Veterinary Diets for Dogs

Veterinary diets are available through your vet because they work like a medicine.
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Veterinary diets for pups not only satisfy your pooch's hunger, but also help to treat any medical or life-stage issues he's dealing with. These diets are formulated with a scientifically researched balance of nutrients that alleviate many canine medical conditions, just like a medication. You can find and purchase these diets only in your vet's office, if she has diagnosed your canine companion with a medical issue that such a food can manage.

What are They?

Veterinary diets are developed by major pet food manufacturers and sold exclusively in the offices of veterinarians rather than pet supply or grocery stores. Each formulation is designed to treat or manage a specific medical condition. These conditions include a food allergy, kidney disease, bladder stones, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, liver disease, dental disease or gastrointestinal disease, according to petMD. Many of these diets provide you and your vet with a way to treat such conditions with food alone or in conjunction with medication.

Complete Nutrition?

Not all veterinary diets meet the requirements of the Association of American Feed Control Officials to be considered a long-term maintenance diet that is "complete and balanced." Sometimes, the balance of ingredients needed to manage a medical condition precludes the food from meeting the nutritional profiles set up by the AAFCO. While you can feed your pup a veterinary diet that is nutritionally complete indefinitely in some cases, other diets are designed to be fed for shorter amounts of time, as directed by your vet, according to the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center.

Appropriate for Fido?

Your vet must examine your pooch to determine if a veterinary diet is appropriate for him and, if so, which one. Some veterinary diets are therapeutic, meaning that they treat a medical issue, and some are designed for life-stage or recovery issues, like obesity, anorexia and growth. These diets are designed only for pooches suffering from a health condition of some kind, not a healthy one. Veterinary diets may be lower in ingredients like protein, fat, phosphorus, sodium or magnesium, than would be required by a healthy or growing dog; others might be higher in these amounts.

Maintaining Your Pup

When feeding your pooch a veterinary diet of any kind, follow your vet's directions. You might find that veterinary diets cost more than most store-bought ones, but don't let that discourage you from feeding them to your pup, recommends Veterinary Practice News. Arbitrarily stopping a veterinary diet may put your pup's health in jeopardy. If your vet has prescribed a diet to treat a chronic medical issue, such as kidney disease, and he suddenly starts doing better, he isn't cured. His condition is being managed by the diet and it should not be stopped.

Who Regulates?

If a food, like a veterinary diet, makes a claim on the packaging that it treats or prevents a specific medical condition, the manufacturer must back this claim up by at least six months' worth of scientific research and study, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Center for Veterinary Medicine is a branch of the FDA that regulates veterinary diets and makes sure that these foods do what they say if they claim to treat or prevent disease. Diets available outside of your vet's office legally can't make these same claims.


Follow your vet's instructions and the recommended feeding amounts listed on the package when serving your pooch a veterinary diet so that you don't over- or underfeed him. Feed your pup his special diet away from your other pets so that they don't eat a food designed to treat a medical condition, which could lead to nutritional deficiencies in a healthy pooch.