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Prescription Dog Food: Shocking Things That You Probably Don’t Know

Approximately two-thirds of Americans are pet owners and spend billions of dollars every year on prescription pet food. If you are a pet owner reading this, then you might be one of them. Pet owners spend this kind of money for two reasons. 1) they want to ensure that their pets are healthy and are getting proper pet nutrition; 2) most veterinarians recommend prescription dog food.

There are prescription dog food options for weight control, urinary tract health, digestive care, heart health and just about anything. However, just because a veterinarian recommends a prescription diet or prescription foods, does that mean that they necessarily need it? Maybe not…

vets recommending prescription dog food

Most pet owners are very concerned with the health and wellbeing of their pets. So much so, that they don’t realize that prescription dog food is also a big business for veterinarians. In fact, the majority of veterinarians recommend prescription dog food to up to 45 percent of pet patients. And the worst part? Prescription dog food or a prescribed veterinary diet may not even be necessary. However, most pet owners will simply comply with and follow the advice and recommendations given to them by their vet.

In fact, a 2011 Pet Food Industry survey shows 83% of pet owners believed their vets were the most reliable source of information when it comes to pet health and pet nutrition. No offense to veterinarians, but this may not necessarily be true…

Because of this, we organized this article to educate pet owners on the facts of prescription dog food. We will also provide some healthier, natural alternatives to prescription dog food and veterinary diets.

What You Should Know About Canine Prescription Diets

PRESCRIPTION dog food in court

Some prescription diets and veterinary diets have become legal issues. There are several particular prescription diet pet food brands that have gained a lot of negative attention in recent years. In fact, these brands are involved in class action lawsuits.

These brands include the following:

  • Hill’s Prescription Diet
  • Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets
  • Royal Canin Veterinary Diet
  • Iams Veterinary Formula

Pet owners who purchased prescription diets from one or more of these companies claim that these brands conspired with one another to “falsely promote ‘prescription’ pet food”. These claims apply to all pet food product variants, such as dry food, wet food, and canned food.

Furthermore, according to a press release published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2016, Mars Petcare settled on false advertising charges. Mars Petcare is one of the largest pet food suppliers in the world. They are known for their best-selling Eukanuba dog food. In this particular case, Mars Petcare claimed that Eukanuba dry dog food and canned dog food could help extend the longevity of a dog’s life by up to 30 percent. However, after further investigation, Mars Petcare could not prove that their prescription diet canine food could extend a dog’s life span.

Additionally, some of the claims also addressed the fact that these particular “prescription” diet pet foods do not contain any essential ingredients that would categorize the pet food as “prescription”. In fact, these brands manufactured their pet food with cheap or low-quality ingredients. These ingredients were not linked to any significant medical benefits. However, the prescription foods were priced significantly higher than traditional pet foods.

3 Things to Consider Before Purchasing Canine Prescription Diet Food

things to consider before purchasing dog food

So, if your vet tells you that your dog or cat needs a prescription diet, here are some things to consider before you purchase special diet pet food or prescription diet pet food.

1. High Cost

One of the biggest concerns with prescription diet pet food is the high cost and the low-quality ingredients. For example, most pet owners who routinely purchase prescription pet food will tell you that an eight-pound bag of prescription diet pet food costs upwards of $28!

What’s worse is that these particular prescription diet pet foods don’t even contain the necessary ingredients that would make it “prescription”-worthy!

So, if your vet recommends a prescription diet, be sure to ask him or her about the cost, why your dog or cat needs it, and if there are any lower-cost alternatives.

2. Low Quality

Most prescription diet pet foods contain questionable ingredients, such as ethoxyquin. Ethoxyquin, BHA, and BHT can potentially cause cancer. As a result, many of these ingredients have died out from many over-the-counter dog and cat food.

For example, Sportmix Premium and Nature’s Variety are two popular dog food brands that may contain low-quality genetically modified (GMO) ingredients, such as chicken by-product meal and ground yellow corn. Sportmix Premium is also pet food that is high in carbohydrates as well as starch. These foods are also known to cause obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS).

3. Health Issues

Furthermore, many prescription diet pet foods contain other questionable ingredients, such as zinc proteinate. Zinc proteinate is a “duplicate mineral”. Another potentially hazardous ingredient found in prescription dog foods is manganous oxide, which is a potentially hazardous chemical.

Some veterinarians will recommend pet owners to put their dogs and cats on a low protein diet to help conquer various health issues, particularly in older dogs and cats with kidney disease or liver disease.

However, studies and researchers have shown that the opposite is true. Senior dogs and cats with kidney disease or liver disease should be consuming high amounts of protein. Pets with kidney disease or liver disease will suffer with the build up of toxins and even muscle mass.

Natural Alternatives to Prescription Dog Food

natural alternatives to prescription dog food

So, if you are fed up with prescription dog food or frustrated with your vet, then here are some perfectly safe and healthy alternatives to prescription dog food that actually work.

Pet owners can simply supplement their dog or cat’s diet with healthy produce, fresh and raw meats, and other natural supplements to promote overall health—no prescription needed!

Quality Proteins

For cats and dogs that suffer with kidney disease, bladder stones (struvite stones), a high protein diet is important—no matter what your vet says! Feeding your dog or cat probiotics and fresh, leafy greens can help improve immune system functions as well as increase moisture levels to help remove waste protein.

Additionally, bone and calcium can help to balance phosphorus levels in the body. Too much phosphorus can put further strain on the kidneys. This should be avoided for dogs and cats with kidney issues.

Fatty Acids

Much like humans, elderly cats and dogs also suffer with joint issues, such as arthritis. Studies show that feeding your pet glucosamine instead of purchasing a “Joint Care” food could work just as well. In fact, supplementing your dog’s diet with glucosamine may even work better since it is a natural treatment.

Furthermore, feeding your dog or cat fatty acids, such as omega-3s and omega-6s, and antioxidants can help relieve pain and discomfort due to joint issues.

Whole Brown Rice

For pets with gastrointestinal issues, many pet owners have tried Purina One Smartblend or Purina En Gastroenteric food for dogs and cats to help. However, all you need to do is feed your dog or cat the right foods to help promote gastrointestinal health.

Whole brown rice is a natural ingredient that can be found in many higher-quality, natural dog food brands, such as Blue Buffalo. An excellent source of fiber, whole brown rice can help promote digestive care and health. Whole brown rice is also a great choice for dogs and cats with food sensitivities or food allergies.

The “Skinny” On Prescription Diets

healthy dog

In summary, one can clearly see that veterinary diets may not be necessary in 100 percent of cases. Furthermore, not all prescription pet foods are as wonderful as brands claim. As we advised above, if your vet recommends a veterinary diet your for your dog or cat, be sure to have a discussion with your vet about the pros and cons of a veterinary or prescription diets. Once you have all the information, do your own research, and then make a decision about whether or not you think it is really necessary for your pet. Chances are, it won’t be.

The good news is there is a lot you can do to ensure a healthy diet for your pet simply with foods and ingredients that you can purchase at the grocery store or that you may have already in your own home. There are a lot of things you can do to naturally boost your pet’s health and nutrition—and for a LOT less.


Is prescription dog food expensive?

Is prescription dog food good for my pup?

What are my alternatives to prescription dog food?



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About the author 

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Chelsea Rivera is a Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for Honestpaws.com.

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