What to do when your pet won’t eat its expensive prescription diet?

Q: Our Basset hound Sophie had bladder stone surgery recently and we were told she needed a prescription food to keep these stones from coming back. Our veterinarian sent us home with a bag of new food but it’s very expensive and Sophie doesn’t like it. We want to do what’s best for her, but we don’t like the fact that we have no choices and that we need a prescription if we want to buy the food somewhere else.

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Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami.

A: It’s an increasingly common conundrum. Whether we’re talking about liver diseases, heart conditions, skin issues, diabetes, kidney failure, bladder stones, lower urinary tract diseases, arthritis or gastrointestinal disorders, there’s a therapeutic diet available to help manage your pets’ problems.

Though almost all veterinarians carry these diets for your convenience, most have a preference for one manufacturer over another. This leaves pet owners with few choices to explore. So what happens when the patient doesn’t like the food or when it doesn’t sit well with her belly?

The good news is that you do have choices. Now that the business for pet foods is as huge as it is, there’s lots of competition in the market for these veterinary diets. Which means that for every condition where a special diet is indicated, there are typically three or more brands available.

But yes, you do need a prescription. Here’s why:

While not considered medications, per se, therapeutic diets (aka “prescription” diets) are required to show research that supports one or more of their ingredients’ efficacy in the treatment of a particular condition or ailment. While all are safe to feed all pets in the short term, some are not 100% nutritionally balanced and require veterinary oversight to be sure that patients aren’t experiencing any untoward effects.

Technically speaking, however, a prescription is required only because manufacturers don’t want pet owners to use them without a veterinarian’s supervision. This is partly because long-term feeding might be harmful but also because owners might not be selecting the correct diet.

To use Sophie’s example, consider that bladder stones can have different compositions. This means that one urinary diet might help dissolve or prevent her stones while another diet labeled “urinary” might actually increase her body’s stone-forming potential.

Still, it’s not hard to ask your veterinarian for a list of appropriate diets from several brands so you can try them all out. It may be inconvenient, but if you want what’s best for her, some legwork (and expense) is in order.

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is Send questions to