WHAT’S UP WITH PRESCRIPTION DIETS?

Abbreviations have literally taken the internet by storm these days. I remember in vet school reading “LMAO” or “SMH” and being like, did I miss something? With all my studying and small town living, I wasn’t “keeping up with the times” as much as in the sorority days. Now entering into the veterinary world, we LOVE to use “abbrev’s” as well. One of the first ones I learned was “ADR” or “Ain’t Doin Right.” This is our simple way of saying WTF is wrong with our patient.

Now, at some point along your vet visits, you will start to get bombarded with nutrition abbreviations. You will be hit with words such as I/D, EN, K/D, or even OM.

What the heck do these letters mean, you ask!? Certain pet food companies have spent a ton of money on research in order to formulate special diets based on your pets specific and unique needs. This is when I get super nerdy because I can’t tell you how much I love using nutrition to help treat an animal. It is so cool that they have formulated these diets to help treat a certain disease, and all you have to do is feed it to your pets! Talk about an easy way to treat a problem.

The reason I am a big advocate and supporter for these companies is that they spend millions each year trying to come up with the best diet possible. They are contributing to our pets having healthier lives through something as simple as a diet change.

You may have never come across these diets yet so it is important to know they are out there. Feel free to ask your veterinarian about a certain prescription diet at your appointment as we love to help find the best match for your pet.

Some prescription diets are only suitable for your pet if they have a specific disease. If you cat gets diagnosed with early kidney disease, then there is a  prescription diet for your cat that is lower in phosphorous and protein as this is what is proven to delay the progression of kidney disease. If your cat is diagnosed with diabetes, it has been proven that if you feed a diabetic diet to your pet, then it is actually possible to reverse the diabetes over time. Pretty awesome right!?

My three favorite diets that I use all the time pertain to obesity, arthritis, and dental health. These diets are more versatile as all 3 conditions can affect any pet over the course of their lifetime. Weight loss diets are specially formulated to help your pet feel full while also promoting weight loss. These diets are great because you don’t have to restrict their caloric intake as much as you would with an over the counter food. Overweight Fluffy doesn’t want to hear that her food intake needs to be cut from 3 cups per day to 2 cups per day….you would hear her whining all day long! With arthritis, there are diets out there formulated with a joint supplement so that you can provide them with an all in one solution. These diets help with mobility as well as delaying the progression of arthritis. The diet I currently use with my own young pets is the dental health diet. This diet is formulated in a larger kibble size so that when your pet bites down on the kibble, it sticks to their tooth and helps act as a natural tooth brush to remove tartar build-up. It is a good alternative if you can’t brush your pet’s teeth daily or if you only brush them a few times per week.

When you take your pet in for their yearly check-up, there is never enough time to discuss everything we would like to in 30 minutes. By knowing about these diets, you can do some research to see if one would be a good fit for your pet. Providing your pet with the best diet possible is one more way you can influence their health for the better.

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PET WEIGHT LOSS TIPS

From a vet’s perspective, I am trained daily to pay attention to each animal’s weight and make recommendations for the betterment of their health. Obesity has become a big health issue in our furry companions. I find a lot of people say they think their pet looks cuter carrying an extra 15 pounds. Well from a health perspective, this is one area that we can 100% control and will help keep our couch potato friend around a lot longer. A study by Purina came out a few years ago that used Labrador’s to determine if obesity changes lifespan. The labs were placed into two groups: one group that was fed free choice while the other was fed fixed quantities. Comparing the two groups, the life span of the lean fed Labrador’s was increased by 15% or 1.8 years. Another interesting finding was that feeding didn’t necessarily change what health issues they encountered in life, but it changed when. Lean fed dogs lived longer healthier lives with their owners and had health issues come up later in life.

Now this may seem like common sense, however, I cannot tell you how often I have the “Fluffy needs to lose 10 pounds conversation” in a day. This can be an even harder conversation when the owner in front of you could stand to lose some lb’s themselves. Now, I’m here to let you in on some of the tricks I’ve learned over the years. Through my own furry fatty, I have found some tips that may be beneficial for your bestie as well. And heck, while you’re at it, why not consider some of these lifestyle changes yourselves!? The tips ultimately can go both ways.

Tip #1: Set a goal. You have to know Fluffy’s ideal weight in order to know when the objective has been met. This starts with a body condition score. My favorite is by Purina, which can be found here. The goal with this is to determine objectively where your pet fits in the scale. 4-5 is ideal and anything above 5 represents 10% overweight and so forth (7/9 represents 20% overweight). From there, take your pet’s current weight and multiply it by the percentage overweight to find a rough estimate of their ideal.

Tip #2: Diet. Now it wasn’t until I switched Omega to the prescription weight loss foods that he achieved his goal. Diets that I have personal experience with and love include Purina Prescription OM, Hill’s Metabolic, and Science Diet WD. All three of these have their own formulation, but the rough ingredients represent similar things (high fiber, high protein, low fat). I love these diets because you typically can feed your pet the same quantity they are given (unless you are free choice feeding) as it allows them to still feel satiated. If you choose to keep them on their same food or a “light version” that is over the counter, Fido may feel starved due to having to feed less per meal to get the results. He may also not be getting enough of the nutrients he needs.

Tip #3: How much do I feed? This is something I even struggle with. I personally am known to clean my plate at restaurants, so it can be tough to decide how much to feed our pets because they just keep staring at their bowl afterwards hoping it magically refills again. Well, let me let you in on a little secret….the back of the bag tends to lie to you. 9x out of 10, it overestimates their food intake. I have actually found after multiple trials that this food calculator works really well. You can also discuss this with your vet as we are always happy to help!

Tip #4: Exercise. Now how the heck am I supposed to get Omega to exercise!? Well with cats, I have found they need motivation. It may seem dramatic to have your cat follow a can of tuna around the house 10 times, but hey, whatever works! I have found laser pointers get em off of their feet as well as they have these new treat balls that make the cat have to work for their dinner. With dogs, it’s simple. Take them for a walk or run daily or at least a few times per week. This will benefit both you and Fido. No matter how amazing the weight loss plan, results never show without burning some calories.

Tip #5: Monitor their progress. The best motivation is seeing the results for yourself. I like doing this by weighing them monthly. That way you can keep track of their progress and know if you need to change anything to keep them losing weight in a healthy way. In vet school, I spearheaded a Weight Loss Challenge with Purina OM. I still can’t forget the look of some of my fellow students when they saw how much weight their pet had lost after 6 months. It made me so happy to see them realize it is possible after they felt they had tried everything.

Just remember, you can do this! This is one way that you can influence your pet’s life for the better and keep them around for longer (perhaps 15% longer).

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HOW DO I TRUST BIG BUSINESS PET FOOD?

“Lawsuit claims Beneful dog food kills pets.”

If you are a consumer of a product under scrutiny, this type of statement may make you feel prettyyy nauseas. Any time a product we faithfully purchase has controversy such as the aforementioned, it can cause us to feel a lot of doubt about the company, anxiety over something bad happening to us (or our pets), and anger. Then, commence extensive google search to figure out what the law suit is about. Search engines can be the best and worst thing for us based on what direction your search takes you. It allows us to find websites from sources that may not be the most reputable. Nowadays, any Joe Shmoe can create a website with whatever content they desire. In mentioning this, my best advice is to always validate your source to ensure it is coming from someone qualified in the area of interest.

Now back to Beneful. It’s important to remember that class action lawsuits are unfortunately quite common these days. This means that a lawsuit is filed on behalf of a group of people who have been injured in some way by the actions of a company. It is not always indicative of a product issue. To put things into perspective, millions of pets consume this product on a daily basis, including my own family’s dogs. If there was an issue with the quality and individual ingredients of this product, then it would be affecting more of our pets than are involved in the lawsuit. When I read this information, I didn’t just go ahead and have a Beneful bonfire in the backyard. My next step was to check the FDA recall website. Every pet food company has certain food safety regulations in place that are regulated by the government to ensure a safe product is being produced for consumption. We have to remember that every step of the production of a pet food has strict quality control measures in place. After food passes inspection at the plant, it is then up to the stores that sell these products to store them appropriately. Pet foods have a specific shelf life so it then becomes up to the stores to ensure they are checking their inventory and keeping the bags at the right temperature and humidity to prevent different molds (for example) from growing.

I certainly sympathize with the owner of 3 pets in California behind the law suit. He is upset for the loss of his bulldog and now has 2 other sick pets at home with no specific diagnosis from his veterinarian. I don’t blame anyone for seeking answers and trying to avenge their pets. We are our pet’s caretakers as well as advocates so it is up to us to be their voice.

Does this mean moving forward we need to feel anxiety about the pet food we purchase? This is a logical question to have and certainly “bad press” can leave a bitter taste in our mouths. I can tell you with certainty that every pet food company out there has a strong commitment to providing you with a safe product. I personally have toured the Nestle Purina manufacturing plant in St. Louis, and every single piece of machinery was cleaner than even my OCD selves kitchen! They take every measure to ensure a high quality product and have one of the strictest quality assurance standards in the pet food industry.

Beyond the quality control programs, the pet food companies I stand behind as a veterinarian are those that place a strong emphasis on research and pioneering the way in the industry. The big three that do this are Hill’s, Purina, and Royal Canin. I value feeding trials as one of the most important aspects of the quality of a pet food, and you would be surprised how under-utilized this is with smaller companies. Smaller companies typically only conduct informal palatability and digestibility studies. There is minimal objective data on the long term implications of their products. The other important area of research to me involves prescription diets and a company’s dedication to this area of nutrition. As a veterinarian, I believe that every single pet deserves individualized care that is catered specifically to them. A dog with kidney disease has different nutritional requirements than a dog with inflammatory bowel disease. The fact that there are diets specifically formulated for each of my patient’s gives me another way to provide the best care for them. To me, this nutritional dedication to such a small fraction of my patients gives me confidence in these companies.

The pet food industry will always be a “hot topic.” With so many new pet food companies out there, I have found my client’s have a lot more opinions than they used to about their food of choice. I did a little poll of my Facebook friends and just look at the wide range of foods purchased for their furry bestie.

  1. Blue Buffalo Wilderness (x8)
  2. Pedigree
  3. Taste of the Wild (x3)
  4. Fromms
  5. Purina Pro Plan (x8)
  6. Purina Pro Plan Prescription Diet (x4)
  7. Wellness (x4)
  8. Purina One (x8)
  9. Royal Canin (x3)
  10. 9 Lives Wet
  11. Friskies
  12. Natural Balance (x2)
  13. Hills/Science Diet (x9)
  14. Iams
  15. Ol Roy
  16. Eukanuba  (x2)
  17. Nutro
  18. Fancy Feast
  19. Rachel Ray

Now that is quite a variety! I was overwhelmed with the number of responses as well as passion behind that “Facebook status.” I can’t tell you how excited this makes me to see how passionate everyone is about the health of their pets. There is no perfect answer on what to feed your pet as certainly every one out there has a differing opinion. It all comes down to finding a pet food company with a quality product backed by a solid quality assurance program. You also need to feel comfortable with the company and align yourself with one that has similar values to yourself. Beyond that, you certainly want to make sure your furry buddy eats it up enthusiastically!

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