The vet’s office: The healing power of food
Therapeutic diets for dogs and cats
By Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
There are more options for therapeutic diets for dogs and cats than ever before. They give veterinarians and pet owners additional treatment options to help manage pets’ conditions.
In the case of some types of bladder stones, diets can even reduce the need for surgery. Some of the earliest diets developed aided dogs and cats in kidney failure. Other formulations helped cats with bladder conditions. Since those days in the 1950s, there has been a great increase in the variety of diets made to fight health impairments.
Chronic kidney disease is one of the conditions most likely to respond to diet therapy. Kidney friendly diets will have reduced protein because the ailing kidneys cannot clear protein breakdown products from the bloodstream efficiently. Most people may not know that reduced phosphorus in the diets is the bigger benefit. Reducing that mineral helps prevent the organ damage that comes from higher levels. Almost all over-the-counter diets will have more phosphorus than is recommended for pets with kidney failure. Other benefits of kidney diets include reduced sodium, increased levels of B vitamins, and support for the pH balance in the body.
There are diets to help with bladder conditions in cats, and since stress is often a component of a cat’s problems, these diets add ingredients to reduce the body’s reactions to stress. Besides the urinary system, the skin has received a lot of attention from nutritional research. Some pets have food allergies and benefit from diets made with select ingredients to which they do not react.
Other pets react to things in their environment such as pollen and dust mites. They may benefit from diets made to improve the barrier function of the skin so that they do not react to these things as much.
When pets are young, we may not think about the day they may need to eat a special diet. They get used to a certain food texture and shape and may refuse to eat something different. If they are exposed to different kibble shapes and textures when young, they are more likely to accept different diets later in life. This is especially true for cats. It is also good for cats to be comfortable eating some canned foods so they will accept soft foods if needed.
Caring for pets with medical conditions ranging from arthritis, heart disease, digestive disorders, skin allergies, kidney disease, and many others has become easier with the availability of therapeutic diets. Your veterinarian and technicians can help you choose which diets can help and give you advice on transitioning your pets to them.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.