Feline Nutrition: What You Need to Know About Feeding Your Cat Prescription Foods

With so many different cat foods on the market, it can be difficult to choose the best option for your feline friend. When it comes to cats with chronic illnesses and conditions, prescription foods are a great option to give your cat the proper diet they need.

These diets can be prescribed by a veterinarian for a variety of conditions, like chronic kidney disease and diabetes, and other medical needs, like weight loss and dental care.

Although prescription diets are an important tool for managing cats’ medical needs, they should only be fed under the direction of a veterinarian, according to Dr. Debra Zoran, a professor at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

“Prescription foods should be given like medicine and only administered as intended,” Zoran said. “These foods have a specific purpose and are intended to be given only to cats with specific illnesses.”

While some may think that feeding a healthy prescription cat food intended for a specific condition will help prevent that condition, this is not the case; in fact, it can lead to negative side effects that can lead to serious health issues.

For example, prescription diets for chronic kidney disease (CKD) typically contain less than half the amount of protein normally found in cat food because cats with CKD have a harder time excreting waste products. protein from their kidneys. Feeding this diet to a cat without IRC would however not provide enough protein and would result in an altered mineral balance compared to what a healthy cat needs for a complete and balanced diet.

“Healthy cats that receive prescription CKD diets will begin to lose muscle mass because their body will use its own muscles to replace what is missing from the diet,” Zoran said. “They will also often gain weight from added fats and carbohydrates in the diet that are there to replace protein.”

The potential consequences make it important for owners of multiple cats to feed them separately if only one is on a prescription diet or at least speak to a veterinarian about your household’s food situation.

Fortunately, there is no need to worry if one of the cats occasionally eats a few bites of the other’s food.

“It’s not a problem if your healthy cat occasionally eats prescription food, just as it won’t be terrible for a cat with a specific disease to occasionally eat non-prescription food” , said Zoran. “Ultimately, many special diets are simply not intended for normal, healthy adult cats as a maintenance diet.

“However, that’s not true for all prescription diets,” she said. “For example, prescription diets for cats with allergies or intestinal issues are complete and balanced and could be given to a healthy cat. The difference is that the diet may have a different source of protein (venison for a beef allergic cat) or a more digestible mix of ingredients (for cats with intestinal problems). Although these diets can be safely given to any cat, they are more expensive and unnecessary for a cat that does not have a medical condition.

If a veterinarian determines that your cat would benefit from a prescription diet, you may be able to purchase the food directly from their clinic. Alternatively, the vet can provide a prescription card which can be used to purchase the food at most pet stores and many online retailers.

Whether your cat is diagnosed with a specific disease or simply needs a healthier lifestyle, prescription foods can be a beneficial addition to their regular medical care. Sometimes something as simple as changing your food can even be the key to many years of living with your loving companion.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. The stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics can be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

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