What Makes Specialty Pet Foods So 'Special'?


Hairball Prevention


You know your cat is self-cleaning, but do you know where all that hair goes? Hair cannot be digested, so it cannot go down, and that leaves only one other way out of the body: back up and through the mouth. Whether your cat is a light groomer or a persnickety excessive self-groomer, there will be hair in the mouth and in the stomach, and that hair will have to be pushed out. We call this gnarled up and pushed out hair a hairball, and most cat owners resign themselves to the occasional or frequent presence of them.


So, can food be designed to thwart the dread hairball? Yes and no. While hairball formulas do not completely eliminate the body’s reaction to hair by spitting it out the way it came in, these foods can help reduce the amount being spit out. Made with high fiber ingredients to glom onto the hair, and lubricating ingredients to help the indigestible material pass through the digestive tract, hairball formula foods may be the next best thing since the invention of baby carrots.


Joint Care


If your pet is having difficulty getting around, you will want to talk to your veterinarian about foods and supplements that are beneficial for joint health. The most common ingredients are glucosamine and chondroitin -- both of which work directly with the tendons and cartilage of the joints.


Additional joint health ingredients to look for include green-lipped mussel and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane). These ingredients are incorporated into kibble diets so that they can be ingested during meals, or they can be fed in smaller doses in treat form. These ingredients have been shown to be helpful in the rebuilding of damaged cartilage and in the reduction of joint inflammation in some animals.


Urinary Tract Health


Excessive levels of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and oxalate are known to lead to the development of crystals and stones in the urinary tract. For pets with these issues, a food that has been carefully measured, with these minerals and nutrients balanced in accordance with your pet’s needs -- no more -- can be helpful for the prevention of further urinary tract deterioration.


Image source: Tai McQueen / via Flickr