Over the past 20 years huge progress has been made in the development of highly specialised pet food formulas. These range from weight loss and sensitive digestion recipes, to diets designed specifically to help manage conditions such as diabetes, urinary or skin problems. Some formulations work to support treatment over a limited period of time, but others can help your pet for life.
You can now find a range of cat foods that have been created as nutritional aids in the treatment and dietary management of cats with specific health problems. Today veterinary recommended dietetic foods, often known as therapeutic or functional diets, play a major role in modern veterinary practice. The science behind these formulations is often ground breaking, with each providing an optimal balance of total nutrients whilst also satisfying special dietary requirements.
Veterinary recommended diets can offer nutritional support for cats suffering from:
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Dermatitis and inflammatory skin conditions
- Gastrointestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, constipation, vomiting and diarrhoea
- Diabetes mellitus
- Chronic kidney disease
- Urinary and bladder conditions
- Liver disease
- Congestive heart failure and high blood pressure
- Clinical obesity
Specialised diets are also available to support cats during convalescence, such as recovery post surgery, or when malnourished.
It is estimated that a staggering one in three cats in the UK adult population are overweight or obese. The cause is simple - too much energy entering the body and not enough energy leaving the body i.e. too many calories in and too little exercise to burn off the excess. So it's vital to tackle the problem by looking at both the amount of energy consumed (food eaten) as well as the amount of energy expended through exercise (playing, chasing etc). Feeding overweight cats less of their regular food is not the solution, as the result of this could be that they don't get the right level or balance of nutrients. A specially formulated weight loss diet will ensure your cat stays nourished and loses weight, whilst still eating a satisfying volume of food.
Of course, once your cat is overweight the most important step is to look at their overall food intake for the day and this includes treats, titbits and extras. It’s fine to give the occasional treat, but you must be aware that it may mean having to reduce the evening meal accordingly or increasing the playtime you enjoy with your cat!
Always remember to perform regular body condition scores on your cat and aim to get him to and keep him at an ideal body condition.
Many cats lead long, healthy and happy lives in an exclusively indoor environment. But any cat living in a restricted space will have less opportunity for exercise. It is therefore vitally important to ensure your cat optimises all chances to exercise and that you are committed to helping them achieve this by encouraging regular playtime sessions! Without sufficient exercise and if the energy received through food exceeds that being burnt off, then the consequence can be increased difficulty for indoor cats to maintain an ideal body condition. Specially formulated diets specifically designed for indoor living cats are generally higher in protein and lower in fat, with additional nutrient adjustments designed to help keep indoor cats in peak condition.
Indoor cats also seem to suffer more from troublesome hairballs than their outdoor counterparts. This may be due to increased grooming time or it may simply be that because they live indoors all the time we are more aware of the hairballs that are produced. Many specially formulated indoor cat foods also include additional fibre along with both pre and probiotics to promote a healthy gut and help ease the movement of hairballs through the digestive system. These added ingredients can also help to reduce litter box odours, which is a bonus for both you and your cat!
The incidence of true dietary allergies or food intolerances in pets is rare. On the whole, the prevalence of allergies in both the dog and cat population is thought to be around 0.1 percent. However, allergies when they do occur can be distressing, traumatic and sometimes even life-threatening. With around 97 percent of diagnosed food allergies resulting in skin symptoms and 10-15 percent resulting in tummy upsets, it’s important to obtain an accurate diagnosis as these symptoms can also been seen with multiple other skin and gastrointestinal conditions.
The only accurate way to diagnose a true food allergy or dietary intolerance is by conducting a food elimination trial supervised by your vet. This involves putting your cat on a highly restricted diet. Most allergies are triggered by proteins within a food, so it is the protein culprit that needs to be determined in a food elimination trial. The trial entails placing your cat on either a veterinary recommended hydrolysed diet or a novel protein diet for a six to twelve week period, then gradually introducing single protein sources to identify individual allergens.
It is important to remember though, that food allergies when they do occur are actually due to an abnormal response in the cat’s own immune system i.e. they are not caused by a particular problem with the food. This is exactly the same for humans! For example, people with nut allergies: the nut isn’t actually at fault, but it’s the person’s unusual response to the nut that causes the reaction.
Special diets from Purina
A number of leading Purina brands offer special diet formulas specifically developed to meet the needs of cats experiencing particular nutritional and medical disorders. Click any brand to learn more.