Why Your Dog Doesn’t Need That Expensive Prescription Diet

May 6, 2015


by  in Nutrition And Diet


I remember when, as a younger veterinarian, the reps who promoted prescription diets would say, “Be sure to tell your clients that the diet is not guaranteed to prevent recurrence of the condition. However, be sure the pet doesn’t eat anything else.” While one pet after another did have a recurrence, I began to question why a prescription diet was necessary, or for that matter, even a good idea! 

Now, it’s been well over a decade and I’ve run a successful holistic practice without using any prescription diets. We manage or cure disease with fresh, healthy species-appropriate diets.

High Price, Low Value

Recently a new client told me she had just purchased an eight pound bag of prescription diet for $28.00. I was aghast! It’s been awhile since I’ve been aware of how much these foods cost. I’m surely going to stop telling customers that raw foods cost more than kibble now! 

Despite the high cost, some prescription diets continue to include preservatives like ethoxyquin! Ethoxyquin is a dinosaur from the dark ages of kibble manufacturing. In the last decade or so, common sense and consumer pressure won out and cancer causing preservatives like BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin have disappeared from most premium, over the counter pet foods. At least they were removed from the foods targeted at pet owners who might take the time to look at the label. 

It’s an embarrassment that the foods that have continued to contain these toxic ingredients are those prescribed by the “most knowledgeable” segment of the pet community, the veterinarians. Why is it that pet owners are apparently the only ones looking at the label?

If anybody took anything more than a precursory glance at prescription food labels, they’d see how vast amounts of starchy, genetically modified (GMO) corn continues to be a staple. Excessive starch consumption contributes to obesity and predisposes pets to insulin resistance and diabetes. GMO corn exposes the gastrointestinal tract to pesticides and allows intestinal bacteria to become pesticide manufacturing plants, a potential cause of inflammatory bowel disease or even intestinal neoplasia: Mercola.Com

It’s sad to note that the only way we’ve been trained to judge the quality of dog food is stool consistency. While it could be a fair reflection of the digestibility of the nutrients in the food, in reality, pet food manufacturers know how to artificially thicken those stools by using ingredients like cellulose. Methylcellulose is a semi-synthetic complex carbohydrate that can absorb large quantities of water. It can work as a laxative with increased water consumption but without it, methylcellulose firms the stools: Orthomolecular.Org One of the most noticeable changes when switching from a prescription diet to raw food is the decrease in stool volume, due to a dramatic decrease in this waste ingredient. This would be a true indication of food digestibility!

Manufacturers of most prescription diets also caution against long-term feeding of their diets. Most of these diets are extremely restricted in specific nutrients and they are not intended to be fed long term, as significant deficiencies can develop. However, this caution is not commonly relayed to pet guardians.

Low Protein Diets And Kidney Disease

Perhaps the most detrimental of the prescription diet myths is the claim that a reduced protein diet must be fed to manage senior pets or those with kidney or liver disease. A well respected veterinary endocrinologist and author of a text book on how to home prepare balanced diets for pets, states that it’s important to NOT restrict protein content in pets with liver disease. She explains that as liver disease progresses, it will become necessary for muscle tissue to help clear metabolic waste. If protein has been restricted and muscle wasting has occurred, this function won’t be possible. Pets on low protein diets will succumb to the effects of toxin buildup in the body sooner rather than later, due to the loss of this muscle mass: Home-Prepared Dog And Cat Diets by Patricia Schenck

In my holistic practice I’ve successfully fed raw diets with large amounts of quality proteins to my liver and kidney patients for years. We combine each meal with probiotics and healthy amounts of blended greens to help remove waste protein (urea) through the feces. This blending, the presence of moisture, and the quality of the protein help limit the waste protein, which can become a burden to the compromised organs. 

In addition, a fresh diet containing a variety of nutrients, including bone with adequate calcium, can help to balance phosphorous. Phosphorous can damage the kidneys when present in excess quantities. Consumers have been misled to believe that high protein content is the issue but a raw diet consisting of large amounts of quality protein can help maintain muscle mass and is very palatable. 

Aging pets enjoy eating a variety of fresh, meat-based foods as their lives progress. Their health and bodies are more easily supported and repaired with nutrients from fresh, unprocessed foods, not those expensive prescription diets.

About Dr Jodie Gruenstern

Jodie Gruenstern DVM CVA has been practicing veterinary medicine in Muskego, Wisconsin since 1987. She is a certified veterinary acupuncturist and food therapist by the Chi Institute. Dr. Jodie is the owner of the Animal Doctor Holistic Veterinary Complex, an integrated, full-service small animal practice. For more info, healthy products or educational DVD, visit AnimalDoctorHolistic.com