Everybody who comes in to our office has noticed that we have a wide array of wet and dry foods sitting on our shelves. With a couple of exceptions, all of these diets are prescription diets, and dispensed almost the same way a medication is dispensed! This means that somebody coming in off of the streets is not able to purchase it without a written prescription, as the wrong food can harm a sick kitty, depending on the illness and the food.
Why prescription foods? Well, if you had the choice of treating an illness with food rather than medication, wouldn't you jump at the opportunity? While we can't promise your kitty will not need medications if they are prescribed one of these special diets, the diet can help to cut down on flareups, or maybe make an illness more treatable.
What can these diets treat? A huge variety of issues! Intestinal issues, urinary crystals, weight management, kidney issues, food allergies - we have diets appropriate for all of these things, in a variety of brands. The reason we carry so many different types of foods is because every kitty is different, and not all will respond to every food the same way. Several foods also will help to treat more than one issue, which can be very important.
The most varied category is the intestinal foods. They are mostly designed to be a bland diet, and easy to digest. This is very important for kitties that have pancreatitis, and IBD. Some of the foods are also high in fiber, which helps to cut down on constipation, and also helps to bind together diarrhea into stool that is more formed and solid. Yes, fiber really can be magic!
Some of the weight loss diets are also high in fiber. Most, however, are higher in protein, which forces the body to work harder to digest. Even more than humans, kitties need the higher protein, lower carb foods to help cut down on the pudge! These diets also tend to be lower in calories.
Also in the high protein scale are the diabetic diets. These sometimes co-mingle with the weight loss diets, but don't necessarily have the low calorie aspect that the weight loss diets have. For cats (and humans!) that are diabetic, avoiding the starches and carbs is a very important step in keeping their blood sugar down to a normal rate. Some diabetic cats can be managed on food alone, but more often they will still need insulin. Keeping their foods low in carbs will help cut down on the amount of insulin that they will need to be given, and help prevent glucose spikes.
On the other end of the protein scale are the kidney diets. Science has been telling us for years that kitties in renal failure need lower protein diets to help keep their kidneys from fighting to function. Recent research is starting to show that this may not actually be the case, but the renal foods still can be very beneficial, as they also have a lower phosphorus content, and generally help to increase drinking.
Urinary diets are made to help control the formation of crystals in urine, and help maintain a normal pH level. Most formulas have been revamped in the last few years, and will now help prevent the formation of both struvites and oxylates, the two most common types of crystals. While there is no food that will also dissolve oxylates, the foods will dissolve struvites, the type we usually see. Keeping the pH level is also critical, as crystals will form quicker in urine that is too acidic or alkaline.
Allergy diets are made with novel proteins so that a kitty with food allergies can eat and avoid some of the awful symptoms they've been having. Anything from ear and skin infections to diarrhea or constipation can be caused by food allergies! By introducing a novel protein, the kitty's body can start to purge the bad allergens out, and still get all of the nutrition that they need.
If we do end up recommending one of these diets for your cat, please remember that we do this for a good reason: we think it will help. Depending on what food you are feeding now, it may be priced a little higher per bag or can, but if it helps keep your kitty healthier, it's well worth it in the end. It may well help keep your kitty from coming in between well visits!