Prescription Pet Food: Veterinary-Grade Excellence

By April 30, 2021 May 4th, 2021 Pet Health

Prescription Pet Food vs. Everybody

We know how mighty the human-pet connection can be and are committed to do everything within our grasp to help pets live their best lives. Near the top of the list of ways to achieve this – after vaccines – is pet nutrition. It may be the single most important part of your pet’s longevity and happiness that you can directly influence.

For us, it means listening to our clients concerns, providing the latest pet nutrition information, recommending diets that meet your pets’ specific nutritional requirements, offering food options that your pet will actually eat and avoiding diets that could be potentially unsafe. Now, there’s a mouthful!

There will always be unexpected events that can upend the health of our beloved pets, but the two things that we can control are food and shelter. That’s why we’re so invested in the quality of food and pet nutrition.

Why pet nutrition is important

Balanced nutrition is the key to healthy lifestyles. Prescription pet food manufacturers work tirelessly to improve upon the mix of ingredients – and in what proportion – that go into their products. Every nutrient in your pet’s food has a purpose.

Optimal pet nutrition must include these elements:

Proteins: Muscle Tone and Body Repair

Protein does the lion’s share of work in cells and is necessary for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. They supply a source of energy and help with muscle function and growth. Protein is necessary to repair damaged cells and produce new ones. Without adequate protein, pets can incur a wide-range of severe health problems.

Fats: Skin and Hair Coat Health

Fats are an absolutely vital component of a balanced canine and feline diet. A pet with a lovely, shiny coat is most likely to be healthy because pets – especially dogs – are eating a correct balance of fatty acids. Fats also provide energy, help in brain function. Be aware of volume – your can have too much of a good thing!

Carbohydrates: Digestion and Elimination

Carbohydrates supply a good source of energy that allows your dog to be active and energetic. One important type of carbohydrate is fibre which aids in digestion and elimination. These needed nutrients are absorbed by the body and into your pet’s digestive system to create well-formed stools to form an easy elimination pathway. 

Vitamins and Minerals: Immunity and Disease Prevention

Vitamins and minerals work in concert to keep your pet’s immune system and metabolism at peak performance. Every day, they work to reduce the damage done to cells in the body. In addition, vitamins and minerals are needed for optimal muscle contraction and nerve conduction.

What are animal byproducts on the ingredients label?

Animal byproducts are what remain after the desirable edible parts are separated, leaving behind organs, blood, bone and intestines. These may be items that humans are less interested in eating, but doesn’t mean the leftovers – byproducts – are unsafe or lack nutrition, they just aren’t used to satisfy our delicate palates. The thought of consuming a cow spleen for dinner is repulsive to most people, but your dog probably wouldn’t think twice – these organs can be a veritable storehouse of valuable vitamins and minerals.

What is “prescription” pet food?

Many more high quality, premium pet food brands are available today than ever before. Consumer demand is driving this trend based on overall awareness of pet nutrition and, more importantly, their love and devotion to pets.

Prescription pet foods – also known as therapeutic foods – are scientifically formulated to meet the specific health needs of your pet. They do NOT contain medications and are different from most over-the-counter (OTC) pet foods brands in that they are designed to specifically address – not only healthy pets needs – but also issues such as obesity, arthritis or food allergies.

In Canada, a proper ‘prescription’ or note from a veterinarian is not necessary to make a purchase, however, a consultation with our veterinary staff is crucial before starting a new diet regimen. Prescription or therapeutic food can be bought OTC, but only at authorized veterinary clinics.

Why prescription food is the right choice

You may be wondering: are premium or prescription pet foods really better for my pet? Our price-sensitive clients often ask our veterinary team about less expensive generic pet food options, apart from the therapeutic diets we recommend. This is a fair question.

Before we make any specific food recommendations, regular examinations (and testing, if necessary) help us determine if there are any underlying issues or emerging threats that may require a dietary adjustment. This is an integral part of any treatment plan. Once a baseline of your pets’ health is established, only then can we make suggestions on a proper dietary pathway.

Depending on the diagnosis, certain nutrients may be restricted or enhanced in comparison to the requirements for that nutrient in healthy pets. Prescription or therapeutic diet manufacturers are specifically formulated for these cases.

While generic OTC pet food brands produce many quality products, their mandate is to feed healthy pets and their quality control procedures are based on that assumption. 

Therein lies the answer.

  1. Over the counter food brands employ quality control measures ranging from a random, but complete macro-nutrient analyses in the finished product to no post-manufacturing quality checks at all. By contrast, the companies that specialize in therapeutic diets – Hills, Royal Canin – test every batch of food produced, from their therapeutic diets to their OTC options for healthy pets.
  2. Prescription or therapeutic diets are developed by nutritionists and scientists in the veterinary industry. Extensive testing is completed post-production to ensure that they do what they claim to do. Conversely, some OTC pet food brands mass-produce a generic formula and take it to market with big advertising budgets – all potentially done without reliable testing for efficacy or post-manufacturing quality testing.

Considering the extensive research, superior manufacturing controls, high-level quality testing and facilities to ensure these diets are safe and effective, the extra cost for premium food is justifiable for many pet parents. Speaking of amazing facilities, check out the extraordinary pet paradise testing facility at Hill’s!

Can I actually save money buying prescription foods?

Higher quality prescription food generally leads to a longer and healthier life for most pets. The result? Lower veterinarian service costs. There’s an increased risk of health issues tied to improper nutrition, thus the cost of prescription or therapeutic diet over a pets lifetime is likely to be offset by lower vet bills. Also, when prescription food is matched with your pets’ dietary needs and taste, food intake is optimized and less waste is incurred. Tastier and more digestible food results in less overall volume, thus making a bag of food last longer, despite the higher cost. Less is more, as they say…

What are the alternatives to prescription pet food diets?

The options for pet food are seemingly endless. We’ll touch on 3 types of dietary alternatives, as opposed to a comparison of specific brands.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Pet Food Brands

Over-the-counter (OTC) pet food brands generally meet all the nutritional needs of a healthy pet. Some OTC brands claim to meet the challenges of a pet that may have bladder or urinary tract issues, so you can get a premium food that addresses urinary tract health. Available almost everywhere…

Raw Food Diets

The argument of raw food advocates goes that these diets are easier to digest than other dog food diets and provide very concentrated nutrition for your dog. The veterinary industry has mostly debunked this notion on cost and nutrient-value grounds, although there are pockets of pet owners who will not be swayed.

Limited Ingredient Diets

A Limited Ingredient Diet (LID) is made with super-food ingredients. For protein, it may include higher amounts of venison and rabbit. For carbohydrates, sweet potatoes and lentils may be used to create a denser, targeted nutritional profile. Having fewer ingredients does not imply high nutrient value, unless they are high-quality ingredients. LID is not a regulated dietary option in Canada, however this option is used extensively to diagnose food allergies.

Always do your due diligence when exploring non-therapeutic brands of pet food. Read the label, understand the ingredients and purchase the highest quality food you can afford. We’ll address some of the issues and concerns noted above in greater detail in Part 2 of Digestive Health.

How do I choose the best food for my pet?

Your pet is an important part of your family and you want the best for them. It’s easy to get overwhelmed – and sometimes confused – with all food options out there. A pet’s age, medical condition(s), immune system and lifestyle all need to be considered when selecting a proper dietary regimen. Our veterinarians and RVT’s are the best source of information when determining an appropriate dietary choice for your specific pet.

We understand that many elements go into choosing the best diet for your pet including a your financial situation, availability, health issues and your own personal value system. Your pets individual preferences may also play a role – you could select a perfect diet, but if your pet doesn’t touch it, then on to Plan B.

If prescription pet foods are better for pets with chronic health conditions, why can’t I just buy the food at Walmart? 

This is a fair question. Why not? There are two caveats to address.

  1. Pets with chronic – or even mild – ailments generally require veterinary supervision to determine whether a specific therapeutic diet can continue to be the correct course of action. Feeding your pet too much of anything – or the wrong thing – can have prolonged negative results.
  2. Some diets are not considered complete and balanced by Association of America Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) or FDA standards. The sale of prescription or therapeutic foods are restricted to veterinary professionals and not left to an untrained Walmart “Associate”, as it could lead to nutrient deficiencies in healthy pets. The US standards are considerably more stringent than our non-regulated, Canadian counterparts.

Regular nutritional evaluations and counseling are a critical link in the chain of preventive care for pets. Prescription or therapeutic diets are a core part of an overall pet health and preventative care strategy. Our own Dr. Amanda Low has a BSc. in Nutritional Sciences and is uniquely qualified to help create customized nutritional plans – especially for those pets with underlying chronic conditions or special needs.

Learn more about our prescription food brands:

Hill’s
Royal Canin
Purina