Prescription dog or cat food can be known as just that, or by a variety of names like veterinary specialty food/diet, veterinary diet, or veterinary formula depending on the manufacturer. The reason behind this is that the Hill’s Pet Nutrition company has trademarked the term ‘prescription diet’ and uses it exclusively on their particular prescription foods.
Regardless of what they are called, these foods require a prescription from a licensed veterinarian to be dispensed and are meant to be therapeutic in some way. They come in a wide variety to help with conditions like digestive, heart, kidney, liver, and urinary ailments just to name a few. It can be wet or dry food, and sometimes even treats.
These foods DO NOT contain drugs of any kind; they are merely foods that contain a variety of ingredients in specific measurements that are thought to help control certain health conditions. They are not meant to be the sole source to control any one condition.
For example: urinary diets are typically formulated to help reduce or eliminate urinary tract issues such as dissolving and preventing bladder stones.
There are four manufacturers that produce the most commonly used prescription foods, they are: Hill’s, Royal Canin, Purina, and Iams. Diets are typically labeled by what they are supposed to help treat, usually with a set of letters like Z/D, HP, and HA (which describe three different hypoallergenic foods from three different brands).
There is an ever growing array of these diets in various flavors and protein bases which can make it confusing but you do have more options if your dog is a picky eater when attempting to use one of these foods to help your pet.
They are indeed a lot more expensive than traditional diets and require over sight by a veterinarian which means a written prescription (unless purchased directly from your vet). And there is a great deal of debate by some of whether or not these foods are actually worth the cost, the efficacy and origin of the ingredients, as well as if they actually should require a prescription.
So the most common question remains: are they worth it? For many, yes, but that is a conversation for you and your vet about your dog and its specific needs. They are sometimes a lifelong diet but not always. And there are various online outlets to buy from that can help cut down costs or the pet retail giant PetSmart that are frequently paired with associated chain Banfield Pet Hospitals. Any vet worth their salt will help you decide what is best for you and your best friend!