(commonly referred to as Prescription Diets and Therapeutic Diets)
The use of special needs diets in the therapy of specific conditions is common practice but also highly overused.
First and foremost “Prescription Diet” is not a prescription, but rather the brand name of a line of foods marketed by Colgate-Palmolive that has controlled distribution through a select market sector: animal hospitals. Therapeutic diets are also foods available only through veterinarians. They are designed and formulated primarily to assist in the treatment of problems associated with specific ailments. Foods do not contain any drugs, supplements, or additives to treat the problem. Any of these products, if used beyond the original therapies, can and do cause other nutritionally-related problems and conditions.
So why does your veterinarian sell these products? Plain and simple: Money!
Let’s look at the process of selling you these products. Does the veterinarian state that it’s part of an immediate therapy or does a vet tech (salesperson) advise you? Does the vet offer other alternatives that are more in line with the NATURAL diet of the animal? Do they offer benchmarks in seeing visible benefits to this diet? Will it ever “cure” your pet or does it just mask a symptom to a larger problem?
Dogs and cats are carnivores, meat eaters, with a specific physiology for digesting and utilizing this meat diet. The digestive system is very short and acidic, with specific enzymes and digestive fluids for breaking down animal and meat proteins and nutrients. It is totally different from that of a human (an omnivore) or a cow (an herbivore). We certainly would not feed cows steaks or chicken wings, so why do we feed our dogs grain?
Look at the label of “so called prescription diets” and you will see the same ingredients listed as you would find on a bag of the cheapest generic food. Things like corn meal, brewers rice, animal by-product meal, chicken fat, soy flour, wheat gluten, most of which your dog and cat cannot digest and are by-products (scrap or “garbage”) from the processed food industry. When you see chicken as an ingredient in food, you probably think plump boneless chicken breast. Most often, it’s ground backs, necks, and other scrap…with very little meat attached.
Animals in true need of therapy need the highest level of nutrition possible to aid their recovery. The most efficient foods are usually the most natural. If the animal eats meat in nature, then its digestive system is designed to best utilize meats. The more processing involved, the further from the natural diet we get, the more stress we place on the animal.
The body is a magnificent machine, able to draw many nutrients from most of their natural diets, which is exactly the reason they need to be offered the widest selection of foods as possible. For example, beef has a higher amount of omega fatty acids, highly needed in the recovering body, than does chicken. Organ meat, such as heart, is higher in taurine, liver is rich in iron, bluberries are high in antioxidants, and all these contain useful enzymes to help strengthen the body. In heavily processed foods, like most dry kibble, bioavailability for long-term health and healing…the cooking process itself destroys many of the enzymes and nutrients the recovering body needs.
If your pet is currently on or advised to use a “prescription” or “therapeutic” diet, you NEED to ask your veterinarian, not the vet tech or counter person, to point out what in these expensive diets is “treating” your pet. Also ask what and how your veterinarian knows about nutrition, natural diets, and food components. If they point to generic items such as protein, fiber, vitamins…are these from sources natural to the animal? Are they highly digestible by your pet? What is the quality of the ingredients? Are they bio-available to your pet? For example, is the protein from a bioavailability source such as whole muscle meat, or from an indigestible product like soy? Do they really know the product and why are they recommending this product?
If the answers don’t fully explain your questions or justify the higher cost, you should probably look for a new caregiver that will be honest or truly interested in helping your pet. Nutritional counsellors and nutritionists may be more qualified and expert in the nutritional needs of your pet. Remember, your pet does not speak any of our understood languages, and as such is dependent on your decision concerining his or her life.