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Take a walk through the Virginia Beach SPCA’s Kennel and Cattery and you’re bound to find animal profiles indicating a special prescription diet. This can sometimes be concerning to potential adopters but you shouldn’t let it deter you from learning more. Prescription diets aren’t always indicative of a chronic health issue, and a specialized diet may instead offer a nutritional approach to dental care, allergies, hairball control, sensitive skin, urinary issues, and weight loss... just to name a few. By approaching your pet’s health from a nutritional standpoint, you have the chance to prevent more serious health issues from developing down the road.


One example of a very common pet health issue is obesity, and we see this frequently in our shelter pets. In a 2017 clinical survey, The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that 56% of dogs and 60% of cats were classified as clinically overweight or obese by their veterinary healthcare professional, which equals an estimated 50.2 million dogs and 56.5 million cats nationwide. This is no small thing, because pet obesity can lead to serious health issues.


According to VBSPCA Medical Director, Dr. Woyma, “ Overweight pets can develop orthopedic disease, such as tears of their cruciate ligaments and arthritis, and they are also much more prone to becoming diabetic. Pet diabetes is particularly common in cats, which can lead to a lifetime of insulin injections, frequent blood work, and regular vet visits, all of which are associated with elevated medical costs. Pets who are not eating a healthy diet are also more prone to gastrointestinal disease, such as pancreatitis.” Other health issues caused by excess fat in pets include skin disorders, cancer, metabolic disorders, respiratory disorders, and kidney dysfunction.

If you think your pet has packed on a few too many pounds, make an appointment to see your veterinarian who will help you determine both the source of the issue and the right nutritional approach for your furry friend. Keep in mind that prescription food does cost more, which is a common consumer complaint; however, even though prescription food can have a higher upfront cost, it pales in comparison to the vet bills that would accompany more serious issues down the road.


The goal with a prescription diet is to improve your pet's quality of life and keep your pet healthy and happy. Similar to human nutrition, what we put in our pet’s mouth matters and food can be used as a preventative care tool. Talk to your veterinarian and learn about how you can make better choices for the health of your pet, ensuring that you and your furry friend have many happy healthy years together.