Are Prescription Cat Food Diets Really Worth It?

When it comes to commercial cat food there is an endless variety of formulas, recipes, and flavors out there. In addition to formulas that are designed for cats in specific life stages or with certain food allergies or intolerances, there are also prescription cat foods.

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Prescription cat foods are designed to provide nutritional support for cats with certain health problems. These diets are not intended to replace veterinary care or medication (when needed) but they can help your cat by providing him with the nutrients he needs to be as healthy as possible.

Prescription cat foods usually need to be ordered by a doctor, or if you have the doctor’s note, you can order online and send the note in. We hope that our list of some of the best prescription cat options will help you narrow your search for your pet!

What Conditions Can Prescription Cat Food Treat?

If you peruse the website for big prescription cat food brands like Royal Canin and Hill’s, you will find that there is a prescription cat food diet for nearly every medical affliction. Below you will find a list of the conditions prescription cat food may help to treat:

  • Kidney Problems
  • Urinary Problems
  • Thyroid Issues
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Problems
  • Joint Problems
  • Skin Allergies/Conditions
  • Weight Management
  • Food Sensitivities
  • Digestive Issues
  • Metabolic Stress

Depending on the brand, some prescription cat foods are also available in multifunction formulas for cats that suffer from multiple health problems.

Are Prescription Diets Really Worth It?

Before you go out and buy your cat some prescription cat food, take a moment to consider whether it is really worth it. To understand what prescription cat food is, it may help for you to learn the basics about the history of this type of diet. The first prescription cat food diet was created in the 1930s by Dr. Mark Morris, Sr. Morris studied veterinary science at Cornell University and he worked with the American Humane Association to create a meat-free diet to help feed dogs during World War II when food rationing was in full swing. This diet was made with rejected eggs, soybeans, unsalable fish, and other ingredients that provide protein as well as cooked cereal grains, vegetables and other ingredients.

After the war ended, many pet food manufacturers started to reincorporate meat into their products, creating higher protein recipes that were more in line with the dietary needs of carnivorous animals like dogs and cats. Morris, however, continued to follow his previous formulations, stating that the move toward all-meat diets – particularly those made with animal by-products – was ridiculous. Using these same principles, Morris went on to develop a number of Prescription Diets (a term which is actually a registered trademark) for the Hills Pet Nutrition Company. The first of these was a formula intended to help dogs reduce their weight – it was formulated in such a way as to keep the dog full without providing much actual nutrition and without causing nutritional deficiencies. One of the key ingredient (and one that is found in many Prescription Diets today) is a combination of pulverize cellulose, also known as sawdust or wood pulp.

If you take the time to examine the ingredients lists for many popular Prescription Diets for cats, you may be surprised to find that many of them include low-quality ingredients like corn gluten meal, wheat flour, and an assortment of by-products and by-product meals. In fact, it is not uncommon for prescription cat foods from Hill’s and Royal Canin to list four or five carbohydrate sources within the first 10 ingredients on the list, often before the first protein source is even mentioned. This is not to say that all prescription diets are low in quality, but you do need to be very careful when shopping for veterinary formulas because there are a low of products out there that are no different from the average low-quality cat food.

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Alternatives to Prescription Cat Food Diets

Because there is a great deal of controversy regarding the quality and efficacy of prescription cat food, you may be wondering if there is a better alternative. Depending on what condition your cat is currently suffering from, there very well could be! For example, if your cat suffers from skin allergies or food sensitivities, his problems could be solved by switching to a limited ingredient diet (LID). These diets are made with a selective number of ingredients, often choosing novel protein and carbohydrate sources to reduce the chances for an allergic reaction. Many prescription cat food diet that are designed for cats with food sensitivities are made with hydrolyzed animal proteins which are chemically treated and exposed to extreme heat in order to change the make-up of the protein so it doesn’t cause a reaction. All that really needs to happen to prevent your cat from having an allergic reaction, however, is to remove the offending ingredient from his diet – why feed him protein that has been chemically treated if all you really needed to do was switch to a different protein?

In a similar way, many prescription cat food diets that are designed to help cats lose weight are made with ingredients that have been altered to reduce their calorie content. In many cases, these low-calorie ingredients are also very low in nutritional value on the whole – why would you want to choose that for your cat? If you look at weight management formulas from high-quality cat food brands like Natural Balance or Blue Buffalo you will find that these formulas are still rich in nutrients. Rather than bulking up their products with low-quality fillers that will keep your cat full without providing much nutrition, these formulas focus on maintaining your cat’s lean muscle mass while reducing his fat intake to cut calories. There are plenty of animal proteins that are naturally lean and low in calories – chicken, turkey, and fish are some great examples. And fresh fruits and vegetables can provide dietary fiber and other key nutrients without significantly impacting the calorie content of the food.

When it comes to actual medical problems such as bladder stones or kidney issues, feeding your cat an actual veterinary diet might make a little more sense. Bladder stones in cats are caused by a buildup of certain minerals in the urine such as phosphate, magnesium, and ammonium – the pH of your cat’s body can also impact the development of these stones. While some dietary modifications may be needed to help dissolve existing stones, many cat owners find that increased water consumption makes the biggest difference in preventing stones from forming in the future.

Kidney problems like renal failure are also very common in cats and many pet owners try to treat the disease by switching their cat to a low-protein prescription cat food diet. If you take a look at recent research, however, you will see that some types of renal failure in cats are not affected by protein or calorie intake at all. In fact, it is more beneficial to provide your cat with a high-protein, balanced diet that will support his total body health and wellness, helping him to maintain healthy blood pressure and healthy blood volume. Furthermore, protein is actually a requirement for the repair of kidney cells – the kidney cannot recover if your cat doesn’t get enough protein.

Top Recommended Brands for Prescription Cat Food

If your cat is suffering from a particular medical problem, your veterinarian may tell you exactly what kind of food he needs. If he doesn’t, however, you may need to do some shopping on your own. To help you find the right food for your cat, consider some of the following top-rated brands that offer a selection of prescription cat food or veterinary diet options.

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Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet

When it comes to high-quality pet foods, Blue Buffalo is a name that most pet owners will recognize. Blue Buffalo offers four main product lines for cat and dog foods: Freedom, Basics, Blue and Wilderness. The BLUE line of natural products is made with fresh, wholesome ingredients and the Wilderness line is high-protein, inspired by the diet of wild cats. The Freedom line is made up of grain-free cat food products and the Basics line includes an assortment of different limited ingredient diets. In addition to these product lines, Blue Buffalo also offers a variety of Natural Veterinary Diets. These recipes are designed to provide a therapeutic diet for cats and they are all made with natural, wholesome ingredients. These recipes are only available with a veterinarian prescription.

Within the Natural Veterinary Diet line of products from Blue Buffalo there are three different options for cats: HF, GI, and WU. The HF recipe is a hydrolyzed diet designed to treat food intolerance – this recipe is for cats that have food sensitivities and it helps to reduce the chance of adverse reactions to common proteins. It is grain-free and made with hydrolyzed salmon as well as pea protein and several gluten-free, grain-free carbohydrates. The GI formula is designed to treat gastrointestinal issues – it is supplemented with prebiotic fibers and made with highly digestible ingredients like fresh chicken, pea protein, and potatoes. The WU recipe is designed to promote healthy weight management as well as urinary support. This recipe is grain-free, formulated to provide ideal levels of fat, calories and fiber to help your cat manage his weight.

Wysong Prescription Cat Food

Wysong is not your average pet food company. The company was founded in 1979 with the purpose of providing veterinarians with education as well as products designed to improve pet health. Wysong is a family-owned company that takes the health and wellness of pets very seriously –that is why they use only the highest quality ingredients in their products and they take care in developing their recipes to ensure both safety and quality. Another thing that sets Wysong apart from other pet food manufacturers is the fact that some of their products are formulated to meet the nutritional needs of both dogs and cats – they also offer raw pet foods. When it comes to prescription cat food, Wysong’s recipes are based on their Archetype diet which is a dehydrated raw food.

Wysong’s prescription cat food is dehydrated raw – you have the option to feed it to your cat dry or you can rehydrate it with water or broth. This diet is designed to provide your cat with a concentrated source of all-natural nutrition with the addition of nutraceuticals designed to treat specific health problems. These diets are designed to be used as supplementary diets rather than staple diets, and each one comes with detailed feeding instructions. The two prescription pet diets Wysong offers are Wysong Rx Organ and Wysong Rx Urinary. The former is intended to treat problems with the digestive, cardiovascular, neurological, and respiratory systems as well as the pancreas and liver. The latter is designed to promote urinary health as well as kidney health.

Balance IT Supplements

If your cat is suffering from a particular medical problem that could be remedied by the inclusion or exclusion of certain nutrients from his diet, you may want to consider making your own cat food at home. Many animal nutritionists and holistic veterinarians promote the use of raw and homemade cat food diets as an alternative to prescription diets because they offer more balanced, wholesome nutrition. If you are thinking about making your own prescription cat food diet, consider adding a Balance IT feline supplement. Balance IT is a company that offers a variety of supplements for both dogs and cats including supplement powders that are designed to be used in homemade pet food diets. They also offer a selection of general nutritional supplements for pets.

Not only does Balance IT offer a variety of nutrition supplements for pets, but their website offers a feature called the AutoBalancer EZ which allows you to input your cat’s specific medical problems to design a custom homemade prescription diet incorporating Balance IT supplements. This company was founded by Sean Delaney, a graduate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition and his products and tools are used by thousands of veterinarians to provide healthy nutrition for sick pets. In order to purchase Balance IT supplements you may need to obtain a prescription from your veterinarian or you can request vet approval through the Balance IT website.

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Royal Canin Veterinary Diet

The Royal Canin brand of pet food is produced and manufactured by Mars, Incorporated – the same company that produces other widely known pet food brands like Whiskas, Pedigree, and Iams. Royal Canin was founded by a French veterinarian in 1968 who had a vision for creating a pet food company that was grounded in science. Today, Royal Canin offers a wide variety of dry food and wet food products for both dogs and cats including many formulas specific to certain breeds, ages, and sizes of pets. Royal Canin also has an extensive line of veterinary diets. These formulas are available by prescription only and they are developed with sound scientific principles in mind, made to meet the basic nutritional needs of cats and dogs while also providing relief from specific health problems.

Royal Canin offers over a dozen different veterinary diets designed to treat everything from diabetes and food sensitivities to joint problems, liver problems, and digestive issues. The Multifunction formula is also available – this recipe is designed to provide optimal nutrition and support for pets suffering from multiple health problems. It is made with hydrolyzed protein to prevent reactions to common proteins and it also comes in different recipes to provide additional support for urinary or renal problems. The Mobility Support recipe is designed to support healthy mobility and strong joints in cats while the Recovery Support recipe is designed to help pets recover from illness, surgery, or trauma. Royal Canin also offers recipes for cardiac health, weight management, stress reduction, diabetes support, and even a vegetarian option for dogs that have trouble tolerating animal proteins.

Hill’s Prescription Diet

The Hill’s pet food brand is owned by the Hill’s Pet Nutrition Company which is produced and manufactured by the Colgate-Palmolive Company. Hills was founded all the way back in 1907 by Burton Hill and it was one of the first commercial producers of animal feed, particularly dog food. Today, the Hill’s Pet Nutrition Company offers three different brands – Science Diet, Ideal Balance, and Prescription Diet. The Science Diet brand was released in the 1960s and it includes a wide variety of life stage- and breed-specific pet foods. The Prescription Diet brand is only available through veterinarians and it includes an assortment of recipes designed to provide support for specific health problems and various conditions in cats and dogs.

If you visit the Hill’s Prescription Diet website you will see that there are over fifty different products available for cats, both dry foods and wet foods. The Prescription Diet brand includes recipes designed for cats with metabolic diseases, skin or food sensitivities, urinary problems, dental problems, and even weight management issues. There is also a line of Multicare recipes which are designed to provide nutritional support for cats with multiple health problems. The S/D recipe is formulated for cats with bladder stones and there is also a Metabolic + Urinary Stress formula for cats that are overweight and also have urinary problems. For thyroid issues there is the Y/D recipe and for kidney care there are several K/D recipes. Hill’s Prescription Diet food sensitivity recipes are made with proteins like venison and duck as well as digestible carbohydrates like green peas.

Conclusion

If your cat is suffering from a particular health problem, you need to be very careful about which kind of food you offer him. Feeding your cat the wrong kind of diet could exacerbate his health problems and it could have a negative impact on his overall health and wellbeing. To ensure that your cat gets the nutritional support that he needs, ask for a prescription from your veterinarian for one of the top-rated prescription cat food brands reviewed above.

Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is a freelance writer specializing in the subject of pet health and wellness. An avid dog lover and adoring owner of three cats, Kate has a great deal of experience writing about all kinds of pets and all aspects of pet care. Her work has been featured on a number of pet websites and she is a regular columnist for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine.

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