If you have a healthy dog or cat, you should be feeding a premium quality diet that is nutritionally balanced for your furry friend’s needs. However, when a pet is diagnosed with a medical condition, a veterinarian may recommend feeding a prescription diet that is nutritionally formulated to manage the condition. Some of these prescription diets may be higher or lower in protein content than the foods sold by pet supply retailers.
Low Protein Diets
A low protein diet for cats is most commonly prescribed for patients that have been diagnosed with kidney disease. As the kidneys degenerate through wear and tear over a pet’s life, they become less able to keep up with their task of filtering wastes from the bloodstream. When the protein in a pet’s diet is digested and metabolized, wastes are produced. The kidneys must remove these wastes from the bloodstream before they accumulate to toxic levels. Feeding a low protein diet for cats reduces the amount of work placed on the kidneys. Kidney disease is degenerative, and it cannot be cured. When pets begin eating exclusively low protein diets during the early stages of kidney disease, the progression of the disease can be slowed. Keep in mind, however, that feeding a low protein diet to a healthy pet will not prevent the onset of kidney disease and is not recommended. A low protein diet for dogs is also prescribed to manage kidney disease in canine patients.
A low protein diet for dogs and for cats is also prescribed to treat liver diseases. The liver plays a substantial role in metabolizing proteins. If the liver function is compromised, wastes that are produced when the proteins are inefficiently broken down accumulate. Prescription diets that are formulated to manage liver disease have moderately reduced amounts of protein content.
High Protein Diets
There was a time when overweight and obese pets were prescribed diets that were high in fiber and low in fat to facilitate a weight loss program. With the advent of the Atkins diet in the human world of dieting, it was determined that feeding a prescription diet that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates achieves successful weight loss in pets. Furthermore, since a pet that is overweight or obese is at an increased risk for developing diabetes, a low carbohydrate and high protein diet for cats and for dogs are ideally formulated for maintaining healthy glucose levels.
Some patients that are recovering from illness are prescribed a high fat and high protein diet for cats and dogs. These foods are palatable to pets that may have diminished appetites. They also increase the pet’s caloric intake to help restore the pet’s optimal weight and to promote healing and recovery.
High protein diets are also prescribed for cancer patients, especially those that are undergoing chemotherapy. The elevated protein content helps to provide energy that chemotherapy patients are lacking, and the food is more appetizing to those with waning appetites. The high level of protein also serves to prevent muscle wasting.
Low Protein is Not Single Protein
Do not confuse low protein diets or high protein diets with single protein diets, which are also commonly called novel protein diets. Novel protein diets have nothing to do with the amount of protein contained in the food. A novel protein diet is one that contains one unusual or exotic protein source to which a pet has not been previously exposed. These diets are prescribed to treat food allergies and food intolerance.
If your pet has been prescribed one of the aforementioned diets to treat a medical condition, be sure to follow your veterinarian’s feeding guidelines. Your pet should also have access to fresh water at all times. Most of the prescription diets are available in canned and dry preparations. If your pet is less than enthusiastic with the new menu, discuss the matter with your veterinarian. He or she may be able to prescribe an alternative. Multiple pet food manufacturers produce their own versions of these diets, and your finicky kitty may find a kidney diet from one company to be more palatable than one from another.