As I began my research in to low carb cat foods, I came across a type of Purina cat food (Purina DM) that appeared be something that might benefit my overweight cat. With 50% protein, 37% fat, and only 13% carbs, it was much closer to a cat's natural diet than regular commercial cat foods. The only problem was that Purina DM requires a prescription. So does Hill Science M/D brand with 43% protein, 44% fat and 13% carbs. These two formulations are designed specifically for cats with diabetes, so I thought that maybe there was some kind of medication added to the food. If there was, that would explain why you need a note from your doctor in order to get them.
A check of the ingredients set me straight...
Purina dry DM:
Poultry by-product meal, soy protein isolate, corn gluten meal, soy flakes, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), corn starch, phosphoric acid, calcium carbonate, brewers dried yeast, potassium chloride, fish oil, animal digest, tetra sodium pyrophosphate, DL-Methionine, taurine, choline chloride, powdered cellulose, salt, Vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, niacin, manganese sulfate, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, copper sulfate, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin B-12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), sodium selenite.
Hill's Science Diet dry m/d:
Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Pork Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Pork Protein Isolate, Powdered Cellulose, Brewers Rice, Ground Whole Grain Corn, Dried Egg Product, Chicken Liver Flavor, L-Lysine, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Sulfate, Choline Chloride, vitamins (L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Vitamin E Supplement, Taurine, Iodized Salt, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), L-Carnitine, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid, Beta Carotene, Rosemary Extract.
Do you see any medications in that list? Any antibiotics? Any insulin? Anything that might make you believe it requires a trained medical professional in order for you to purchase that food for your pet? Anything to justify the huge price tag? Me neither. Instead there are just the same ingredients, including unhealthy cereals and fillers (but in different proportions), found in the cheapest dry cat food at Walmart priced about 50¢ a ton.
Why would leaving out or reducing the level of these fillers bump the food in to prescription territory? Walmart and PetsMart already feature several types of non-prescription pet foods designed for a specific condition (hair ball control, digestive care, weight loss, senior, kitten, etc...), so why are some formulations by prescription only?
A British website provides the answer...
"Some pet foods are sold only through veterinary surgeons. This is not because they are POM [prescription only] medicines. In fact they are not medicines at all. Their use is restricted not by law but by a marketing decision by the manufacturer to restrict the supply of their products. They argue that this is because pets suffering from disease should be under the care of health care professionals and that the diets should only be used in the light of an accurate diagnosis."
As long as pet food manufacturers base their "prescription" food, even the low carb varieties, on grains and cereals, I can't take seriously their claim that they need to come from a vet. Any vet who has done their home work would never suggest CORN, SOY and WHEAT for a carnivore like my cat, or even an omnivore like the typical family dog. These prescription foods are no more than an easy profit center for vets and a steady income stream for the pet food manufacturers.
Fortunately, small pet food producers like Innova, Nature's Instinct, Core, Blue Buffalo and others have recognized the need for a pet food that is closer to a natural diet and offer low carb options. These foods also come at a premium, but at least they aren't pretending to be a "prescription" item. They are also much healthier in the case of the low carb varieties because they do not contain wheat and corn. So, without a prescription, you can get the high fat, high protein low carbohydrate food your cat needs, yet a prescription is required to get corn, wheat, soy and other garbage that should never pass the lips of your furry little carnivorous friend. Having a prescription for a low carb cat food makes as much sense as me having to go to the doctor to get a prescription for a mixed greens salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing and a piece of grilled fish while having cheap over the counter access to donuts and sugar coated breakfast cereal.
If your vet ever prescribes one of these foods, ask them specifically how this will benefit your pet and if there are other alternatives. Any recipes for homemade food? Would a raw diet be more beneficial? Different non-prescription brands than the ones they offer? An honest vet will give you the options and point out the pluses and minuses to each feeding method. A greedy quack will act insulted that you even asked these questions and didn't just blindly purchase their over-priced garbage. In that case, before shopping for unnecessarily expensive prescription pet food, you can just start shopping for a new vet.