Nutrition plays a big role when it comes to keeping dogs happy and healthy. Prescription dog food is scientifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of dogs that have specific health conditions. Although they’re called “prescription dog food”, you ​do not legally need a prescription to purchase them.

In order to be labeled as prescription dog food, there needs to be research that supports one or more of their ingredients’ efficacy in the treatment of some health conditions. These ingredients are also known as nutraceuticals. “Nutraceutical” means that these ingredients are digestible products that can support a dog’s normal biological functions and that’s why veterinarians call them “therapeutical” or “prescription” diets.

 You can buy this type of dog food through your vet or order directly from the manufacturer, online, or through a pet store.

What health conditions can prescription dog food help with?

There are several health conditions that can benefit from prescription dog food. These conditions can range from mild to chronic. This type of food is formulated to tackle any dietary needs for each of these illnesses. They do this by including supplements for some extra nutritional support and also excluding nutrients and components that can cause inflammations or worsen the medical issue.

Here are some of the health conditions that prescription dog food can help with:

  • Kidney failure:  this condition requires a higher quality food to support muscle function and reduce toxic metabolites. A prescription diet for this condition needs to have reduced phosphorus and sodium levels;
  • Allergies: If your dog has an intolerance to some of the ingredients you find in regular dog food, you may need to make the switch to prescription dog food that doesn’t contain that ingredient;
  • Weight loss: some dogs can start to become overweight either because they’re overeating or not getting enough exercise. If you’re feeding your dog the same amount as you used to and taking it on regular walks but it doesn’t seem to be losing weight, you may need to switch to prescription dog food for weight loss that has lower calories;
  • Aging: when dogs start to get old, they might start having problems digesting their food. If your dog starts throwing up food often, you may need to consider switching to prescription dog food for senior dogs;
  • Gastrointestinal issues: some dogs might need a more digestible diet in order to deal with their gastrointestinal disorders. These foods usually have lower fat and fiber contents so their bodies don’t have to work so hard when digesting;
  • Urinary tract diseases: dogs that have had bladder stones before are at a higher risk of having them again if they continue with the same habits. Switching to a prescription dog food specifically for this issue can be enough to prevent it from happening again.

Although prescription dog foods are a big help when managing health problems, they won’t solve them on their own. This type of dog food addresses the symptoms rather than the cause and most of them should not be used in the long term. Your vet will be able to walk you through the full treatment and what is the best way to make good use of prescription dog food.


Does prescription dog food work?

When they’re correctly prescribed, this type of dog food can be a big help when it comes to helping dogs go through or manage a health problem. Some dog owners have issues with prescription dog foods because they’re very expensive and have low nutritional value. Some may also be very skeptical of using some of the ingredients. However, if there is a particular ingredient or type of food you prefer to feed your dog (e.g. organic and natural), you may need to put that preference aside and focus on providing your dog with the ingredients that it needs.

It’s true that sometimes, a simple good balance between protein, fat, fiber, and other nutrients is enough to allow your dog to improve its health. But sometimes, prescription dog foods contain an ingredient that will help them in some other way and they might benefit more from non-organic dog food.

So if you are worried about using a prescription diet, talk to your veterinarian about alternatives to better support your dog’s health condition. Fortunately, as there are many dog food brands out there, there’s also a big selection of brands that have prescription dog food which means that there are many options to choose from.

Do you have to feed prescription dog food whenever your dog has a health problem?

It depends. Not every health problem will require prescription dog food and some vets are bigger fans of prescription diets and may turn to it quicker than others. Some vets may not like to turn to prescription dog foods and some manufacturers will caution against the long-term use of these diets. Most of these diets are very restricted when it comes to some nutrients and therefore shouldn’t be fed for a long time because they can develop significant nutrient deficiencies.

However, keep in mind that some health conditions do require medication for some periods of time in order to be treated and that’s how prescription dog food should be seen as. It should be viewed as medication for short-term use to treat a specific health issue.


Making sense of it all

Some alternatives you can explore before turning to prescription dog food are feeding a raw food diet or over-the-counter dog foods for specific health conditions. Raw food diets are easier for dogs to digest than other foods and they’re full of natural ingredients. As for over-the-counter dog food, you may find some that were formulated specifically for dogs with renal problems, bladder issues, or for weight management, etc.

However, when picking the best option for your dog’s health condition, you should always talk to your vet and, if he suggests you use prescription dog food, you should not take this suggestion lightly. Prescription dog foods are specially formulated to help support a dog’s nutritional needs while being easier to digest and absorb.

If you have any concerns about a specific ingredient, be sure to ask your vet and work with him to plan your dog’s diet. Although these foods can be expensive, sometimes it’s the best way to care for your dog’s health.