Why are prescription diet foods dispensed by prescription only?
Prescription diets have been researched and developed for specific health problems for our pets. Our human doctors will often have specific dietary recommendations for us and also may refer us to dietitians for nutritional management for specific human diseases and nutritional support during cancer therapy and other disease treatment.
In veterinary medicine, diet for disease related medical problems has been simplified with the development and use of prescription diet food-or “medicine in a bag” as we like to call it. A specific food can be used to address several important aspects of diet management with one product (medication by food). For example, if your cat has Kidney Insufficiency and is placed on a prescription diet that is lower in protein (to decrease the BUN and creatinine kidney values and help your kitty feel better), higher in fat and carbohydrates to help them regain from weight loss, higher in potassium (cats with Kidney Insufficiency will develop low potassium blood levels and have weak muscles and a poor appetite), and lower in phosphorous (cats with Kidney Insufficiency will develop very high phosphorous blood levels and feel bad).
A cat with Lower Urinary Tract Disease or previous bladder stones could develop urinary problems again or bladder stones again if the owner made a mistake and bought the wrong prescription food. It is common for clients to come in and ask for the kidney diet when their cat has lower urinary tract disease or previously had surgical removal of bladder stones.
It is not uncommon today for people to try to diagnose their own cat by reading information Online rather than actually having a veterinarian do a full exam and diagnostic work up. If there was no prescription for certain diets “medicine in a bag”, a client might feed a contraindicated food and cause more problems or the death of their pet. No one wants to have that happen especially the companies who have done the research to develop the prescription diets for specific medical conditions to help pets live longer and better lives. There may be legal ramifications when a person buys and uses a contraindicated diet without a veterinarian’s over sight and prescription for the diet.
Joan M. Freesh, MS, DVM