Nutritional modulation of disease is currently an area of great interest. Optimal diets for patients with various diseases have not been fully defined and likely vary depending on individual patient factors, along with clinical signs and clinicopathologic abnormalities. However, dietary modification potentially could provide great benefit in the management of patients with various diseases.
Several pet food companies manufacture therapeutic diets for dogs and cats that are designed to aid in the management of various diseases, such as renal, hepatic, cardiac, and dermatologic disease. Although only a few studies have evaluated how many dogs and cats with various diseases are being fed a therapeutic diet, it appears that the numbers are low. A study1 of 82 dogs with cardiac disease, for instance, found that only 4 were being fed a diet specifically formulated for dogs with cardiac disease. The American Animal Hospital Association's 2002 Compliance Study2 found that only 19% of dogs and 18% of cats with specific diseases were being fed therapeutic diets.
There are many reasons why any particular dog or cat with a specific disease is not being fed a therapeutic diet formulated for animals with that disease. It may be that a therapeutic diet has not been recommended by the attending veterinarian; the owner has chosen not to feed a therapeutic diet; the animal has refused to eat the diet; or the animal's clinical signs, laboratory findings, or concurrent diseases make feeding a therapeutic diet less desirable. Nevertheless, the apparently low proportion of dogs and cats with various diseases that are fed therapeutic diets is puzzling.
Dietary supplement use is another important aspect of nutritional modulation. Dietary supplement use is widespread in people, with > 50% of adult Americans taking 1 or more dietary supplements.3,4 Dietary supplement use is more common in women than in men and is associated with level of education, other health behaviors, and age.4–6 In a previous study,7 > 70% of elderly people were reported to use dietary supplements, and use of dietary supplements is more common in people known to have a disease than in the general population. For example, a study8 of children with various chronic diseases found that 62% used dietary supplements, with only about half of these supplements having been prescribed by a healthcare provider. In a study1 of dogs with cardiac disease, 31% were receiving dietary supplements, with multivitamins, coenzyme Q10, l-carnitine, taurine, and fatty acids being the most common supplements. However, little information on dietary supplement use in dogs and cats is available.
Disease prevalence is an important consideration when determining the proportion of dogs and cats receiving therapeutic diets and dietary supplements. In the largest study9 to date on disease prevalence in small animals, 46,710 dogs and cats examined at private veterinary practices in the United States were evaluated and the most common diseases for both dogs and cats were dental disease and dermatologic disorders. However, this study was limited to dogs and cats being evaluated at a veterinary clinic. Therefore, the results may overestimate the true prevalence of disease among dogs and cats in the general pet population.
Information regarding disease prevalence in the general pet population and the proportions of dogs and cats receiving therapeutic diets and dietary supplements would assist veterinarians making dietary recommendations for patients with various diseases and facilitate communication with pet owners. Therefore, the purposes of the study reported here were to estimate disease prevalence among dogs and cats in select areas of the United States and Australia and determine the proportions of dogs and cats in those areas that receive therapeutic diets or dietary supplements.
Survey available from the corresponding author on request.
SPSS, version 13.0, SPSS Inc, Chicago, Ill.
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Millen AE, Dodd KW, Subar AF. Use of vitamin, mineral, nonvitamin, and nonmineral supplements in the United States: the 1987, 1992, and 2000 National Health Interview Survey results. J Am Diet Assoc 2004;104:942–950.
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Ball SD, Kertesz D, Moyer-Mileur LJ. Dietary supplement use is prevalent among children with a chronic disease. J Am Diet Assoc 2005;105:78–84.
Lund EM, Armstrong PJ, Kirk CA, et al. Health status and population characteristics of dogs and cats examined at private veterinary practices in the United States. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1999;214:1336–1341.