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Color me surprised!
I logged onto Facebook this morning and saw that there is a class action lawsuit that names “Nestle Purina, Mars Petcare, and Hill’s Pet Nutrition, pet supply chain PetSmart, and veterinary chains Banfield Pet Hospital and BluePearl Vet.” The lawsuit claims that these brands conspired together to promote prescription diets that are unnecessary.
A class action lawsuit alleges that pet food manufacturers Nestle Purina, Mars Petcare, and Hill’s Pet Nutrition, pet supply chain PetSmart, and veterinary chains Banfield Pet Hospital and BluePearl Vet all conspired with each other to falsely promote “prescription” pet food.
The complaint asserts that there is no reason for each brand of pet food to require a prescription, as they “contain no drug or other ingredient not also common in non-prescription pet food.”
“Retail consumers, including Plaintiffs, have overpaid and made purchases they otherwise would not have made on account of Defendants’ abuse and manipulation of the ‘prescription’ requirement,” according to the complaint.
I've heard from many dog parents that the only food their dog can eat is a prescription food and I've always wondered if they've tried a natural, species appropriate diet. Because I'm not a veterinarian or a nutritionist, I don't push people on this topic. I know that if I had stayed with our original vet and never jumped into the pet blogging world that exposed me to raw feeding, I would be feeding Rodrigo a prescription diet. I know what it's like to trust your vet's diagnosis and recommendations; so I try not to judge.
Our first vet was a huge fan of Hill's Science Diet and prescribed their food for every ailment. I had been told not to buy food from the veterinarian because it's overpriced so I never took a can or bag home, but I know that I would have been eventually worn down as Rodrigo's health continued to decline due to his GI (digestive) issues and allergies.
Hill's Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Dog Food
Ingredients: Brewers Rice, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Sorghum, Cracked Pearled Barley, Pea Protein, Pork Fat, Soybean Oil, Chicken Liver Flavor, Dried Beet Pulp, Lactic Acid, Potassium Chloride, Iodized Salt, Flaxseed, L-Lysine, Choline Chloride, 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), minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Taurine, Oat Fiber, Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene, Apples, Broccoli, Carrots, Cranberries, Green Peas.
The above is the food that is recommended for dogs with digestive issues. It is a dry dog food that is primarily grains and a blend of synthetic vitamins with a few vegetables and fruits thrown in at the end (just a teeny amount). Given what I know now, this would be the absolute WORST diet that I could feed to Rodrigo. It may soothe his tummy issues initially, but eventually, there would be a huge backlash because I believe foods like these mask the problems, they don't cure the problems.
- Brewer's Rice – this is the leftovers after processing rice and pet food manufacturers add it because dogs and cats have been shown to be able to digest it. So instead of making a food that helps cure the gut, this food masks the symptoms (as I stated).
- Chicken Meal – this is chicken with all the water taken out; the fact that it's the second ingredient is sad. We're told to look for food with proteins as the first ingredient. What we don't know is that many brands beef up the protein content with vegetable sources, cheating our dogs out of the food their systems need – animal protein.
- Whole Grain Sorghum – what's this? It's made from cereal grain. We're feeding our dogs cereal. I understand the argument that dogs have evolved to eat grains, but just because dogs can survive on a high grain diet doesn't mean that they're thriving on a high grain diet. Rodrigo certainly didn't.
The ingredients represent a long list of disappointment for me because this is what veterinarians are recommending to dog parents who don't know any better. It breaks my heart that I didn't do my homework six years ago. I didn't know that I needed to because I thought I could trust my vet and the pet industry. I was wrong.
Are Pet Brands Are Playing Dirty?
These prescriptions work like normal drug prescriptions – a veterinary doctor gives a consumer a written order for a certain kind of pet food, and the consumer goes to PetSmart, or other location, to purchase the specialty food. The complaint argues that consumers have a “deep rooted sense” of following medical advice and filling prescriptions.
However, the “prescription” pet food sold by Mars, Purina, and Hill’s are not evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and contain no drugs or other legally controlled substances, the plaintiffs argue. Therefore, according to the class action, selling the expensive pet food as requiring a prescription is unfair and deceptive under California consumer protection laws.
The prescription pet food antitrust class action lawsuit asserts that this false advertising is promoted by all of the companies working together. The veterinary clinics write prescriptions for the food, which is manufactured by the pet food companies and sold through PetSmart.
Reading about the class action lawsuit makes me thankful to the outspoken raw feeders and pet parents who, along with Rodrigo, inspired my journey to learn more about dog nutrition. I too was one of those dog parents who listened to everything my vet told me – he had the experience and the degree, why should I question him? Today, I would love to see that man put out of business.
It'll be interesting to see how this lawsuit plays out. To be honest, I don't think anything will come of this other than making people question the value of prescription diets, which may be enough. With so many of the pet food giants influencing veterinarian care, pet retail sales, and AAFCO and the FDA – I don't think there's anything we can do to make them play fair other than continue to raise awareness of feeding a species appropriate diet to our dogs.