Prescription diets – how healthy are they?

You have likely heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’.  There is a great deal of truth in this for our dog and cat companions as well.  The options and information about what is best to feed your pet are nothing less than overwhelming these days, and it is very important that you read carefully the actual ingredients that you are feeding your pet.

Prescription diets have been  the mainstay of therapeutic nutrition in veterinary medicine for many years.   These are diets that claim to give you a handy package containing the proper nutrition for whatever ails your pet.  Let’s take a look at a few examples for the sake of comparison:

1.  Here is the partial ingredient list for a diet claiming to help with canine liver disease:

Brewers Rice, Pork Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Dried Egg Product, Soybean Meal, Powdered Cellulose, Flaxseed, Pork Protein Isolate, Chicken Liver Flavor.

2. And another claiming to promote bladder health in cats:

Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken By-Product Meal, Pork Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Chicken Liver Flavor, Fish Oil

3. For contrast, here is the label ingredients from a commercial raw food product:

Ground chicken (including ground bone), chicken gizzards, chicken hearts, organic squash, organic apples, chicken livers, organic greens, organic broccoli, organic blueberries, organic apple cider vinegar

4. And another from a grain-free dry dog food:

Bison, lamb meal, chicken meal, egg product, sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, canola oil, roasted bison, roasted venison, natural flavor, tomato pomace, ocean fish meal, salt, choline chloride, dried chicory root, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, yucca schidigera extract, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus plantarum

Now just use your common sense for a moment – which of these diets do you think provides the most well-rounded nutrition for your pet?  It will be the diets with the most whole-food ingredients and minimal procesing.

I have not recommended a prescription diet food in years now. These diets typically target a specific condition and the diets can actually cause imbalances over time.

In fact, my basic nutritional recommendations change very little from pet to pet, though I may modify slightly depending on the health condition.  Fresh, whole foods and a diet that is meat based and minimally processed is the best pick for your companion.

It is always important to perform appropriate diagnostics such as bloodwork and ultrasound when indicated, and there are other supplements and herbs that can help with certain health conditions.

A species-appropriate diet, however, is always the best place to start in keeping your pet healthy.