Our guide to veterinary diets


Clinical Diets

Pet food is more or less the same isn’t it? Actually it’s not. Good nutrition can help your pet to lead a longer and healthier life and clinical diets can help manage or support certain health conditions too.

Your vet may have recommended a veterinary (also known as clinical or prescription) diet for your pet, but does it really make a difference? We tell you more about veterinary diets, other advanced nutrition foods and introduce you to some of our current ranges for both.

Q: My vet recommended a “veterinary diet” what does this mean?

A: At a recent visit, your vet may have been talking to you about your pet’s specific health condition. This could be anything from kidney (renal) or urinary issues, liver problems and digestive conditions, sensitivities or allergies, dental, or even if your pet is overweight or obese – there’s quite a long list!

Because cats and dogs tend to be susceptible to certain health conditions, either due to their age or sometimes breed, pet food manufacturers have produced a wide range of veterinary diets over many years of research and development. Your vet may have recommended one of these diets to help support your pet’s condition.

Q: What are the benefits of a veterinary diet?

A: Each veterinary diet is different, with manufacturers spending millions in the refinement of the mix, tweaking ingredients to give our pets the best nutrients to support their particular health condition.

For example, a diet for weight loss or obesity tends to have less fat and calories than standard diets, yet contain ingredients which help your pet feel fuller for longer (aiding their weight loss).

Diet for pets with renal issues tend to have lower levels of good quality protein to help ease kidney function, whereas pets requiring support for their liver (hepatic diets) will be different again, with increased levels of antioxidants.

By giving your pet a recommended veterinary diet, you’re ensuring they receive the best possible nutrition for their individual condition.

Q: Do clinical diets replace medication?

A: Each pet and case is different. Your vet may recommend that you’ll need to give your pet prescribed medication AND a veterinary diet, or they may suggest that a veterinary diet alone may do the trick – it really is very individual to each pet. You should follow the guidance and treatment your vet discusses with you.

NOTE: You should only ever medicate or feed veterinary diets as per your vet’s recommendation, and ensure you have regular reviews of both.

Q: Are these veterinary diets only available via vets? Do you need a prescription?

A: No diet is a”prescription” diet. Your veterinary surgeon does not write a prescription for diets, only for certain licensed medicines.

It can be a little confusing as pet food manufacturers often have ranges with the words “Prescription” or “Veterinary” in the name, but this is so that customers realise that these are clinical diets and should only be given to pets following a recommendation from a vet, for example “Hills Prescription Diet“, “Royal Canin Veterinary Diet” or “Eukanuba Veterinary Diets“. Once you know the diet that’s been recommend by your vet, you’re free to buy it from where ever you choose. Online stores are often cheaper and deliver food directly to your door too, so there are no issues with transporting big bags or large cases of food around a store or home.

Q: Can my pet start a veterinary diet immediately?

A: Your vet will advise how to introduce a new diet to your pet. Usually it’s recommended that you switch diets gradually over a few days to prevent sudden tummy upsets. Your vet will explain what’s best for your pet’s situation.

Q: Does it matter if my other pets eat some of it?

A: Yes it does matter. If you have a pet on a veterinary diet, you must ensure that other pets in the household do not eat it.  A quick grab or occasional nibble won’t harm them but longer-term, regular eating of a specialist diet when there’s no need, can result in other pets becoming either deficient in certain minerals and calories or having too many (as the veterinary diet will be supporting an individual condition).  Either way it could harm their health.

Try to give the pet on a bespoke diet somewhere private to eat and clear away uneaten food or invest in an automatic feeder which recognises individual pets and only opens and exposes the food when the correct animal approaches the bowl. SureFeed is one example and can easily cater for up to 32 different pets in the household.

Q: How long should my pet stay on a veterinary diet?

A: Again – talk to your vet as it’s all very individual. They may recommend your pet stays on a veterinary diet forever, or it may be that your pet has improved and could possibly switch to a different maintenance diet. Do not change your pet’s veterinary diet without consulting your vet first.

Q: Can I mix wet and dry diets?

A: Yes you can but be careful. There’s no point in investing in a tried and tested veterinary dry diet for example, then giving a generally available wet diet to mix up meal time variety for them.

A “normal” food, wet or dry, won’t be tailored to your pet’s health condition so all the good work of the bespoke dietary support starts to come undone.

Most brands offer both dry and wet choices of veterinary diets, so if your pet prefers a mix, it’s recommended you keep to the same brand and diet, as they’ll have been developed to work together in the same way. If you’re not sure how to mix them up, talk to your vet for advice. We stock a large range of Hills Prescription wet diets and Royal Canin Veterinary wet diets.

Q: My pet doesn’t have a health condition so does it matter what food I give them?

A: If your pet doesn’t have a health condition, it’s worth looking at the other ranges of specific diets. Leading manufacturers offer a range of”advanced nutrition” diets which provide nutritional support for common cat/dog types, issues and life stages. For example, there are diets for;

  • Neutered pets  – usually lower calorie to help prevent weight gain after hormone changes
  • Life stages – young/junior, adult, pregnant, mature and senior pets (containing different mixes of nutrients to support rapid growth, or stiffening joints for example)
  • Size or breed of animal  – different sized pets and specific breeds have different average lifespans reaching “adult” or “senior” at different times or have particular needs due to their overall body size. Some cats may suffer from hairballs for example so diets have been developed to help them cope with ingesting hair.
  • Lifestyle – pets could be active or maybe live indoors – both requiring different levels of calories to remain healthy.
  • Common conditions – Sensitivity, dental, digestion, skin – there are many readily available diets for pets needing a little extra support in these areas, but without the need of veterinary recommendation.

Whether  it’s a veterinary diet recommended via a vet or other advanced diets, it’s a well-known fact that giving pets the best nutrition you can afford, which is suitable for their individual needs or life stage/style will keep them as healthy as possible for as long as possible. The little bit extra you may have to pay vs general “dog/cat food” from the supermarket may help delay or prevent more expensive health conditions from developing and keep your pet healthier for longer.

Always discuss changes in veterinary diets with your vet before altering your pet’s food and remember to book regular reviews to keep their dietary needs relevant.

Below are just a few of our best-selling veterinary diets. The following links will take you to our full range of clinical diets from Hills, Royal Canin and Eukanuba.