By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM
We all know food provides the energy and nutrients each of us, including our pets, need every day. But as a veterinarian, food is more important than just providing nutrients; it is an integral component of disease and recovery.
Food and disease
Food is also related to common illnesses veterinarians diagnose on a regular basis. Take for example Jack, the cat lost at JFK, who succumbed to hepatic lipidosis, a disease provoked by inadequate food intake and treated by feeding!
Excess food intake often results in obesity. Obese animals live shorter lives and have more medical problems, including arthritis, bladder problems, and respiratory disease.
Food as medicine
Veterinarians have been using specially formulated diets as a component of medical therapy since the 1940’s.
“Prescription” diets are now manufactured by several pet food companies. These diets are available by prescription only since the nutrients have been modified to address certain nutritional differences in pets with a variety of diseases, so they are not appropriate for every pet. Take for example the reduced protein diets used in dogs and cats with liver problems. Too much protein can cause seizures in these patients. Protein-restricted diets are commonly prescribed to minimize the protein-induced seizures. For pets with suspected food allergies, diets have been formulated with novel ingredients to facilitate diet elimination trials. The exotic ingredient list for these diets – kangaroo, rabbit, duck, peas, and sweet potato – help veterinarians to eliminate common causes of food allergies, like beef, chicken, corn, and wheat, while maintaining a convenient source of nutrition for your pet. Specially formulated kidney friendly diets are one of the most important types of therapeutic diets and have been shown to minimize clinical signs of severe kidney failure (uremia) while maximizing survival in both dogs and cats with kidney disease.
For The Animal Medical Center’s brochure on feeding pets with kidney disease, click here.
Food and insurance
Can you believe food just got more important? The Trupanion Pet Insurance Company recently expanded coverage to include veterinarian prescribed diets.
Here is the coverage as listed in the sample policy:
Therapeutic Pet Food
(1) Therapeutic Pet Food – We will cover the incremental cost of therapeutic pet food when recommended and dispensed by your veterinarian in the treatment of injuries or symptomatic illnesses covered by this policy for up to two months of feeding. If you continue to feed your pet the veterinarian recommended therapeutic pet food as a long-term replacement diet, you will be eligible for a discount to your monthly premium. This coverage is not for routine/preventive care.
This is great news for pets and pet owners. Clearly, Trupanion understands the importance of food and I hope other pet insurance companies will recognize it too!