Vet Recommended Pet Food Explained

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"Vet recommended." You see the words on everything from pet food and dog treats to flea medication and pet toothpaste. But what does it mean and why should you pay attention to it? Whether a product or method of pet care is recommended by a consensus of veterinarians or your personal vet, all vet recommendations are an important part of determining the best care for your furry companion.

Product Recommendations

When a product's packaging boasts that it's vet recommended, it's been given a thumbs-up by the majority of vets polled in a particular survey. In order for a product to say "vet recommended dog food" or "vet recommended cat food" on the label or packaging, explains the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), a statistically sound survey of veterinarians must be conducted in order to support the claim. This means the survey must be conducted scientifically among a representative sample of the vet population—a company can't simply poll a handful of vets about their opinion on the product.

With this in mind, whenever you see "vet recommended," you can rest assured that the majority of vets agree the product in question is a good choice to incorporate into your pet care.

Keep in mind, however, that individual pets have individual needs, so it's always a good idea to run general recommendations by your own vet to be certain that the product you're considering is the best choice for your pet's health. This is especially true when it comes to pet food: "Most veterinarians recommend foods that have been on the market a while and have been tested tried and true," suggests Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. "Others recommend products they have used on their pets and those of other clients with success, but this does not mean it will be perfect for your dog."

Your Vet Knows Your Pet

Black and brown cat lays on countertop at the vet with jars behind her.Your vet is familiar with your own pet's individual health needs and is able to make recommendations based on age, weight, breed, level of physical activity, and health conditions. And although you may not always agree with what your vet recommends, you should remember that your vet actually cares about your pet and has a vested interest in his or her health.

For this reason, personal vet recommendations should be taken seriously. "I ask that you accept that most of those recommendations have very good reasons behind them," as Dr. Cori Majeska points out on Petplan. "Trust is an important part of the vet/pet parent relationship; you should trust in our expertise, and we should be able trust you to be our partners in keeping your pets healthy for life."

Common Vet Recommendations

Typically, vet recommendations are intended to provide your pet with proper nutrition and to help them maintain a healthy weight. Vets may recommend foods that will help with certain health conditions, such digestive issues or skin conditions, but he or she may also place your pet on a therapeutic food to treat any number of conditions. This includes diabetes, obesity, liver or kidney disease, joint problems, or a urinary tract infection.

Of course, vet recommendations don't stop at pet food. Your vet can also provide you with insight into nutritional supplements, flea, tick and heart worm preventatives, grooming products, dental care, training, exercise, and how to deal with behavioral issues.

Questions to Ask Your Vet

If your vet doesn't volunteer a recommendation right off the bat, don't be afraid to ask for one. Most vets love it when you're proactive enough to request their advice for your pet. Here are ten questions to ask your vet, and why you should.

What Preventative Health Care Should My Pet Have?

Your veterinarian will likely discuss recommendations for preventative healthcare, including periodic vaccinations, medication such as heart worm preventative, etc. But if not, don't hesitate to ask. Discuss the lifestyle of your pet so that your vet knows what risk factors should be considered in developing his health care plan tailored to your four-legged best friend.

Is My Pet's Weight Healthy?

Over 50 percent of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, and many pet parents don't even realize it. A healthy pet weight will not only help to prolong your pet's life and improve quality of life, but it will also help prevent joint problems and conditions such as diabetes and liver disease.

How Can I Tell If My Pet Isn't Feeling Well?

Cats, especially, have a tendency to hide pain and illness from their pet parents, which is generally believed to be an evolutionary holdover from their days in the wild when illness left them vulnerable to predators. However, building a close relationship with your pet will help you notice any abnormal behaviors they may exhibit, which may indicate that she might not be feeling well. Whatever the reason for your pet's mood, the vet can clue you in to the signs that indicate when she isn't feeling her best.

Is My Pet Getting Proper Nutrition?

With so many different pet foods on the market, it's difficult to choose one that provides the appropriate nutrients for your pet's condition and life stage. If your pet has a skin condition, for example, foods containing vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids can help improve his or her skin and coat. Mature pets often benefit from the addition of glucosamine and chondroitin to their food to promote joint health. Vets understand what your pets need and can help you better understand what nutrition will best meet their nutritional and health needs. Foods like Hill's® Science Diet® pet food are formulated to meet your pet's nutritional requirements through different life stages, life styles and life care needs; it is also the #1 veterinarian recommended pet food over any other brand.

Is This Behavior Normal?

Sometimes pets do things that strike you as odd or irritating that, for them, is perfectly normal. Other times, their odd behavior can be a sign of something more serious. Your vet can help you tell the difference, so don't be afraid to ask.

Does My Pet Need a Dental Cleaning?

Woman examines golden retriever's teeth and gums.Dental care is an aspect of pet parenthood that often gets overlooked, and it can have dire consequences for your pet. Teeth that go neglected can result in serious infections and other health problems that go beyond his or her mouth. Your vet can tell you whether it's time to invest in a much-needed dental cleaning or show you how to brush your pet's teeth at home. They can even provide you with food and treat recommendations that are formulated to help clean your pet's teeth as they chew and eat the food.

What Flea and Tick Products Do You Recommend?

Not all flea and tick medications are created equal, and unfortunately these pesky parasites have a way of building up immunity to these products, causing them to lose their effectiveness over time. Rest assured there's always flea and tick prevention that's perfect for your pet. Vets continue to stay up to date on the latest flea and tick medicine and can provide you with an honest recommendation.

Should My Pet Have a Blood/Urine Test?

If you're concerned there might be something serious that an external exam doesn't uncover, laboratory testing (including blood work and urinalysis) may provide more insight into what's going on. Most vets can tell you whether laboratory tests would help in your situation. It is useful for your veterinarian to have a basis for comparison, so annual lab work can be helpful in identifying changes or trends that might suggest early disease.

What Is This Lump on My Pet?

Pets tend to get lumps and bumps on their bodies quite easily as they age. Although these are often benign and perfectly normal, they can also be a sign of a more complicated condition. Let your vet be the one to make the call.

Why Is My Pet Eliminating in the House/Outside the Litter Box?

If they're relieving themselves in the house inappropriately, this could simply be a behavioral issue, but it could also signal something more worthy of professional attention–from separation anxiety, to joint pain, to a bladder or urinary tract infection. Your vet can help you get to the bottom of why your pet's behaving this way, and what you can do about it.

Vets devote a lot of time and study to determining what's best for their patients, and they genuinely care about your pet's well-being. It's always a good idea to do your own research so you can be better educated on your pet's conditions and needs, but you should also consider your vet a partner in your best friend's health. Vet recommendations can be a helpful source for ensuring your dog or cat live a happier and healthier life.

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Contributor Bio


Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus is fiction author, freelance writer, and editor living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She's a pet parent and enthusiast who writes frequently about pets and pet health in her home office, where she is assisted by a lapful of furbabies.