When Does a Cat or Dog Need a Prescription Diet?

Veterinary Pet Foods May Not Always be Necessary

© Ian Shoust

Article published at suite101.com

HillsDietaVeterinarians often suggest prescription diets for a variety of reasons, but similar diets can often be found in pet specialty stores.

A pet owner should take his cat and/or dog to a veterinarian for regular check-ups, and especially if he notices any health problems with his animal. The only person who can make a correct diagnosis of ailments in cats and dogs is a veterinarian.

That being said, veterinarians are often unaware of the different foods available on the market, and some veterinarians do not have sufficient nutritional training, as new dog and cat diets hit the market all the time.

There are some instances where it is absolutely necessary for a pet to be on a prescription diet, and other times when a comparable product can be found at a pet specialty store, which can be more convenient and cost effective.

Liver Disease, Kidney Disease, Crohn’s Disease, and Diabetes

These are serious ailments that require very specific nutrient intake by the cat or dog suffering from them. Animals suffering from any of these conditions should definitely be on a veterinary prescription diet to help alleviate the symptoms of their illness.

There is nothing on the retail market that deals with these issues, and once again, the only person who should be diagnosing these ailments in a cat or dog is a veterinarian.

Urinary Tract Infections and Crystals

A cat or dog with urinary tract infections or crystals may need to be on a veterinary food for a time, but as the symptoms go away, they can usually be switched to a high quality pet food.

Many companies market retail cat foods that are designed with urinary tract health and the prevention of crystals in mind.

You can also bring in a label from a veterinary diet to a pet specialty store, and try to find a food with similar ingredients, vitamins, and mineral analysis. An employee at a pet specialty store should be able to point you in the right direction.

Urinary tract infections and crystals are often the result of poor nutrition in the first place, so do not wait until your pet becomes ill to start feeding a high quality pet food.


Veterinarians carry pet foods that deal with allergies, but many pet specialty stores do as well. The problem with allergies is that it is often difficult and costly to pinpoint the cause of the irritation.

Allergy diets are based on a principle of limiting the ingredients that a cat or dog is exposed to, and subsequently eliminating ingredients that could be causing the problem. Diets that aim to get allergies under control usually use an uncommon meat protein, such as duck or venison, or in extreme cases, are completely vegetarian.

Any well stocked pet food store will have a variety of limited ingredient and hypoallergenic foods, and often carry more brands than a veterinarian.


Obesity in cats and dogs is becoming a serious problem. The vet though, is not the only place to buy a dog or cat food that is “light” or “calorie reduced.” Most pet food companies sell products that aim to help dogs and cats to lose weight. Most pet stores have a myriad of choices in this department, and should be able to help the consumer choose a product that is right for his pet.

Obesity is often due to lack of exercise and poor nutrition, so feed a quality pet food from day one, and do not wait till the veterinarian tells you to walk your dog or play with your cat.

Veterinarians are the only people who can diagnose an illness in a cat or dog, but in many cases, pet specialty stores can help find the best food for you and your animal.



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