Special Diets for Special Pets

The benefits of nourishing food and of diets designed for special needs are not just for us humans. Dogs, too, can benefit from what we now know about healthy eating, and from the wide variety of high-quality foods available. Pet food manufacturers have developed all sorts of products, from vegetarian foods to therapeutic diets for dogs suffering from allergies, kidney disease, obesity and other health problems. Some veterinary researchers are even investigating ways that diet can affect cancer in dogs.

If you’re wondering whether your dog should be one special diet, discuss it with your vet. In the case of obesity, for instance, weight gain might be caused by a medical problem rather than by too much food and too little exercise. It’s always a good idea to bring your vet into picture before you change what your dog eats. In any case, many therapeutic diets are available only by prescription.

Is a Vegetarian Diet a Good Idea?
Give your dog a bowl of beans, carrots, brown rice and a veggie burger and chances are he’ll wolf it down, not because he’s a conscientious vegetarian but because its food and it’s in front of him, so of course he’s going to eat it. But is such a meal good for his health?

“Dogs are natural carnivores, and their lives are short enough that the properties of meat that can sometimes be a problem for people really don’t become a problem for dogs,” says Dr. Hamil. “Unlike cats, dogs can exist on a vegetarian diet if you’re careful about the ingredients, but from a health standpoint, I see no reason why you would want to prevent your dog from eating meat. If you have a philosophical objection to feeding meat to your dog, then I guess you could justify a vegetarian diet – although I doubt the dog is going to buy into the philosophy.” Dr. Freeman agrees that dogs are not suited to a vegetarian lifestyle. “Your dog may well become deficient in various substances, which can have a poor effect on his general health, if meat is excluded from his meals,” says.

Medical Diets:
As a dog owner, it’s good to know that these days there is a high-quality veterinary care and nutrition available for your pet, with special diets that will contribute greatly to his well – being. “Medical diets have been one of the real breakthroughs in veterinary medicine,” says Dr. Hamil. There are foods specially formulated and manufactured for young dogs, adult dogs, working dogs old dogs and dogs with specific health problems. Each diet has its place, and with your vet’s help, you can find the one that is just right for your dog if he has special health needs.

The most common special diets are those for weight control, says Dr. Wilford. These involve specially designed dog foods with reduced calorie levels or high levels of fiber to bulk the food up without adding extra calories. A high – fiber diet can also be helpful for dogs with diabetes.
Hypoallergenic diets can benefit dogs that have skin problems. These diets usually contain protein and carbohydrate sources that a dog is unlikely to have been exposed to, such a fish and potatoes.

A dog recovering from a severe illness may be prescribed a bland, soothing diet that will be easy for him to digest and help to calm his stomach. And if your dog is diagnosed as having kidney disease, your veterinarian may prescribe a low-protein diet to help keep the condition under control. Note, however, that a low-protein diet will not prevent kidney disease.

Then there are the dietary considerations of the dog that’s getting up in years. “Many foods marketed for older dogs have restricted protein, but there’s no medical reason to change an older dog’s food without a diagnosis of some kind for a pre-existing disease,” says Dr. Wilford. “Just because your dog has turned seven does not mean that he needs to change to a food designed for older dogs.”

Keep feeding him the food he’s used to for as long as it suits him. You will only need to alter his diet if your vet diagnoses a problem and recommends that you make a change.