The following are just a few examples of the many conditions, life stages, and diseases that can be helped through the use of proper nutrition and therapeutic diets.

Bladder Stones

A wide variety of bladder conditions, ranging from inflammation to crystals to stones can be aided by nutritional therapy. In general, these diets are designed to either prevent the formation of irritating and harmful crystals in the urine (potentially leading to actual stones), or are helpful in preventing their formation in the first place. The type of diet chosen depends on the pet’s species and type of issue you’re trying to prevent or treat.

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Diabetes in Cats

In cats, diabetes mellitus can be reversed as long as there has not been too much permanent pancreatic damage and the blood sugar can be controlled quickly. A canned, low carbohydrate/high protein high in arginine (an amino acid) and L- carnitine can help accomplish this goal.

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Diabetes in Dogs

Diabetic dogs often have trouble regulating their blood sugar in combination with insulin therapy. A diet high in insoluble fiber helps accomplish this by slowing down the transit and digestion in the gut. This effect helps to reduce the surge in blood sugar following a meal. Similarly, some diabetic dogs respond well to a diet low in fat, especially if they have co-existing problems with an inflamed pancreas. Dogs may also benefit from a diet high in L-carnitine (important for helping with fat transport and metabolism).

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Hyperthyroidism in Cats

Hyperthyroidism is the result of an overproduction of thyroid hormone, leading to weight loss, ravenous appetite, heart problems and a host of other issues. While it is conventionally treated with either oral medication or radiotherapy, it can be treated with diet alone. As thyroid hormone is made from iodine, it is possible to produce a therapeutic diet that is restricted enough to prevent the production of excess hormone but still avoid an iodine deficiency. This particular diet is called Y/D, and is produced by Hills Pet Nutrition.

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Food Allergies in Dogs and Cats

As we discussed elsewhere, dogs and cats can become very itchy due to allergies they have developed to ingredients in the food they are eating. Diet therapy can be used to help diagnose and treat this condition, either by using a novel protein (one they’ve never been exposed to before and therefore should not react to) or using a hydrolyzed protein (protein that has broken down into molecules too small to trigger an immune system reaction).

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Renal Failure

Renal (kidney) failure is a toxic metabolic state where uremic toxins, high blood pressure, calcium/phosphorus imbalance balance, low potassium levels and ongoing inflammation all combine to make the pet ill. Specific renal diets exist to help combat these problems. They may feature any or all of the following:

Phosphorus Restriction

  • when kidney function is poor, not enough phosphorus is removed as needed
  • restricting phosphate in the diet can help slow the progression of renal disease

Potassium Supplementation

  • potassium becomes depleted in chronic renal disease
  • overall muscle strength, energy and quality of life are affected
  • oral potassium supplements may be needed (oral gels or powders)
  • incorporating more potassium is part of many renal diets

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

  • kidney failure patients taking omega 3 fatty acids are likely to live longer due to anti-inflammatory effects
  • most renal diets are supplemented with fish oils as a result

Low Protein?

  • some renal toxins come from the break-down and processing of protein
  • less protein can mean less work for the kidneys
  • choosing when to restrict protein levels is a challenge, however
    • no protective value to restricting protein prior to the onset of kidney failure
    • a healthy senior pet should not be restricted in dietary protein
    • protein restriction is probably the least important dietary modification in early stages of kidney disease
    • when to restrict protein is generally determined by pre-set guidelines on renal failure (the IRIS Guidelines; your veterinarian can determine the need based on bloodwork values)

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Senior Cats

In general, the most important part of an older cat’s health care is keeping a normal weight, remembering that a fat cat will have a reduced life expectancy compared with one who is a normal weight. Geriatric cats also only need only about two thirds the number of daily calories that younger cats do, so failing to reduce their calorie intake may allow it to gain weight.

Health issues that can arise as cats age include:

Thyroid issues

  • hyperthyroidism, an overproduction of thyroid hormone
  • can lead to heart and liver problems, weight loss, ravenous appetite
  • one treatment option is iodine-restricted dietary management

Urinary problems

  • treatments can vary, depending on the particular disease involved
  • may include prescription diets as part of their therapy

Liver issues

  • therapeutic diets may be part of their treatment plan

Dental health issues

  • in addition to regular checkups and cleanings, a prescription diet can help to keep teeth clean and bright


  • supplementation may be recommended as part of their treatment

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Senior Dogs

Not every dog will need to switch from an adult to senior diet as they age, but many will benefit from changes to their feeding. Many older dogs will lose muscle mass as they age, and feeding adequate protein can help deal with this. Your older dog’s calorie requirements may decrease as they age, and they may not need as much to eat as they used to.

Like cats, older dogs can suffer from a variety of health issues. These include:


  • also called canine cognitive dysfunction (similar to the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in humans)
  • these dogs may benefit from anti-oxidant supplementation or therapeutic diets


  • leads to pain and discomfort
  • nutritional supplementation and therapeutic diets are available to help treat this condition


  • nearly half of the dogs over age 10 will develop cancer
  • nutrition plays an important part in the treatment of this condition, regardless of the underlying form of cancer

Heart disease

  • reduced sodium diets for dogs suffering from congestive heart failure are available

Kidney disease

  • Urinary diets to ease the workload on the kidneys are available

Liver disease

  • therapeutic diets are available

Dental disease

  • in addition to regular checkups and cleanings, a prescription diet can help to keep teeth clean and bright

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