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Dog Prescription Diets - what are they really? WARNING CONTROVERSIAL TOPIC AHEAD!

Veterinarians reportedly place between 35% to 45% of their patients on prescription diet dog food. And dog owners apparently seem willing (understandably) to follow these directions. After all we go to the Vet to get help with a problem our dog has.

A 2011 Pet Food Industry survey shows 83% of dog owners believed their vet was the most important source of information when it comes to nutrition. This is surprising, because there’s certainly no evidence of this, in fact you might be surprised to learn that the actual training course content about Nutrition is actually written and supplied by the Manufacturers of these Prescription Diets.

Think about the manufacturers of a well know soft drink providing all the nutrition course content for human doctors in training around, lets say, Diabetes? Hhhmmmmm......

“Most US veterinarians would admit their formal education on companion animal nutrition consisted of one basic course that, in some cases, had to be taught by a professor from another program because no veterinary faculty had the knowledge or expertise to teach it.” Says veterinarian Debbie Phillips-Donaldson.

“Any information on nutrition received after veterinary school usually comes via a handful of petfood manufacturers that sell through the veterinary channel. That information is by its very nature prone to be limited and biased.”

Dog with Bags of Dog food
Are Prescription Dog Foods just Marketing Genius?

What Our Vets Say About Prescription Diet Dog Food

How do you think vets would evaluate prescription diets if we just showed them the ingredients? Would they be able to tell if they were prescription diets?

A group of Veterinarians were given four pet food ingredient labels, one of which was a veterinary diet. They were only shown the ingredients and did not know what brand or manufacturer made the food. They were then asked to list which food or foods they thought was a grocery store food and which food or foods they thought was a premium food. Here are the four ingredient labels they were asked to rank. Can you guess which one is the prescription diet?

Food #1

List Of Ingredients found in a Prescription Diet Kibble

Food #2

List of Ingredients found in a Prescription Diet Kibble

Food #3

List of Ingredients found in a Prescription Diet Kibble

Food #4

List of Ingredients found in a Prescription Diet Kibble

The Answer: Prescription Diets Revealed

So to start, here are the rankings in order from best to worst from Dr Marty Goldstein, author of The Nature of Animal Healing:

Food #2 ranked first because it contains all whole foods

Food #4 ranked second because it contains meal but otherwise contains whole foods

Food #1 ranked third, thanks to the by-product rice, by-product meal and overall low quality ingredients

Food #3 ranked last, based on the use of corn for its first ingredient, followed by by-product meal.

And if you haven’t guessed already, the prescription diet in that list is Food #3.

And the lowest quality food winner is...

Dr Jodie Gruenstern:

Food #3 - This food was the lowest quality in the list. It contains GMO corn, soy (lots of it!), which is a common allergen, synthetic vitamins/minerals, shavings (if you didn’t know, the ingredient cellulose is literally sawdust), natural flavors, which usually mean MSG.

Dr Jean Dodds:

Food #3 - Poor quality food: the first ingredients are corn, which is often GMO, and chicken by-product meal rather than whole chicken. Flax and soy are phytoestrogens.

Dr Judy Morgan:

Food #3 - This is a Pet Store Food. Corn is the first ingredient, no muscle meat used, only by-product meal, synthetic vitamin/mineral supplement, corn and soybean are GMO, waste fillers are abundant. Overpriced in my opinion, considering the poor quality, cheap ingredients used).

Dr Dee Blanco:

Food #3 - This one starts with corn to increase inflammation, then adds lighter fluid to it with soybean products and poor quality protein. Then it tries to make up for the poor quality foundational ingredients by adding synthetic supplements of the poorest quality, such as calcium carbonate, folic acid, ‘generic Vit E supplement’, etc. Looks like they added l-tryptophan to calm the nervous system down after putting the body into overdrive inflammation. Natural flavors?? Could be an entire cadre of carcinogens, allergens and toxins. Argh!

Dr Peter Dobias:

Food #3 - The worst recipe – first ingredient is corn, then by-product, then flavors, wood chips. It may not be supermarket food but a veterinary diet right?!

So, as you can see, these (very well known) vets didn’t exactly think the ingredients in the prescription diet were high quality. Ironically, they thought many of them would be harmful.

So why exactly do we trust our vets to prescribe diets when this is the best they can offer?

And, more importantly, why are vets gullible enough to think these foods can do anything to change chronic health issues in dogs, such as allergies, kidney disease, or in the case of this particular food, joint disease?

If we really want to look at the quality of these diets, I think the first place to start is who’s making them?

The major players in the prescription diet category are the major players in the regular pet food category:

Hill’s Science Diet


Royal Canin


These companies are hardly renowned for quality ingredients.

In fact, most veterinary diets are manufactured by companies that predominantly manufacture lower quality grocery store foods. The same company that makes lower quality foods like Alpo and Beneful is also making prescription diets.

How much better do you think the veterinary food would be?

Let’s compare two Hill’s foods: a regular food (Natural Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Adult) and a prescription food (j/d Canine Joint Care).

The regular pet store brand:

List of Ingredients found in a Supermarket brand Kibble

And the prescription food:

List of Ingredients found in a Prescription Diet Kibble

When comparing the price of these two foods, it's interesting to note that the prescription food is almost TWICE AS EXPENSIVE as the supermarket brand!!

Now, you might be thinking this is because the prescription diet was formulated and tested with a specific condition in mind.

This is completely false.

While an over-the-counter food with a health claim (such as controls weight) is subject to FDA regulations and enforcement, the FDA practices “enforcement discretion” when it comes to veterinary diets. Put another way, this means the FDA has not reviewed or verified the health claims on any veterinary diet.

Did you catch that?

There are very few ingredients in veterinary diets that aren’t also in other regular diets. In the example above, I’d say the pet store brand is a better quality food, wouldn’t you? The prescription diet contains by-product meal (which comes straight from the rendering plant), lots of soybean and corn products (a cheap replacement for animal protein) while the regular food contains more expensive, higher quality ingredients.

Apart from fish oil, what food ingredients exactly would help dogs with joint pain? As Dr Dee Blanco stated, this food would actually cause inflammation.

And fish oil is a terrible addition to pet foods. It’s much too fragile to be added to processed foods and as soon as the bag is opened, it will oxidate and cause inflammation in your dog. Ironic isn’t it, when the food is supposed to be treating inflammation in the first place?

Consider The Source

Those two diets are made in the exact same plant. The manufacturer uses the same suppliers.

Doesn’t it stand to reason that the quality of ingredients will be the same?

I challenge the pet food industry to prove that chicken by-product meal, soybeans, brewers rice and powdered cellulose have been extensively researched and proven better than the higher quality foods used in most regular pet foods.

So if your vet ever says your dog needs to be eating a prescription diet, ask him to review the ingredient list. Then ask him for hard evidence that the foods in the prescription diet are any better than those in regular diets.

I think we know what the answer will be! Now, I told you this Blog would be controversial!! These types of food are nothing but Bull$hit.

This blog has been dedicated to Kat Hare and her beloved Harry the Bulldog.

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