You’ve probably seen them on the shelves at your local veterinary hospital, or maybe your cat is currently eating one of these foods: so-called prescription diets that are formulated for cats with specific health conditions ranging from allergies to gastro-intestinal problems to kidney disease. Also known as therapeutic diets, you would think that these diets are high quality diets that are good for your cats, right?
You couldn’t be further from the truth. The majority of these diets are very high in carbohydrates and contain wheat, corn and soy – ingredients that have no logical place in the diet of an obligate carnivore like the cat. They also generally contain a high amount of by-products.
Why are these diets recommended by veterinarians?
Unfortunately, veterinarians receive very little training in nutrition, and what little they do receive is frequently sponsored by the very same companies who manufacture these diets. “99% of all veterinarians who ‘prescribe’ these diets truly feel that they are doing the best for their patients,” says Dr. Lisa Pierson, the veterinarian behind Catinfo.org. “The companies that manufacture the ‘alphabet’ diets have done a wonderful job marketing their products to veterinarians, making it difficult to refrain from falling into the trap of using them.”
Dr. Pierson argues that in many cases, due to their poor quality, these therapeutic diets can actually be detrimental to a cat’s health. “In addition, they are simply not necessary in most cases and do not optimally address the problems they claim to treat,” says Dr. Pierson. “Add to this the very high price tag on these diets and we have what I consider to be a very big ‘black eye’ for the profession.”
Educate yourself about feline nutrition
I know it’s not easy to contradict your veterinarian’s recommendation, especially when it’s a vet you trust on all other matters. I urge you to educate yourself about feline nutrition, and make an informed decision before agreeing to put your cat on one of these diets. A high-quality over-the-counter or a properly formulated homemade diet may be a better nutritional choice for your cat, and still address her specific health needs.