Therapeutic pet food for better health

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Every pet parent wants to see their pet enjoy life, but despite your best efforts, there will be times when your furry friend isn’t feeling their best. Sometimes this may be because of an upset stomach or minor injury (a side effect of that adventurous personality!). But other times, your pet may be affected by a long-term condition, like obesity or skin allergies. Then comes the question: can the right nutrition make a difference to my pet’s quality of life?

To help understand the potential of therapeutic food, we asked Hill’s Pet Nutrition Team about how making the switch can improve your pet’s condition and – in some cases – even reduce the need for medication. Below we talk you through some of the most common reasons for therapeutic food and the changes they have observed in many animals.

Gastrointestinal conditions

Occasional vomiting is common in cats and dogs. However, persistent episodes can be serious because the body loses essential fluids and salts. Another problem is that animals with an upset stomach may eat very little, so it’s important that they get as many nutrients out of their food as possible. Therapeutic foods help address this by replenishing the body with good-quality, highly digestible protein and carbohydrates. They’re also low in insoluble fibre, which is hard for the body to digest.

On the other hand, chronic intestinal upsets like diarrhoea can emerge from a long-term gut problem, such as colitis. And in these cases, fibre can be a very beneficial nutrient to have. This is why therapeutic foods for this condition contain more insoluble fibre (to help move food through the digestive system) but also other types of fibre to help feed the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut. It’s all about the right balance of nutrients!

Therapeutic nutrition can also be particularly helpful for pets with food intolerances as this excludes common offending ingredients from their foods.

Obesity

According to the PSDA’s 2022 Animal Wellbeing report, clinical studies have found that up to 65% of dogs are obese or overweight. And while some pet owners try to cut down their pet’s calorie intake by reducing their pet’s portions, this can backfire, causing excessive hunger and nutrient deficiency. Therapeutic foods solve this by offering a diet high in protein and fibre, which helps your pet feel full for longer while preventing muscle loss when they’re losing weight.

Kidney disease

Kidney disease tends to occur in older cats and can cause unpleasant symptoms like loss of appetite, unwanted weight loss or sore gums. This happens when the kidneys are damaged and become less effective at breaking down proteins and filtering toxins from the blood.

So, a good therapeutic food is designed to first, offer low levels of high-quality protein and phosphorous (to reduce the workload on the kidneys) and second, include antioxidants in the animal’s diet to help combat the free radicals that age and damage kidney cells.

Kidney support foods have been well documented and are scientifically proven to prolong the life of both dogs and cats with kidney disease – so it’s not all bad news! Just a great example of how a suitable diet can have a positive effect on your pet’s health.

Skin issues

Earlier, we mentioned how food intolerances can trigger digestive issues. Similarly, food allergies can cause skin problems such as itching, redness or fur loss.

When your pet has an allergic reaction to an ingredient, their immune system registers it as a threat, so what therapeutic nutrition does is replace common allergens with good-quality alternatives. As an example, a therapeutic food for skin health will contain venison as a source of protein.

But pets with other types of allergies can benefit from therapeutic foods, too. Atopy (or atopic dermatitis) is a common skin problem in dogs. This is when the trigger is in the environment: pollen, dust mites, grass, or fleas. Foods designed for this kind of allergy have ingredients that help restore the skin barrier, soothe the skin, and reduce irritation, such as antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatories – which can be music to an itchy pet’s ears!

Urinary problems

Finally, many pet parents will have seen their canine or feline friend experience a urinary problem of some kind. From minor issues like occasional cystitis to long-term health problems like crystals in the urine or bladder stones, which can be very distressing.

To help manage these conditions, therapeutic nutrition uses specific ingredients to help dissolve and prevent the formation of new stones – which not only helps alleviate the pain but also lower stress, something that is much needed when your pet suffers from bladder discomfort.

So, there we have it – a whirlwind tour through what therapeutic foods can do for pets with just some of the most common health conditions. But the list continues: from diabetes to dental issues, there is hope for many cats and dogs.

Luckily, love and care is everything many pets need to live long, healthy lives. But if illness ever rears its head, talk to your vet, and never underestimate just how much good therapeutic foods can do.

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