I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and is ready to "talk turkey" as I follow up my most requested blog series on how to select the best dog food. Please understand that I am not a vet I can't do much more than basic math and I never excelled in the sciences. This blog is my personal opinions and observations. It is not meant to take the place of veterinary advice. But, when it comes to nutrition, after working with lots of vets, I tend to share a much different philosophy than many of them. This comes after seeing the amazing results proper nutrition plays in healing everything from shelter pets who are gravely ill to those bothered by chronic allergies, skin conditions, urinary problems, arthritis and many other common conditions. I believe many popular commercial pet foods are sickening and prematurely killing our pets. I believe veterinarians as well as many medical doctors need to focus on nutritional health in addition to simply prescribing medications. Most vet's and medical doctors don't have much background in nutrition and will admit that it was not a focus in their veterinary/medical schooling. I firmly agree the best way to ensure a long, healthy life for your pets is by feeding them quality food. I also believe you can feed your pet optimum nutrition easily, without breaking your budget.
Last week I discussed the big business of pet foods. You learned how it works and the economic incentive to promote big brands of not-so-healthy pet food. I pointed out how to properly understand a pet food label and how to avoid false and mislead "marketing" gimmicks. I also provided stringent ratings for many brands of pet food so you can see how yours stacks up and if there might be a better food to consider. Finally I promoted Nulo since I have seen such incredible results with hundreds of pets. It's reasonably priced, and IT'S SIMPLE!
In this blog I'm going to discuss RX foods. My views are quite controversial and I'm not going to be very popular with many vet's for sharing them but here it is.
Did you know that the Prescription Diet® (Prescription Diet® is a registered trademark of Hills® Pet Nutrition, Inc.®) your veterinarian prescribed for your dog doesn’t really require a prescription in the true sense of the word? I’m willing to bet that just like me, most consumers and perhaps even some vets are unaware that there are no special ingredients inside these diets that are regulated by the FDA or DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), requiring an official prescription. So there it is with the marketing gimmicks again. Basically, purchasing RX foods from your vet's is like purchasing hair care products from your salon. No, it's worse, because salon products are typically much higher quality than what's available at Rite Aid and these RX foods are not premium products.
So, in the dog food world, the term: " Prescription Diet®" describes an effective marketing agreement between a hundred-million dollar pet food manufacturer and the veterinarian community. This agreement allows for the sale of their foods through licensed veterinarians only. Veterinarians benefit because they can achieve a much higher mark-up on these foods than they would by offering foods widely available without a “prescription.” The pet food manufacturer, in return, gains credibility as a manufacturer of veterinarian-recommended food and uses that as an endorsement, if you will, for the rest of their products. You get the picture.
Just to clarify... Scott Ziehr, Feed Program Regulatory Specialist for the Colorado Department of Agriculture, stated that, “No, there are no specific regulations for prescription feeds beyond the regulations in place for commercial animal feed.” The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act does require that pet foods, like human foods, be pure and wholesome, contain no harmful or deleterious substances, and be truthfully labeled. When Mr. Ziehr was asked as to whether he felt these prescription diets were truthfully labeled, he responded that this was “not a question anyone had ever asked before” and that it could be “subject to interpretation.” That's a glaring red flag in my book.
A Brief History of The Prescription Diet ®
Dr. Mark Morris, Sr. created the first “Prescription Diet®” in the late 1930’s. Dr. Morris was a Cornell-educated veterinarian who worked with the American Humane Association to develop a meat-free diet, necessary to feed dogs amidst food rationing during World War II. “Pets do not need fresh meat, but can get their protein from rejected eggs, unsalable fish, soybeans, or even sour milk,” he explained in his biography, Mark Morris Veterinarian, written by Willard Haselbush in 1984 (pg. 88). Once the war ended, many pet food manufacturers began creating diets higher in animal proteins, more in keeping with the dietary needs of carnivores, i.e. meat-eaters. Dr. Morris, however, stuck to his previous formulations, explaining that, “...when I remember in wartime thousands of dogs in this country were kept alive and healthy on diets of cooked cereals and vegetables fortified with soybean meal, the effort to lure the American public into feeding pets an all-meat diet consisting of meat by-products is ridiculous” (Haselbush, 89). Interestingly, many of the Prescription Diets® today contain animal by-products.
Ingenious Marketing Ensures Veterinary Cooperation
In addition to creating pet food to address specific health issues, Dr. Morris also created a brilliant marketing plan to gain credibility within the veterinary community. With the help of a public relations firm, they created the “Student Agent Program,” designed to indoctrinate promising young veterinary medical students to act as liaisons to help educate their young, impressionable classmates about these diets. As you can see by the popularity of RX pet foods, the marketing plan is still wildly successful today. Dr. Michael W. Fox, co-author of Not Fit for a Dog! The Truth About Manufactured Dog and Cat Food, explains: “Until recently, vet students in the U.S. and other countries were taught cat and dog nutrition by veterinarians employed by pet-food companies. Now more schools have staff teaching a short course in companion animal nutrition, but only too often their research and funding is provided by large pet food manufacturers."
For many years I fed my pug a popular brand of RX food formulated for urinary health. And while it cleared up his urinary issues he developed several other equally problematic conditions that I know were directly related to all the grains, carbs, and cheap proteins in his food. I wish I knew them what I know now.
Time and time again I see many vet's quickly prescribe RX foods for a host of conditions ranging from tummy upset to urinary problems and everything in between. I read the labels and found nearly all the big brands contain corn gluten meal, chicken by-product meal, brewers rice, and wheat flour. So, lots of high glycemic carbs that are difficult for a canine to digest, convert to glucose, and are common allergens. They also contain poor quality protein containing by-products. Not only that, the ratio of carbs to protein is very low. That led this confused pet parent to inquire about the "medicine" in an RX food because the rest of the ingredients certainly were not healthy.
Upon asking numerous vets what is "medicinal" in these foods, over and over, I was told by the vet's prescribing them that the formulas have strict ratios and are PH balanced for the conditions listed. Unfortunately the ingredients are not ideal for good health. Especially weight loss, digestive problems or allergies. I have seen amazing results with dogs using foods that contain high quality lean protein, low glycemic carbs and probiotics. The foods are ALWAYS less expensive than the RX counterpart as well. I have mentioned Nulo is my favorite due to the fact it uses human-grade protein, contains no grains, corn, soy, GMO's or high glycemic carbs AND, it contains BC30, a new patented probiotic which literally survives the baking, extrusion and digestive process which normally kills off 90% of the live, healthy bacteria. It has helped many dogs with diabetes, obesity, sensitive stomachs, pancreatitis, allergies, arthritis, chronic ear infections, urinary problems and kidney issues. Good nutrition can definitely heal and much better than most gimmicky RX foods. The good news is, I have converted many vets to recommending premium pet foods like Nulo and others and the results are impressive. However, this is the exception and NOT the majority. But I urge pet parents to talk to their vets. Show them this blog and look into better nutrition options. If you are seeking a holistic vet, you can check out this website for information and names: http://theavh.org/ Let's move forward together. I hope leaning on good nutrition is the new trend of combating disease and health problems in our pets in the future.
Next week's blog will focus on the popular trend of "Grain-Free" foods. Enjoy your amazing beloved pooches!🐾