Prescription pet food — Food as medicine or feed-grade scam?

If you're a pet parent, you've probably noticed not only the mind-boggling array of dry and canned dog foods on the market, but also the trend toward "specialized" diets marketed for small dogs, large breed dogs, older dogs, dogs of certain breeds and so on.

We're also seeing more and more "prescription" diets advertised for dogs with a wide range of health conditions such as kidney or liver disease, joint disease, obesity, food intolerances, gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, cognitive dysfunction, urinary crystals and stones, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dental disease and recovery from an accident, surgery or illness.

The mainstream pet food industry as well as many in the conventional veterinary community are working hard to convince pet parents that processed so-called therapeutic or prescription diets are "food as medicine" and the wave of the future.1

I think fresh food diets made with human-grade human ingredients designed for dogs with specific health conditions are a great idea (more about this shortly). Unfortunately, what you get with a processed prescription diet is simply a modified version of the same feed-grade ingredients found in nonprescription pet food.

In my experience and that of other integrative veterinarians, highly processed diets made with feed-grade ingredients (and the toxins that come along with feed-grade ingredients) are the root cause of many of the diseases pets acquire today. It's reprehensible that when dogs become sick with degenerative diseases after years of eating processed, biologically inappropriate food, their owners are told to buy a more expensive version of a similar food and consider it "medicine."

Conceptually, feeding recipes that have low oxalates, modulate urine pH, have reduced copper or iodine, or address a specific nutritional goal is wonderful advice.

The problem is, there's not a single brand of dry or canned food that uses human-grade ingredients. Because the FDA allows "animals that have died otherwise than slaughter" in pet food, and no heavy metal or contaminant testing is required for therapeutic foods purchased only through veterinarians, the quality of the raw materials going into "prescription diets" is questionable, at best.

Read more at healthypets with Karen Becker

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