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Is This Ethical?

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  1. Jeri

    This doesn’t surprise me one bit. It’s important to remember, however, that vets are taught very little about nutrition in vet school — and what they get is sponsored by the pet food industry (brochures, etc…) That would be like Hershey’s candy teaching you everything you need to know about chocolate! I truly think a lot of vets believe what they are taught and never question it. (Whether this willingness to believe is genuine or reflects a desire NOT to know more is another question.) I have found it a very enlightening experience to read aloud from the ingredients list to vets. They truly never read that list! They buy the marketing hype and they are heavily influenced to sell that product. They are offered those products in vet school for little to nothing — or free — and the companies have been around forever….so most accept and why not? To your question, no, I don’t think vets should accept these kinds of perks, but because the “food” is subpar — more than for any other reason. I would prefer that vets educate themselves apart from what they get in vet schools. That, to me, speaks more highly of their true motivations. In the meantime, pet parents will have to continue to become mavericks in their pets’ care and “go against the grain” of most advice they receive from vets. Sad but true.

  2. Jerry Bouch

    No, it’s terribly unethical! I have a pet that requires food for renal issues. I’m required to either get it from my veterinarian at an outrageous cost or get a script to purchase it elsewhere. My cat doesn’t like the taste and refuses to eat it! I practically have to starve her so she will eat it. It’s the only brand I’ve been able to find in vet offices near me. I partially blame Banfield. They have a strangle hold on the area where I live. This should be about what’s best for these pets. Not whats best to make the rich even wealthier!! It’s disgusting!!

    1. Chgo Denise

      Jerry, there is nothing “prescription” about prescription food. It’s all a marketing gimmick. Find out what exactly your cat needs or needs to avoid in its diet. Than you will need to do a lot of research on your own for a better food. You CAN find something better! I forbid my moms dog to eat the vets food when in kidney failure. I did a ton of research on TAPF site and found a good food with real ingredients in it. Good luck !

      1. Debbie

        Can u please tell me a food to try for my older poodle whom is having kidney problems. I do trust my vet, but would love another opinion

        1. Susan Thixton Author

          If your dog needs a food to address an illness – you can try Rayne Clinical Nutrition. This company makes a line of Rx foods that use all human grade ingredients. Another option would be Just Food for Dogs – they can formulate a food to address the illness.

        2. Pacific Sun

          I second Susan’s referrals and worked with JFFDs. Very reasonable, responsive and educational. Don’t know how old your “older” Poodle is, or what size, but my friend who raises Miniatures uses very wholesome foods and one reached 19.5 yrs! As a dog gets older it’s absolutely imperative to increase the quality (supportive value) of its diet. I use Kibble only for backup which is an exceptional brand (it’s baked!) feed whole minimally cooked meat, probiotic, cooked oatmeal (or THK) for consistent stools. My 14.5 yr. old currently has wonderful stamina, no apparent aches and pains, good teeth, and stays busy with the younger 3 yr. I would DEFINITELY stay away from commercial brand Rx PF (long term), and consult with a holistic vet who knows how to use nutrition in a theraputic way. It may seem expensive up front, but what you could save on not using long term medication or those expensive VET Rx foods will pay off. Now is definitely the time to focus on your Poodle’s age and protect him for the future.

    2. Casey

      Jerry, you DO NOT have to feed a prescription renal diet to your cat.

      Go here –

      and find out what you need to do, diet-wise and what other foods you can use for her that she’ll like better and will support her kidneys.

      My vet freaked out when I told her that I was feeding my renal failure cat a raw diet – until I explained what I was doing and how the numbers worked out. Then she was perfectly fine with it. That cat lived to be 21 years old.

      The point is, most vets know precious little about diet and an educated owner can do SO MUCH BETTER for their pet than Hill’s or whatever prescription brand out there.

      Good luck.

    3. Laura

      Jerry Bouch – you should read the book called your cat by
      Elizabeth Hodgkins DVM – she explains well why the renal food is a joke – that was a minor study done decades ago based on something for dogs (thats the short of it) and giving these cats these low protein foods do more harm than good –
      Find some groups online that deal with renal cats they will help your thru some of these issues

    4. Nancy

      Jerry, have you tried taking your cat to a holistic vet versed in homeopathy and traditional Chinese medicine. I have a chronically ill cat also and they have worked wonders. Also the quality of the food is very important as well.

    5. Barb

      I have had two very bad experiences with prescription food. The first was with my yellow lab that had skin allergies. The vet recommended a Science Diet prescription food. I trusted my vet and fed this to my dog for 3 years. He ended up getting cancer and died at age 7. I finally did research on the food and it was preserved with BHA,BHT and ethoxyquin. I have no doubt that the food gave my dog cancer. A few years later we got a Beagle pup who had giardia. Again, the vet recommended a Science Diet prescription food. I did the research right away on this food and it was awful, barely any nutrition in the food. I printed off the results and took it into my vet. He was shocked and outraged at the results. He had no idea how bad the food was. The vets just don’t seem to be aware of how bad prescription food is. So do your own research on food, lotsof sites out there to help you and find a holistic vet if possible.

  3. june lay

    Pet food companies market their food to vets, and to breeders in the same way that pharmaceutical companies market to doctors. They present their own research, and unfortunately their marketing materials are quite impressive. One interesting thing to me is that the so called special diet foods may be fornulated for the special medical need, but that does not mean the quality of ingredients is what they tout, nor the process by which these foods are made.

    I wish I knew what I know now, I would have cooked for my companions years ago. I do now. PS it is important that home cooked recipes are carefully formulated!

  4. Laurie Matson

    Very, Terribly Unethical !!!

  5. Holly Priestley

    Is this any worse than all the meals and incentives given physicians by all the drug companies? I always see pharmaceutical reps carrying in trays of warm and cold food when I am at my doctor’s office. If Vets really understood canine and feline nutrition (plus all the other animals they tend) I think they would reject a lot of the script foods and even recommend that their clients cook for their animals … then again, a lot of people just want to open a bag, sometimes add some canned food or other moisture and be done with it. Pet owners just don’t understand either ….

    1. Jeri

      I completely agree with this. I don’t believe that there is anything wonderful or healthy about the special Rx diets. They may control a health problem — but they will not do anything to solve it. On the other hand, I’ve seen and read of many health issues which have been CURED — yes, CURED — by raw diets. I don’t want my pets’ health issues “managed”. I want them resolved. Pet owners have to come to the place where they ask the pertinent questions and seek out those answers and refuse to accept “management” in lieu of resolution.



  7. Mollie Morrissette

    This smacks of coercion and enticement. It makes me ill to look at it. Blech.

  8. Mary ann Kramer

    This is nothing new. I have been in this industry for over 25 years and this has always been the practice of prescription diet manufacturers. And I am sure there are other incentives for the big box stores to carry manufacturers products that are not offered to the independents. In fact, about ten years ago I actually had proof of this and confronted a manufacturer sales rep but of course it was denied.

  9. Susan

    Before retiring, I worked in the veterinary pharmaceutical distribution field. Incentives have been offered to not only veterinarians but also technicians, sales representatives and company upper management for many, many years. They may be called incentives, spiffs, rebates, etc. and can be quite lucrative. Veterinarians can receive prizes as mentioned in Purina’s ad or sometimes cash rebates or free goods. Sales representatives both on the company level and sometimes the practice level (technicians, assistants, groomers, etc.) can receive cash, trips, cars or other valuable prizes to push a particular product. Just a few extreme examples … one year a dermatology products manufacture offered salt water cultured pearls necklaces if you reached a certain level selling one of their shampoo lines. Another company gave away Corvettes to the sales representatives with the highest sales of their product line. Another manufacturer gave away Rolex watches if one reached a certain level in selling or purchasing their antibiotic. Trips to exotic resorts were also common. Both drug manufactures and diet manufactures offered these programs.

    I often wonder when a veterinarian prescribes a particular brand name drug or tries to sell me a specific brand of diet, if they are doing so because they feel that it is the best option for my pet or do they have some other incentive to choose this particular product?

  10. Ken Kalligher

    I am not surprised by incentives offered by manufacturers to retailers of any of their products. After all, human food and drug companies offer medical institutions and distributors endless perks to promote their food and drugs. I don’t accept that, but I am not surprised. I guess I am more alarmed that Veterinarians take the bait. To me, it just amplifies the need for pet owners to research, not only foods, but all practices vets employ to increase their sales; this would include drugs and vaccinations.
    I have become so disillutioned by the pet industry that I have returned to raw preparation of all my foods for all my pets. I have increasing suspicion of vets and am very careful to do my homework on any advice. I would never purchase any pet food offered for sale in a vets office and avoid most of the “recommended” prophylactics that are standard of care by vets today. There is no question that vets are the last place to get food recommendations.

  11. Jude

    This makes me sick. My three angels, one cockapoo and two miniature poodles, have been on prescription I/D food for years, since the cockapoo got an ailment that really was never officially diagnosed but thought to be perhaps pancreatitis. Spent a week in the hospital on iv fluids and meds. I was told never to feed her anything but the I/d in case the problem would reoccur. Had to feed them all the same thing since they eat each other’s food, thus the reason for them all to eat the prescription food. Costs a mint, but they mean the world to me.

    I am ill to think this might not be best for them. Where to turn other than the vet for advice when you have a problem child? I’m afraid to give her anything for fear she may get sick again, though it has been 4-5 years since.

      1. Jude

        Thank you so much, Susan. You are absolutely the best. I admire you so much for what you do.

    1. Jeri

      I HIGHLY recommend you check out holistic vet Karen Becker’s site. Here are some links you might find helpful (notice the references to pancreatitis) :

      I also echo another poster’s recommendation for Karen Becker’s “how to” book for home-cooking and raw feeding (Healthy Food for Dogs and Cats). You can get it on the mercola site, cited in the links, or from Amazon — probably other places, too. There ARE options, but please don’t settle for a sub-par poor quality “Rx” diet that your vet has scared you into using! Your animal deserves better and you deserve answers!

    2. Pacific Sun

      I have an older Miniature Poodle who had two cases of Pancreatitis. He has always been allergic to chicken too. These kind of dogs can’t handle fat. To allow for recovery the Vet said feed rice & non-fat cottage cheese or RC/Iams I/D. But how much “fortifying” nutrition is that long term?? The only protein source in the prescription food is PORK BY-PRODUCTS (yikes!). You don’t want to know what else it contains! But, yes, it is a “low fat prescription” food. The problem is, when your dog is THIS sick (a very painful and expensive condition to recover from), people get scared into doing absolutely anything for a remedy. The real secret however is doing any of the following. Eliminating whole fatty foods, people-food treats, using a lower ratio kibble* (26/10) using leanest possible real meat, non-fat yogurt (FAGE is an excellent protein addition) cooked egg white, and cooked oatmeal (for consistently formed stools.) If your dog has recovered enough to handle RAW, then that’s something to try as well. My Poodle could eat raw without a problem. It helps to make sure it’s clean, safe (and ideally organic).
      * If you want the kibble recommendation, just let me know. It is fabulous!!

  12. Regina

    I have a friend who got a cat from someone else. The cat was overweight because it had always been given crap food, and plenty of it. When my friend to the cat to the vet, the vet tried to get my friend to sign up for the prescription weight-loss food program. My friend asked what was in the food, and the vet just kept saying that it would help the cat lose weight. My friend kept asking, the vet finally said he could go to the website to look at the ingredients of the food (yeah, after signing up and committing to it, THEN you find out what’s in it???)

    Well, my friend knew that he wasn’t going to get the prescription food, because he was already feeding his original cat a holistic diet that had worked so well. He knew that once he got the new cat on the same food, the weight would come off while the cat was getting real food, and not the crap trifecta of corn-wheat-soy that had caused the weight problems to begin with.

    This cat has now lost weight, and his coat is absolutely silky, and my friend has found a new vet.

    I will not take nutrition advice from someone who is being paid to give me crap food that doesn’t even have any meat in it. If a vet does not understand that cats are obligate carnivores, and thus should be fed a meat-based diet, I’m not sure how much I would trust the vet on other matters.

  13. Jo Singer

    How about the “breed specific” diets now being peddled by Royal Canin? If you have a Persian- they have the “correct”diet for the breed, etc.

    Give me a break! What will they think of next? I suppose food for blue-eyed cats- odd-eyed cats? There must be a fortune in store for this type of marketing..

    Please don’t steal my idea..

    Happy Mew Year to all.. and good food for kitties is simply not that difficult- just avoid all the hype. Thanks for this great article Susan!

  14. Peter

    Take the information on this site and read the labels on the prescription foods… there are a lot of things in them that you’d never want to feed your dog or cat.

  15. Janet Velenovsky

    For many, many reasons, I have come to view Purina as devoid of ethics. Their sole focus is on market share and revenue. As Mollie said, it makes me ill to see how glossy, slick, and lacking in care of animals they are.

  16. Allison

    When I was studying veterinary medecine Royal Canin had this website nutrition ‘training’ session we had to do and after they sent us all this free stuff and coupons for free food. Also when I worked in a clinic reps would come and have sessions on their dental diets we had to attend and then we were to try to sell their products to earn prizes just like what was shown above! And they made me attend these sessions it was not optional. Dental diets are the biggest scam EVER!! My dogs eat raw and their teeth are whiter and shinier than mine! No dog or cat should ever require a dental cleaning…it’s because of the crap they eat. Throw a few raw bones into the diet and ‘miracles’ happen…why? Maybe because that’s what they should be eating!! Urgh Rx foods make me angrier than anything else these days. I’m fighting to show people the truth. Rx allergy diets made out of 100% grains and preservatives with no meat?! Give me a break.

  17. Ellie L

    I understand that some pets do need special diets due to disease or defects in their digestive system but I honestly don’t see how a hardened paste of mostly unnatural ingredients would be helpful to a sick pet.It may temporarily maintain the pet but it is certainly not healthy.

    Wouldn’t it make more sense for a doctor to send home a recipes for food that a pet owner can make from healthy ingredients to help their sick pet? Our society has gotten so far from the produce department and natural meat section that it never occurs to a pet owner to even consider real food as a possible alternative to mass produced over processed “stuff.” (I can’t identify it as food)

    Are the vets so unaware of what a healthy diet is or do they benefit so much from the deception that they don’t care?

  18. Angela

    It is as ethical as an Orthopedic Surgeon(s) owning their own Physical Therapy practice… Meaning you refer your own patients to your own PT practice… so you can make $$$. You should be sending them to the best PT practice regardless if you make $$ or not… The patient comes first!… like the animals (dogs, cats, birds….) should be put first before the Vet’s pockets!!.. NOT ethical at all!!!

  19. Carrie

    100% conflict of interest.

    Sadly same thing happens with MD’s – it is just hidden into “trips” to learn more about their drugs which happen to be on exotic islands, etc.

    Am now just learning about how bad the Prescription Diet is that my cat must supposedly be on to stay alive. Am thankful to have found a pet store owner who is really educated and for your website as I am starting now to wean him off.

  20. Patricks

    It is all marketing techniques to sale pet food to veterinarians. It is not ethical at all.

  21. aimee


    In answer to your question: Is it ethical for a veterinary practice to accept “rewards” for increasing their sales of prescription pet foods? I would say it is not.

    But this program doesn’t have anything to do with the practice getting rewards for increasing their sales of prescription pet foods.

    The practice gets a “reward” for increasing their purchases of product. This is no different from any other sales promotion. For example: “Buy 5 get the 6th free”. Except in the case the “sixth” is a coffee maker or what ever. The clinic may sell the product it bought, give it away, store it,or feed it to pets in their care etc.

    From the program “details” it is very clear that it is clinic purchases that qualify them for the item.

    It has nothing to do with increasing sales.

    “Sales to eligible clinics of the eligible Purina Veterinary Diets® products listed above will be monitored during each of the Quarterly Program Periods (Q3 & Q4). Clinics will receive periodic updates from the Purina Veterinary Diets® sales team via telephone or in-person.”

    1. Pacific Sun

      Well I think the promotion is really aimed towards keeping the loyalty of the Vet Practice to one company over another. My Vet happens to sell competing brand name Rx food, and they don’t “push” prescription diets unless the owner doesn’t know what else to do. However in this case Purina wants to be the exclusive supplier and so encourages their professional clients to focus on the one brand. A Vet Practice would have to fairly unethical to begin with, to say, we “have” to “sell” 10 more cases of Rx diet this month to anyone who comes through the door, just for the flat screen TV!! And if that were actually the case, then clients would have much bigger problems with treatment and case evaluations with that kind of Practice to begin with! Once a Vet Practice buys into the notion of Rx PF (and it can be necessary for owners who have no nutritional experience) it’s fair to think they “could” be compensated as long as the individual Vet is being honest and open about all nutritional therapy options (including referrals to holistic vet care!) Unlikely, probably. But the secret to most progess is education! Vets must be encouraged to be able to answer increasingly educated owners’ questions about diet, nutrition and therapy treatments!!

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