Nutrition

by

Angela L Lusby, DVM

    Good nutrition is essential for the health and well-being of our pets. In many cases, nutrition is a critical aspect for treating diseases such as portal systemic shunt, food allergy, and kidney failure. Small animal veterinary nutritionists are specialists that have received advanced training in all aspects of canine and feline nutrition. Veterinary nutrition is a relatively new specialty, and many veterinarians in general practice are unfamiliar with the recent advances that have been made in this area.

    If your pet has a disease that can benefit from a change in diet, a commercially prepared prescription diet may be available. Prescription diets can only be purchased through your veterinarian. These diets are specially formulated for certain diseases and, like prescription drugs, may be harmful if used inappropriately. If your pet develops an illness, you should ask your veterinarian if there are dietary changes that can be made to aid in treatment. You may also suggest your veterinarian contact a veterinary nutritionist for the latest advances in nutritional therapy. Recommendations for nutritional therapy should be strictly followed and treated with the same diligence as prescription medications. Although the ingredients listed on the back of food bags may appear similar to your prescription diet, there are many differences in digestibility, vitamin and mineral content, and energy availability that cannot be determined from food labels.

If you cannot feed a commercially available food and prefer to cook for your pet at home, a veterinary nutritionist should be consulted. Complete and balanced diets can be formulated to meet the specific nutritional requirements of your pet. Canine and feline recipes found on the internet or in books should be used with extreme caution because these diets are often lacking in many nutritional requirements. Instead, you should ask your veterinarian to contact a nutrition specialist to formulate a recipe specific for your pet.

Veterinary nutrition specialists available for consultation with your general practice veterinarian can be found at universities with veterinary programs and large specialty practices.

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