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Therapeutic petfood diets aid in managing pet health condititions

New research has led petfood manufacturers to develop therapeutic diets that are created specifically to manage many different medical conditions, such as pet obesity or allergies, says a recent article from

Typically discussed when a pet's lifestage changes, from puppy to adult to senior, or when the pet develops a specific medical condition, veterinarians say pet nutrition is now being more regularly incorporated into check-up visits as nutrition becomes increasingly important as a form of preventative pet care.

“There are a lot of important factors in keeping a pet healthy, and many are interdependent,” says Richard Hill, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, professor of small animal internal medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. “Nutrition is very important in this respect, as it affects other aspects of overall health. For example, vaccinations are important to help prevent certain infectious diseases in pets. In order for vaccinations to be most effective, the pet needs to have a healthy immune system. Certain nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein and taurine act as antioxidants and help reduce damage to the cells of the immune system, improving function. Thus, nutrition plays a role in disease prevention.”

Veterinarians say that although therapeutic diets can be misused if fed to a healthy pet, they can be effectively used as a non-pharmacological means to managing specific diseases or conditions in pets.

“Some therapeutic diets have a nutritional profile that would not be ideal for a healthy pet, but since they are only used under the supervision of veterinarian, misuse is not common, in my opinion,” Dr. Brent Mayabb, manager of education and development at Royal Canin, says. “As far as being overused, I think it’s the opposite. While vets are good about recommending diets, pet owners don’t always understand the benefits and as a result, don’t take the recommendation. Sometimes they take the recommendation initially, but don’t continue on the food, causing a compliance issue.”

In addition, these therapeutic petfoods typically cost more than grocery store maintenance diets because of the extensive research behind them, which can also deter pet owners from following a vet's recommendation.

Therapeutic petfood diets can prove very beneficial in managing a condition such as pet obesity, but owners must recognize the health risks associated with their pet's obesity to stick with the new therapeutic petfood regimen.

“The incidence of obesity in pets is high in the US,” Mayabb says. “I’m not sure owners always recognize the health concerns associated with obesity. The incidence and severity of many conditions–joint disease and diabetes, as examples–increase with obesity. But I believe some owners only view obesity as a cosmetic issue, instead of the serious health issue it is.”

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