The Truth about Veterinary Prescription Diets

What are Dogs and Cats Designed to Eat?

  • Dogs and cats are both classified as carnivores. This fact is evidenced through their sharp teeth and claws, designed to rip and tear flesh, as well as their highly acidic stomachs and short digestive tracts which enable them to consume and digest raw meats safely.
  • Steve Brown, a leading researcher in the field of canine nutrition, explains that in the canine’s ancestral diet, on average, “About 49% of the calories were from protein, 45% from fat and 6% from carbohydrates. The ancestral diet contained roughage and non-digestible parts, had a high mineral content, and, unlike kibble, a full range of vitamins and antioxidants.” 1
  • While dogs are more opportunistic eaters, cats are strict carnivores. Protein from animal meats and organs is the most important ingredient in a cat’s diet as they naturally thrive on a high-protein, moderate fat and very low carbohydrate diet with a high moisture content (70-75% water).
  • Just as with any other animal, including humans, dogs and cats enjoy optimal health when they consume a diet that is natural to their species’ specific biology. Therefore, excellent nutrition is the key to our pets’ overall and long term health, impacting everything from teeth, skin, and coat to the heart, immune system, and joints.

What Ingredients Can Be Found in a Prescription Diet?

  • Let’s take a look at the ingredients found in Hill’s® Prescription Diet® j/d®:

Whole Grain Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Flaxseed, Soybean Mill Run, Brewers Rice, Soybean Meal, Pork Fat, Powdered Cellulose, Chicken Liver Flavor, Fish Oil, Lactic Acid, Potassium Chloride, L-Lysine, Calcium Carbonate, Iodized Salt, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), L-Threonine, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Taurine, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, L-Tryptophan, L-Carnitine, Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Chondroitin Sulfate, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene. 2

  • The Guaranteed Analysis states that this food contains 19.2% protein, 16.5% fat and 51.3% carbohydrates. According to Dr. Barbara Royal, DVM, “Protein levels should be at minimum greater than 30 percent.” 3
  • Here’s what some vets are saying about some of these ingredients:
  • “Poor quality food: the first ingredients are corn, which is often GMO.” Dr. Jean Dodds, DVM 2
  • “Keep in mind by-products consist of the parts of animals that are NOT meat.” Dr. Karen Becker, DVM 4
  • “Powdered cellulose is actually wood pulp (sawdust).” Dr. Karen Becker, DVM 5

Why Have Prescription Diets Become So Prevalent?

  • Between the corporate influence in veterinary nutrition education and the incentives offered by big pet food manufacturing companies, these diets have become increasingly popular.
  • Dr. Karen Becker, DVM explains, “Many people are unaware that Mars owns 79% of Banfield. Guess who owns the remaining 21%? PetSmart.” 6 Mars PetCare, which is one of the largest suppliers of pet food in the world, owns Royal Canin, a “therapeutic prescription diet” manufacturer. Meanwhile, PetSmart is one of the largest pet supply chains in the U.S. When one of the largest suppliers of pet food in the world and the largest pet supply chain in the U.S. own the largest veterinary clinic in the U.S., Banfield, it results in a conflict of interest between true pet nutrition advice and education and company profits.

3 Royal, Dr. Barbara. The Royal Treatment: A Natural Approach to Wildly Healthy Pets. New York: Emily Bestler Book, 2010. Print.

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