Sunday, February 17, 2008

Deal or No Deal? Is Prescription Pet Food Worth it?

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.

Free Meter for Diabetics on Medicare


Anonymous said...

Hi Wifezilla -- we "had" to feed our cat Science Diet C/D after a rather tragic bout with cystitis (and a HUGE vet bill). I have, however, since switched to Inova EVO cat/kitten food to great effect. There are no grains in it and the protein sources are all palatable -- no byproducts. Our cat is healthier, losing weight (slowly -- no starvation diets for the kitty) and just seems younger overall! We call her the low carb kitty now. Yes it's more expensive, but cat's actually eat a lot less, so I think it balances out overall. Even if it does end up costing more, I think it's worth it for a healthier and happier cat (and hopefully no more huge vet bills).

Here's a quote from re: Innova EVO: "With its low carbohydrate - hi protein content, Evo is an excellent choice for kittens, obese cats, as well as cats with feline diabetes. Evo has also been used successfully for treating cats with Feline IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disorder) and for helping prevent the development of urinary struvite crystals found in FLUTD. (Its targeted pH level is around 6.2 to 6.4. Results will vary for individual cats.)"

BTW: This is Zbunny -- I forgot my google ID so I can't sign in

Wifezilla said...

Hi Bunny :D

My cats like the Innova EVO too. I do have them on canned only right now (grain-free of course) since Xena's weight loss stalled. She is now down another pound :D

Anonymous said...

It's Z again -- I'd like to just do canned, but my DH fears that doing so will limit our ability to "up-n-run-offt" whenever we feel like it. Do you have to feed twice per day with wet only? How much do you give?

We try to not have to leave her alone, but sometimes we go on an overnight trip and there's no one around to take care of her. With dry as a backup, we can leave her overnight without a problem. We currently give her about 1/3 can wet in the am and then dry feed the rest of the day -- and she can survive a second day without the wet. She eats much less of the innova dry than she has of previous dries -- I guess due to higher protein content. No more kitty karb kravings =)

Wifezilla said...

Since we never go anywhere, canned is not a problem. We give them a 5.5oz can in the morning and another at night. They share :D

If we do have to leave them alone, I have no problem giving them a low carb dry food. They might complain a bit, but they forgive quickly :D

TESS said...

I have been feeding my dog innova evo for a year now. It was a good choice as I don't have time to make up a raw diet for him. He likes it and he is really healthy and has a beutiful coat.It is expensive but I think he is worth the $2 a day it costs me and I don't have to worry about diabetes as it is low carb. I buy from pet food direct .com. was the best price I could find.Good luck with your kitty!

Anonymous said...

It has corn gluten as a main ingredient! I can't imagine that is good for cats (or people) with diabetes. The Wellness Grain Free or EVO cat food makes more sense and does not require a prescription.

Cynthia said...

I started feeding my cats Innova and EVO dry foods mixed ad libitum, plus two smallish servings of Fancy Feast grain free options. I have one 21 year old cat who only eats wet food and you can't feed just one cat. :)

Well, the three dry food eaters are all looking ever so much better. Usna is no longer a monster...he's lost about 4 lbs. Freyja's lost about 2-3 lbs. Odhinn didn't need to lose weight, but his bodycomp is looking so much better. They aren't eating quite so much and are much happier.

LC is the way to go for my me-wows.

Anna said...

I have a lot to day about cat diets, but instead I'll just suggest you check out or (ideally read both).

I have a 12 year old cat that started to gain weight and go into a slow decline at age 5 or 6. When my husband and I went low carb, I also started to question the cat's "meat flavored cereal diet". I tried grain-free Enova Evo, as well as a year of Wellness grain-free canned food. Yet the cat remained as fat and "declining" as ever. I was intrigued by the homemade raw diet, but didn't really want to commit to that. Ultimately, blood tests showed signs of Chronic Renal Failure. My vet recommended a Rx low protein kibble, and I just couldn't go that route.

I've been making our two cats' food for more than two years now and there is no way I could ever go back to commercial food. Even when I am tempted, the older cat hobbling down the stairs after two days of even premium canned food or the tainted ingredients from China and the horrors of the pet food sources (end of the garbage chain). He remained big (18 pounds) and somewhat arthritic, but his energy and behavior was better after only one week on the new food and his blood tests were normal after two months. The labs remain normal (no CRF) after two years. Needless to say, my vet was against the raw food. No one in my family has gotten food poisoning, but of course we use normal kitchen hygiene for raw poultry handling. Cats have such short carnivore guts that they are not prone to food illness.

Even with the heavy duty grinder purchase (wo I could grind bones, too, which paid for itself in less than a year compared to premium canned food at $3/day for two cats), making food isn't that much of a chore ( a bit more cutting work if I buy whole chickens instead of legs or leg parts). now that it is routine, I spend about 60-70 minutes incl cleanup, every 10 days so or so making cat food for two cats. I freeze it in 1 lb containers (lasts 1.5 days). nearly all the ingredients come from the same sources as my families food or a twice yearly vitamin buy. Without even skimping on ingredients (everything is a quality I would serve my family) my cost is under $3/pound and that lasts 1.5-2 days. I could scrimp more if I was willing to shop around and buy really cheap chicken from factory farms. But I figure I am not buying Rx food, nor am I going to the vet much (except the blood tests to check the progress). And the litter box for two cats is immensely better - feces dry quickly and are like coyote skat - no odor and totally inoffensive.

Ok, I said I had a lot to say but wasn't going to say it, and I did anyway. Seriously though, you might give this some thought. It's very plain to see that you think about food in an informed way. This is a natural extension - feeding carnivores a species appropriate diet, rather than the garbage from the industrial food complex (did I really put it that bluntly?).

Several friends have adopted this homemade food for their cats, too, after seeing how well my cats do with on it (it must be made properly - plain muscle meat is *not* balanced in nutrients). I have friends with elderly cats who have improved on this real food, as well as diarrhea-prone kittens who could not tolerate any kibble. If you are already buying expensive food, this shouldn't be more expensive. It might be more work, but not so much as you might imagine, especially since you are "comfortable" in the kitchen. Making raw cat food is not nearly as crazy as it sounds.

Tina said...

Great Blog, thanks for posting Im currently working on a group on facebook for the problems with prescription pet food/ :0