48 hours, giving the GI system a chance to rest. Then they are offered the special diet, in small amounts, for several days, before the dog's original diet is slowly reintroduced. 

Other intestinal disorders require lifelong administration of a therapeutic diet. Dogs with some types of colitis, for example, suffer from periodic bouts of illness, and are commonly maintained on this low-fat, easily absorbed yet nutritional diet.

Compliance and Its Importance
If you take your pet into your veterinarian because he or she is not feeling well, and your pet’s doctor makes a definitive diagnosis, he or she may prescribe a special diet. The diet make be accompanied by medicine or may stand alone.
Either way, the diet prescribed was researched for the disease by qualified scientists in the field and in most cases, many millions of dollars invested in the research. Why on earth would you alter this formula?  

Here is an example. “Sam” is a 6 year old male cat with little crystals that block him from urinating. The medical term is called Feline Urological Syndrome. He got put on a special diet to control the production of the crystals. One year later, he is back in the hospital with a blockage. The owner’s comment was, “Doc, this food was really expensive so I bought an over the counter food just like the one you sold me.” In fact, there are foods over the counter that market themselves as prescription diets. In most cases, they are not the same or even close. 

The Providence Veterinary Hospital Blog is a publication of Peter Herman, VMD, at the Providence Veterinary Hospital, 2400 Providence Ave. in Chester, PA. Contact Dr. Herman at 610-872-4000 or visit us at