Knowing what to feed your dog can be difficult. Dog nutrition is definitely a complex topic, and therapeutic diets are largely unknown. Should your dog be placed on one?
Most dogs do just fine with an over-the-counter food that contains the right amounts of carbs, fats, proteins, and vitamins. However, some dogs may need a special therapeutic diet in order to be at their best.
Your veterinarian may recommend a therapeutic diet for your dog if they are obese, have food allergies, or suffer from bland stones, neurologic disease, or kidney diseases. Here's a full list of reasons that may prompt you and your vet to choose a therapeutic diet for your dog:
#1 Your Dog Is Overweight
A dog who is mildly to moderately overweight likely will not need a diet change, just a change in how much they are being fed and an increase in physical activity. An over-the-counter food with reduced calories may also do the trick.
However, if your dog is struggling with their weight and they are considered obese, a prescription diet intended to help them lose weight may be necessary. Your vet will recommend one if your pet is severely obese or if they are unable to lose weight through other, less extreme measures.
These foods also contain extra nutrients to help support your pet's joints, which are under extra stress due to the extra weight.
#2 Your Dog Gets Bladder Stones
Some dogs are more prone to bladder stones than others. These stones occur when the minerals inside the urine concentrate and crystallize, which can lead to stones in the urinary tract and bladder.
A therapeutic diet can sometimes help prevent the formation of these stones as they change the urine's acidity and they also restrict the amount of certain minerals, which gives fewer blocks to build stones with.
Only some stones will be effected by a therapeutic diet. Others may require surgery for removal.
#3 Your Dog Has Kidney Disease
Unfortunately, chronic kidney disease can lead to death and it is irreversible. However, your dog can help prevent and prevail through chronic kidney disease with the help of the right diet.
A therapeutic diet may be prescribed to slow down the kidney's deterioration for a dog who has been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. Some vets even report that those on a therapeutic diet can sometimes double their lifespan.
Diets for kidney disease have a moderate amount of protein and are low in phosphorous. They also contain extra antioxidants.
#4 Your Dog Has Allergies
Some dogs suffer with food allergies that make the sensitive to proteins typically found in over-the-counter diets. These allergies can lead to recurrent skin and ear infections along with excessive itchiness and even gastrointestinal effects, like GI disease (which has vomiting, weight loss, and diarrhea as symptoms).
Therapeutic diets that are designed for skin disease (marketed as hypoallergenic diets) contain proteins that will be broken down into smaller pieces when your dog eats the food, making them less likely to stimulate the dog's immune system. These foods also contain nutrients that maintain the barrier for the skin, helping to prevent irritation.
A veterinarian should always be consulted if you believe your dog may have a food allergy.
#5 Your Dog Has Heart Disease
Heart disease is a scary thing for your dog to be diagnosed with. Management and reversal can be achieved with a therapeutic diet.
With lower levels of sodium and higher levels of nutrients like taurine and carnitine, veterinarians will sometimes recommend these diets to improve your dog's cardiac health. However, diet is not thought to play as big of a role in a dog's heart disease progression as it is in humans.
Consulting a canine cardiologist will be the way to go. Fatty acids and decreased sodium content will help promote healthier heart function while decreasing how hard the heart has to work to process your dog's food.
#6 Your Dog Suffers GI Issues
GI issues are very common amongst dogs, and in response to such problems, it is possible that your veterinarian will suggest a prescription diet. This prescription diet will be carefully tailored to help address your dog's GI health
A prescription diet may be used to address vomiting or diarrhea that your dog has experienced, but only after your vet has determined the cause of these symptoms. A hydrolyzed protein diet or novel protein diet may benefit a dog who is experiencing diarrhea or vomiting. Others may benefit from a low-residue, or easily digestible, prescription diet. A high-fiber diet may also be necessary.
Many things can cause chronic diarrhea and vomiting, so a veterinarian needs to be brought in to address the specific cause.
#7 Your Dog Suffered from Seizures or Dementia
A therapeutic diet formulated specifically to support your dog's neurologic health can aid a dog who is suffering from canning cognitive dysfunction (dementia) or idiopathic epilepsy (seizures).
Seizures for dogs cannot be managed through diet along, but it can decrease the frequency of seizures when used in conjunction with the right anti-seizure medication. Such a diet can also lessen how severe your dog's symptoms are, whether they suffer from seizures and/or dementia.
Things To Consider
Feeding a therapeutic diet to your dog brings up some important considerations. First and foremost, do not mix their prescription diet with other foods. Most prescription diets are specifically formulated to be their one and only source of nutrition. It has been carefully balanced with ingredients carefully selected in order to ensure optimal health.
Feeding something in addition to your dog's therapeutic diet can disrupt its positive effects. Table scraps, for instance, can drastically alter your dog's nutritional balance and tip the scale, offsetting and even ruining the effects of the therapeutic diet.
If you fear your dog won't eat a therapeutic diet because of the taste, don't worry. Most have come a long way in recent years. Companies typically even offer reimbursement if you buy their food and your pet won't eat it because of the taste.
In some cases, however, your dog's refusal to eat the food could be because of a loss of appetite due to an underlying condition. Asking your vet and combining their food with medication can alleviate the problem and help them stay healthy.