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Vet is pushing veterinary foods.

Species: Cat
Breed: DSH
Age: 2-5 years
I have a new to me vet who is insistent on my giving my cats 'veterinary' food. My cats on a pet store food (not generic) and are doing well on it. She is also obsessive about my cats weight which is 9.5 and 10.0 pounds respectively trying me to get them even lower. Is this new vet practice? I have never had a vet be so insistent on what I give my cats and how much they weigh. Your opinion is appreciated.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Thank you for an interesting question. I'll see if I can help.

I wouldn't say that there is a "new vet practice" in regards to getting cats to lose weight and to eat prescription foods. BUT, we are seeing that there are more and more cats that are suffering with weight related problems lately. Really, this is not that different than society in general as we are constantly being told that people are gaining too much weight and suffering from different diseases that are connected to that weight gain.

Now, without seeing your cats, it is hard to say whether they are overweight or not. For most cats, 9.5 and 10 lbs is not bad. But there are some cats with a small frame for which this could be considered overweight.

Now, let's talk about the issue about recommending a veterinary cat food. This is a really controversial subject. If you go to the pet store they'll tell you that the vets are just trying to rip you off and that their foods are just as good if not better. If you talk to your vet, they'll tell you that a good number of pet store brands are not good at all. And then there are the camp of people who don't trust any commercial foods at all and want to make their own foods. This is one of the reasons that I am writing my nutrition help get to the bottom of all of the crazy things that are said online about pet food.

One of the problems is that no one really knows all of the answers! But, what I see is that there are certain brands of food that consistently produce healthier looking animals than others. I really do trust the companies that make the prescription foods in my office which are Royal Canin and Hill's. You'll read stuff online that claim that vets say that because we get kick backs from these companies but this is not true. What I see is that both of these companies do an awful lot of research to determine what foods and what ingredients are going to be the most beneficial to an animal's health.

My own cats are on a prescription Royal Canin Food.

Now, with that being said, I can understand that many people don't want to have to get their food from the vet every time. This is why I also recommend some pet store brands such as Royal Canin, Science Diet and (gasp) Iams. Iams gets a bad rap, but I think it's a good food. I wrote an article here that you can read about Iams.

There are several cases, however, where I really do push for people to use a prescription food. Here are some examples:

  • If the animal has a medical condition such as kidney disease, liver disease, cognitive dysfunction, etc. A lot of research goes into determining which food ingredients will most benefit these dogs and cats.

  • If the animal has mobility issues. You will see all sorts of pet store brands that advertise they have glucosamine, etc. But, I have had much better results with foods like Royal Canin Mobility or Hill's j/d.

  • If an animal needs to lose weight. Again, there are hundreds of brands of food that claim to be calorie reduced or "lite". Having seen so many clients try to get their pets to lose weight I understand that they don't always work well. I sell a lot of Royal Canin Satiety or Calorie Control at my clinic simply because the animals like it and it really does tend to work. Sometimes we need to do additional things as well but starting with a good food is important.

So, that was a long answer and I still don't know that I have addressed your question!

It is unlikely that the vet is making these recommendations just so that they can make more money. In most vet clinics, there is very little markup on food. It is not a huge money maker. It sounds to me like your vet has seen so many cats that gain weight little bit little each year and they don't want your cats to do that. If they are just a pound or two overweight this year, that's not a huge deal, but what if they gain a pound every year? That is probably about average. If your cats are, say, 2 years old now, then by the time they are 10 they would weigh closer to 18 lbs. At that weight we see increased joint problems, and there is a higher risk for obesity, liver problems and so much more. Plus, these cats often get skin problems, especially around the anus because they can't reach themselves for proper grooming. So, it really does make sense to get them on a food that either maintains or slightly reduces their weight at this point rather than try to deal with the issue years from now.

I hope that helps, but please let me know if you have more questions.

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

My hope is to keep them at the same weight - they do have a 'waistline' so I consider this a good sign. The big problem for me with the food is that I can't afford to have both on prescription food. I do realize if they had a medical problem, I would find the money somewhere but so far they are healthy and happy.

Thank you for your imput.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.