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What the Prescription Pet Food Lawyers Don’t Want You to Know

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  1. monica

    I am sorry but the therapeutic diets have cured many of my pets through the years. If it was not for them, I would not have my pets for as long as I have

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      I’m not saying they are all ineffective. I’m saying per law they are not a drug and should not be called a drug.

      1. PL

        I’ve never seen Hills, Royal Canin, Purina, any vet or anyone in the field of veterinary medicine claim a prescription pet food was a drug.

        With all of your involvement in the pet food industry you can’t possibly claim to not know why therauptic vet diets require a prescription…It has nothing to do with them containing a drug. *faceplam*

        1. Susan Thixton Author

          If they require a prescription (and they do) – that is considered a drug – legally. This is an issue of law. Drugs are held to very specific laws, that is except for prescription pet food. I made no mention if the foods should or should not require a prescription, my complaint is that they are considered a drug (per FDA Compliance Policy) yet they are given special privileges to not abide by drug regulations (and even include illegal ingredients).

          1. PL

            So what is your point then? All prescription diets should undergo FDA drug trials to prove efficacy?

            What about the clinical trials they undergo?

          2. Susan Thixton Author

            The point is very clear – prescription pet food should abide by law. They do not. They are not held to the strict standards that drugs are (example manufacturing standards) and the ingredients used in some prescription pet foods are a violation of law (example animal fat). That’s the point. They are illegal. If they are going to be sold as a ‘prescription’ product – they should be held to ‘prescription’ law.

          3. Billy Budd

            Yes!!! If they require a prescription, exactly!

        2. JK

          It’s the perception that comes along with using the word “prescription”.
          It’s pure marketing.

          “pre·scrip·tion
          prəˈskripSH(ə)n/
          noun
          1.
          an instruction written by a medical practitioner that authorizes a patient to be provided a medicine or treatment.”

    2. Holly Rist

      Cured? How so?

    3. Jeri

      They don’t cure. They manage. Real fresh whole food diets can do even more than “manage”. There is NOTHING in those Rx diets which will cure anything….only manage.

      1. Aleksandra

        100% aggre with you Jeri

    4. T Allen

      I’m glad those foods kept your pet alive longer but that doesn’t mean that with a better diet the animal wouldn’t have lived twice as long! Here’s an example of the ingredients in a Hills Prescription diet. The first four ingredients are food the rest are supplements. How long could you “live” on this diet? PS: cellulose is wood fiber. Hill’s® Prescription Diet®
 z/d® Feline  Dry food Skin/Food Sensitivities

 Brewers Rice, Hydrolyzed Chicken Liver, Soybean Oil, Powdered Cellulose,
      plus Chicken Liver Flavor, Lactic Acid, Calcium Carbonate, Calcium Sulfate, Glyceryl Monostearate, Potassium Chloride, DL-Methionine, Choline Chloride, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Taurine, Iodized Salt, Dicalcium Phosphate, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene

      1. Paula

        The ingredients sound disgusting. The product might help some by not including something a particular pet is sensitive to in their current food. But that could be accomplished with a much better quality food — whether raw, freeze dried, dehydrated, home cooked (with proper balance), or even a good kibble (I know, less than ideal but a lot of this crap is in kibble form).

        There are many quality foods with limited ingredients, “unusual proteins”, etc.
        Are all of the “chemicals” in the prescription food included because the other ingredients don’t provide what a good food would versus being in addition to what the “good” foods provide? If the specific dog or cat needs supplements of some sort – there are other ways to “prescribe” them and not necessarily as part of the food.

        How does one find a vet who is knowledgeable about foods and natural supplements (e.g., I add salmon oil and give them NZ mussels) but isn’t a pure naturalist who doesn’t believe in any medications at all to treat illness?

        1. T Allen

          Hi Paula-You don’t need a vet to tell you what to feed your pet. I highly recommend this website to people with cats, http://feline-nutrition.org/. It will tell you everything about feeding cats or https://www.planetpaws.ca/ for feeding dogs. Both very reputable, easy to understand websites. You are on the right track just keep reading! 🙂

          1. Trynedge

            T Allen, it was nutrition savvy vets who created that site you mentioned, heh. The trick is finding a vet who is also well versed in animal nutrition. Veterinary medicine and Animal nutrition are separate specialties. Most, indeed, even most vets, don’t seem to realize that.

        2. Jeri

          http://www.ahvma.org for a holistic and/or integrative vet near you. I have found some via google as well, but you need to go to the site and make sure it looks right as some are using the term “holistic” very loosely.

        3. shepsperson

          Try finding an integrative vet. They practice both “conventional” and holistic medicine.

      2. LoriL

        I know! No meat at all. All those foods do is keep the vet with a regular patient.

      3. Billy

        When they prescribed Hills to us, and we read the ingredients, which were no better than the ingredients composing regular pet food on the market, we were too gullible and trusting to question if it was actually proven or clinically tested to be effective. I feel taken advantage of and I’m so glad someone is talking about the prescription diet foods that are marketed but do little to cure or treat the diseases they claim to manage and the symptoms they claim to ameliorate (advertised as a drug in everything but name). The lawsuit is a long time coming. And when there are enough lawsuits from consumers, maybe the FDA will respond with stricter regulations. Unfortunately, our generations were the test dummies. It’s like those early cigarette ads that advertised false health information. So many people were exposed and harmed before any action was taken.

    5. James Richardson

      What does that have to do with the points at issue? Congratulations. But wholly irrelevant. Can’t you read?

      1. T Allen

        It’s not irrelevant, it’s a great point. If the diets didn’t help a little they’d be out of business.

    6. LoriL

      Not ever, has a “prescription food” “cured” an illness. Not ever.

      1. shepsperson

        Not all drugs cure illnesses either. Some drugs are meant to manage the disease and/or symptoms to slow/stop the progression.
        These diets do the same if the correct one is recommended and the animal is fed accordingly to the vet’s advice.
        I have 1 dog with kidney disease. If we stray from her prescription diet the symptoms come back.
        Another has IBD and her prescription diet has been a lifesaver.
        Neither of them will be cured, but they are both thriving and otherwise healthy.
        That’s all I can ask for.

        1. Trynedge

          I’m sorry to hear both your pets are sick. A lot of these diseases our pets have are nutritionally based, and it’s very upsetting. It’s why more than 50% of domestic cats are obese, it’s why dog and cat diabetes is in the rise, and it is why our pets develop an insane amount of urinary and digestive issues – from generations of feeding dry, starchy, cereal (kibble) instead of wet, meat-based diets. The prescription diets can most certainly relieve symptoms, for a time anyway, but ultimately are counterproductive and the only thing that can truly help FIX the issues is a healthy, biologically appropriate diet. I’ve seen it time and time again. I’ve helped dogs and cats with cancer, diabetes, IBD, and CKD live healthier, longer lives, simply by educating their owners of what their pets should be eating based on *science* ; the physiology of their pets’ bodies and how it works with different types of diets. Giving your cat nothing but dry food is akin to onlu putting diesel gas in your toyota camry. It’s the wrong fuel for that vehicle (or body, in the case of your car) and it WILL cause issues. Get it the right fuel. It’s really that simple. Prescription foods are not the right fuel.

    7. shepsperson

      I think the problem these companies are having is semantics. Instead of calling the diets “prescription” they should just call them “therapeutic”.
      Not sure why they don’t already. Maybe then they won’t require a written script and they worry people will just self-diagnose and use them when they shouldn’t???? Maybe there’s a loophole that allows them to be labeled prescription even if there’s no drugs????
      All I know is they have been effective in treating and maintaining the health of many of my dogs. I know the time, money and research that goes into making these diets.
      I used to think they were no good because I judged them solely on the ingredients. Many years of experience with many dogs requiring different diets for specific health issues has proven to me that they do work.
      I feed my dogs the best possible food available and have even made them homemade meals designed by a board certified vet nutritionist.
      The former didn’t make as much of a difference to their health (and even caused/causes relapse) as the prescription diets and customized homemade.
      I hope this helps anyone else who is skeptical of feeding these diets if they are recommended by your vets. They really do work. I have had nothing but success when feeding them. With some dogs I have even been able to get them off completely or combo feed them.

      1. Regina

        How many times have you felt the need to rely on these rx diets??? The fact that you needed to use them so often could suggest to some that there was much more than coincidence that all those dogs “needed” rx foods.

        I feed ALL my cats the same exact food. They get everything their body needs (without a lot of crap and filler) so that their body functions normally, and they don’t descend into health issues.
        If i were to find that one of them was allergic to a certain protein, then I would just not use that protein for any of them. Life is much easier when they all eat the same thing. (and way less espensive, too!!!)

        I just find it odd that you have had so many dogs that you were told needed to be fed these special diets.

        I’ve talked to so many people who just take their vets’ advice to feed these diets, but can’t answer a question, other than to say, “it’s what my vet says”
        I’m sorry, but I just refuse to take advice from anyone thinks giving cats a bunch of corn, wheat, soy, unidentified by-products, and other crap something and have the gall to say it’s good for them. Cats are CARNIVORES!!!!!! Real meat is the most important ingredient for cats.

    8. Trynedge

      Often these diets are formulated in such a way as to suppress symptoms. That is not the same as being cured, I’m afraid :/

    9. Acacia Rogers

      The problem is the prescription definition, requiring a veterinary recommendation, and the large amount of money you pay for a low quality pet food that may or may not help a pets health condition. As a pet retail supervisor with a long standing background in pet food, I can cure or treat any disease a prescription pet food can by carefully choosing the right natural diet in my store, and ill do it for free and the cost of a quality natural pet food which is less than that of prescription foods, and it will be more reliable and more effective. I have a decade of experience that proves it. THAT is why prescription pet food is frankly bullshit and deserves a good suing.

      1. T Allen

        Amen to that!

  2. JK

    Hills is the most frustrating, because fully knowing that the food sold at a vet I trusted, is being peddled for a kickback, is troubling…and when he pushed it on me for an older cat, I moved on and found another area vet.

  3. Ramona Gonzales

    It is amazing what these crooks are getting away with. I once was instructed to use Prescription Diet for one of my cats…it was way expensive and frankly, the food I now use (Red Barn) seems to suit her fine with no more issues. Go figure…

  4. T Allen

    Susan- How do we find out who the lawyers are so we can write them about our experiences with Prescription diets?

  5. Dog Lover

    Susan I have a question you said “Let’s hope the lawyers representing prescription pet food consumers see this post” could you (or someone else) not send this to them? Or at least give them this same information if there’s something wrong with sending your article?

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      Absolutely send it to them. I have intentions of giving them a phone call – hoping someone will listen.

  6. Regina

    Susan, if the “rx” feed peddlers are saying that the FDA isn’t enforcing any regulations, can the FDA be added to the lawsuit?

    So, consumers would be suing Hills, Mars, Purina, and the FDA????

    Not sure how this all would work, but wonder if it’s an option.

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      When you sue a federal agency – and you can – you are not suing for damages (money) – you are suing to force a change. And that is going to happen very soon. I will be publishing information soon regarding a consumer lawsuit against the FDA – we are going to sue them. Soon.

      1. T Allen

        YES!

  7. Regina

    I have a simmering blood-boiling hatred of vets that push rx feeds on consumers. I was talking to someone recently, whose cat was having “digestive issues”. So, the vet insisted they try the rx feed as the first option to resolve the issue. I asked the person what kind of “digestive issues” the cat was having. She said the cat was throwing up a lot. I asked her for details about the throwing up.
    Basically, her cat was wolfing kibble down, and then regurgitating it almost immediately. I asked her if she told the vet that, and she said yes. I was livid. I told her that I couldn’t understand why the vet thought it was a “digestive issue” when the food wasn’t even getting that far into the cat?????
    When cats eat a bunch of dry kibble too quickly, and it comes right back up immediately, the food isn’t the problem, it’s the way the cat is ingesting and immediately throwing up. All she needed to do was slow down the eating. There are any number of ways to slow down a pet’s eating.

    I know a lot of folks think kibble is just always wrong, but for some folks, kibble is all they can manage. I told her to put the food into something that the cat would have to work to get it out of, a little at a time. That way, the cat could NOT eat it so quickly. That would solve the problem!

    I really hope that this lawsuit brings about a change. These vets are selling garbage, when common sense solutions would be FREE and work better!!!!!!

    I just needed to vent, get that off my chest.

    1. T Allen

      A lot of people feel the same way! As a former vet tech I can’t tell you how many times I heard vets say ignorant things to clients. I did want to suggest that one thing that would help make kibble better for cats (not that kibble is anything but BAD for cats) is to always wet it down! Wet kibble eliminates some of the issues with low water consumption from dry food and the soggy food doesn’t matter if it’s wolfed down. Canned food is no better, new study today showing BPA in canned pet food at high levels! 🙁

      1. LoriL

        Wet kibble is a breeding ground for bacteria. Wet kibble is no better than dry kibble. It’s all bad. It’s all garbage, and those “prescription” diets are some of the worst. No one should be feeding kibble to a cat. yes indeed Regina it IS the diet, but a “prescription” kibble is not going to solve any cat’s problem. Ever. No kibble can help a cat with digestion or any other health issue.

      2. Trynedge

        You are incorrect there. Canned food is FAR better than kibble. It’s cooked once, at a lower temperature versus two to four times at extreme temperatures of dry food. It has far superior moisture and protein content, meant to more closely mimic the bodies of animals that is natural for your cats to be eating (70%+ moisture in canned versus the measly 10% in dry), and as it doesn’t have to be bonded together to form crunchy cereal, it’s less starchy and sugary than kibble. Just find a brand that doesn’t have BPA in their cans, for crying out loud. Weruva, Tiki Cat, and Lotus, are three right off the top of my head. You have to do more research than reading a single article, friend! Try learning from some nutrition savvy vets. Catinfo.org is a good starting point.

        1. T Allen

          Your opinion. The garbage in canned cat food (do you read the articles on this website?) may be cooked once (once to often) but cooking doesn’t destroy mycotoxins, remove meat meals, decrease the high percentage of carbs, etc, etc that cats don’t need in their diet and that are more expensive per pound to feed than fresh meat. My comment was specific to Regina’s comment and I stand by it. If someone is going to feed dry food (which I don’t recommend) then wetting it down adds the water the cat needs (and yes LoriL they eat all of it within 15 min, it’s not left sitting out all day) and stops the regurgitation issue. Hopefully over time the owner will learn how to add fresh meat to the cats diet with the addition of Alnutrin or other vit/min mix and lessen the dry food fed. And FelineNutrition.org is a much better feeding website.

  8. Peter

    Many readers, in good intention and conscience, have the issues a bit muddled. It isn’t that “prescription” pet foods are awful (in terms of ingredients), it is that in realistic terms: they are not “unusual” or significantly different from many other ordinary (and cheap/er) foods.

    For the ordinary consumer (and “patient”) the designation of “prescription” immediately imparts a different and particular meaning: namely, a higher/specific “quality,” which, if one examines the ingredients, and evaluates according to an ordinary standard, these foods often (if not generally) just don’t meet. The complaint discusses that the ingredients often don’t differ from cheaper/ordinarily available foods, and simply wouldn’t be marketable at high prices absent the prescription/veterinary relationship which ultimately appears deceptive and collusive.

    Prescription foods are formulated for specific intent, based on “scientific” theory/basis. That they often only help to resolve symptoms and not illness is, of course, valid criticism. Some can seem truly horrific: formulated with “junk” and even that which we would otherwise never give to our animals. Nevertheless, “powdered cellulose” is “proven” to support gastrointestinal relief in some situations. That we are thus feeding our animals sawdust doesn’t change that (sad) reality.

    Vets also often prescribe these foods because they are marketed as carefully formulated to include what is on the label, and in specific quantities, that is reliably consistent: “what’s on the label is what’s in the can.” We honestly can’t say that about many other foods we pay high prices for, especially when most of them are produced pursuant to contract manufacturing by co-packers. We don’t have to contemplate the excesses of Evanger’s to accept that. For the veterinary professional, the issue is not “quality,” but “quality control.”

    And it is this latter fact that does “excuse” the problem on some level: the prescription foods may indeed help “solve” some medial issues.

    And as Susan discusses, these manufacturers are carefully threading their legal argument through available federal loophole.

    1. T Allen

      Excellent commentary!

    2. shepsperson

      I guess this would expand on the “quality” part of your statement…
      The prescription food manufacturers are held to a higher standard than other foods. They MUST prove that the specific diet does help. They are legally obligated to do so.
      The foods are not just a scientific theory. They are carefully and heavily researched to prove those theories. That’s why they work. They extensively experimented with the formulas to make sure they got the results they needed to meet the higher standards they are required to meet.
      Hill’s actually has the dogs and cats used for the trial when formulating the diets for their entire lives and carefully monitor and keep detailed data on the animals throughout their lives. The animals are treated humanely and well cared for.

      1. Regina

        Do you work for Hill’s???
        Your blindly regurgitating their talking points infers a connection.

  9. Sami S. Thompson

    Susan – my neurological disease has kept me away from the computer – and your newsletter – for too long recently. My deepest sympathy on the loss of your Kirby.

    I have an amazing vet, who we’ve been with for years – even before he opened his own practice. He’s not holistic, just a regular, albeit incredibly compassionate, vet. Although his clinic stocks prescription pet food, I noticed that they have moved the entire shelf holding the product OUT of the main waiting room. It now sits in a back hallway. I don’t pretend to know what they prescribe for all their patients, but I was once sitting in the waiting room when a woman came in and wanted to buy some prescription food for her cats. Once it was established that her cats were patients at the clinic, the receptionist asked her to wait while she checked their file. It turns out that both cats had been taken OFF the prescription food months ago, when the woman’s husband brought them in – but he forgot to tell her! Since Dr. P opened his practice, his focus has been on treating animals properly, rather than gouging people, which is an increasing rarity in my area.

  10. shepsperson

    Here’s the thing about Rx diets and why/how they can exist:
    •they are designed to treat a specific health problem.
    *these diets are not intended to be fed to an animal w/o health issues.
    •the manufacturers MUST prove they do in fact work.
    •the vets have to follow up w/ pet and make sure they are getting results.

    OTC foods that say they are good for the same health issues are not necessarily appropriate. They don’t have to meet any additional requirements beyond the same minimal standards any other brand does. It’s just marketing.
    Those foods also do not have any legal requirement to prove the claims they make like the prescription foods do.

    I realize my comments are not of the popular belief, but they are well researched, scientific, evidence, anecdotally based.

    1. Regina

      It’s good that you realize that your comments are not of popular belief among the followers of this website. People following Susan’s work are all concerned about the quality of what they feed their pets. That is why we follow, and comment.

      If you know your comments don’t fit, you are not adding anything of value to the conversation, why do you continue to add comments?

      Just curious.

      1. T Allen

        I agree with you question above about working for Hill’s or a Vet. Shepperson is likely a troll or shill for Hill’s from the comments.

    2. Trynedge

      Please cite your sources then, that show the well-researched, scientific, evidence based (no one cares about anectodal evidence) information on pet prescription foods that show they are proven to in fact work and only prescribed to pets with true health issues.

  11. Peter

    I was discussing the issue of “quality” as distinct from “quality control.” And to be clear, that is not intended as a commercial for prescription pet foods. The description Susan cites is a fair one.

    I would suggest broadening the discussion to focus on the labeling of prescription pet foods.

    The legal distinction between food and drug is key in terms of FDA’s regulatory authority. Pet food is considered a food as defined and within the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). FDA is charged with responsibility for administration (not to be confused with enforcement) of the FFDCA. The legal definitions of “food” and “drug” become mingled when a food label bears a claim that consumption of the product will treat, prevent, or otherwise affect a disease or condition, or, to affect the constitution or function of the body in a way separate from what would ordinarily be described as from its “nutritive value.”

    Pet foods are not required to undergo pre-market clearance under the FFDCA. However, such claims effectively establish intent to proffer the product as a drug. In this instance, since the product would not have been subject to the normal premarket clearance mechanism to demonstrate safety and efficacy—as required for drugs—it is unsafe by definition. As such, dog food products with labels bearing drug claims are subject to regulation by FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) as drugs as well as foods. A manufacturer must then remove these claims to restore its regulatory status to only food.

    Criteria that constitutes a drug claim reach beyond the specific wording that a product will “treat” or “prevent” a disease or condition. Any claim that suggests that use of the product will be of therapeutic benefit can be an implied drug claim. So, any dialogue of a medical condition on a dog food label implies that the product will affect that condition, and could be a drug claim. Beyond text, symbols or other depictions that may imply medical benefit (EKG tracings, medical insignia) may be drug claims.

    So the question becomes: what’s on the label? The FFDCA defines “labeling” as all labels and other written, printed or graphic matter including brochures, flyers, signs or similar promotional material found at the point of sale and may be subject to FDA sanction. Perhaps the legal team will examine the further issue of promotion to/within the veterinary community.

    I’ve used some of these prescription foods, and aside from the “name” of the formula (example: “I/D,” “gastrointestinal health,” “vetrinary diet,” etc.) there is generally no “claim” on the label itself. I would suggest debating whether the name itself (the “formula” as given a name to separate itself from other formulas) constitutes a claim. My view is that the consumer would interpret that it is directly descriptive as if there was lengthy accompanying text/graphics/pictures/claims, etc. Absolutely the same.

    The FDA grants that there is an fundamental relationship between diet and disease, as did Congress in 1990, when it passed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA), incorporating regulations to allow for certain “health claims” on foods for human consumption. CVM has built-in the philosophy of the NLEA in its policies in order to allow for “meaningful health-related information” on pet food labels to reach the consumer without violating the intent of the law.

    This legal dispute is a worthy one.

    1. T Allen

      Thank you for taking the time to comment on this for us!

  12. evema

    It’s like fighting big FARMA. You never get anywhere.

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