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 dog foods that have been created as nutritional aids in the treatment and dietary management of dogs 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 dogs 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, high blood pressure or fluid retention
- Inflammatory joint conditions (or for healthy dogs predisposed to joint disorders)
- Clinical obesity.
Specialised diets are also available to support dogs during convalescence, such as recovery post surgery, or when malnourished.
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 under veterinary supervision. This involves putting your dog 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 dog 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 dog’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.
It is estimated that a staggering 33 percent of dogs 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 dogs 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. On top of that, hungry dogs are more likely to fill the gap by looking for food elsewhere, such as in bins and from friendly neighbours! A specially formulated weight loss diet will ensure your dog stays nourished and loses weight, whilst still eating a satisfying volume of food.
Always remember to perform regular body condition scores on your dog and aim to get him to and keep him at an ideal body condition.
Special diets from Purina
A number of leading Purina brands offer special diet formulas specifically developed to meet the needs of dogs experiencing particular nutritional and medical conditions. Click any brand to learn more.