Can you really trust a veterinarian when it comes to providing your dog with food? The dilemma crossed my path many years ago when a friend’s dog was diagnosed with irritable bowel disease. The dog, an active and energetic then 6-year-old mixed breed had a history of vomiting and diarrhea, particularly within hours of eating. Only after trial and error, changing foods, and experimenting with what did and did not work, the dog ended up at a veterinary clinic with a diagnosis of irritable bowel disease (IBD).
“Carol, should I really give my dog a food that the vet says I can only get from her,” my friend asked.
The Carol then told her to do whatever her veterinarian suggested, particularly since the dog had such a sensitive stomach.
Meet the Carol of today. In some cases a veterinarian-prescribed diet is exactly what your dog should eat, especially if the food is only available from a veterinarian. If my dog were diagnosed with IBD and/or if a veterinarian recommended my dog only eat a diet he or she prescribes, I would seek the services of a veterinary nutritionist.
Here are the 8 realities of feeding your dog a diet sold exclusively by a veterinarian, separating the fact from the fiction. See how many of these surprise you:
In some cases the food being prescribed by the veterinarian can be purchased elsewhere at a much lower price. I happen to purchase some products prescribed by my dog’s vet from my dog’s vet. I want to help keep him in business because we adore him and his services. Most foods can, however, be purchased elsewhere. You are probably paying for convenience when purchasing the food from the vet.
Some veterinarians sell dog food in addition to other products as a service and convenience to their clients. Our vet sells a dog food that is not easy to find but is readily available at his clinic.
Some diets sold by your dog’s veterinarian may contain protein from grains or grain by-product sources such as corn gluten meal, brewer’s rice, and wheat, and not from healthy meat sources. According to Dr. Jean in an article for Only Natural Pet, “The high grain content of many pet foods is a primary contributor to the growing obesity and allergy problems in pets (this does not mean that all grains are bad for dogs and cats).”
Learn to read a label. Even if the veterinarian carries the food, always read the label. Human grade bears little, if any, trust on a pet food label. If a product for dogs claims “the purchaser can eat it,” this is false as there are no legal mandates in place. The same goes for “human quality” labeling. No regulations required. Click here for complete details on how to read a pet food label.
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The best food to feed your dog is the one that works for your dog. One of my friends fed her dog a diet of generic “dog chow” her whole life and that dog passed peacefully at the age of 17. Other folks struggle with the right food for their dog. The right food for your dog is the one that works for your individual dog. If that food happens to be vet prescribed, then so be it.
There is no one brand that is the best dog food for your pooch to eat. I feed my dog a dehydrated diet from The Honest Kitchen and mix in a combination of pure cooked organic meat with Dr. Harvey’s Veg-to-Bowl mix. I like the variety and it works for my dog. A bag or case of dog food purchased from the vet does not necessarily make it a better food; it could, however, be the best food for your dog’s needs at the time.
What Really Works
My last Cocker Spaniel had irritable bowel disease, and I recall the veterinary gastric specialist tell me to feed her a bland diet from a company whose bag did not feature a dog running through a field of flowers. I knew in my heart that my dog would never succumb to the cardboard tasting pellets in the bag. My dog consumed a canned and home cooked diet for most of her life, so switching her diet abruptly during an illness would never happen. At least not happily.
And Brandy would not eat the cardboard pellets. I know because I tried the pellets myself. My rule of thumb is that if I would eat it, my dog can eat it. It also was not the best food for her. She wasn’t wanting to even eat home-cooked food at that stage. I won’t give my dogs anything that I have not at least tried first when it comes to diet. And yes, I’ve tried The Honest Kitchen.
You can opt for a home-cooked diet for a dog with special needs: Just don’t do it alone. Formulate a diet that meets your dog’s specific nutritional and dietary needs at that stage and condition of their life. Google the term “veterinary nutritionist” and see how many results you get: It’s a lot. People care about what their pet consumes. There are nutritionists who are trained to help develop a dog’s diet, particularly with health issues in mind.
The elephant in the room when it comes to vet-prescribed diets seems to be kickbacks, the dreaded K word. There is a misconception that veterinarians will receive some form of financial and/or product compensation if they sell a certain quota of dog food made from bigger companies. To the best of our knowledge and in talking to a few veterinarians, this is not the case. More likely, a veterinarian will carry a particular brand or line of food. If the client purchases the food from him, he or she is likely to receive a commission on case or bag sold: the same way a retailer would.
Your dog needs a healthy, balanced diet that meets all their nutritional needs. Sometimes a health condition arises where the food must be changed. Dog parents are more savvy and more involved with the quality and type of ingredients their dogs are eating, and that includes you (especially if you got this far in the article).
Bottom line? You should always consult with your dog’s vet about a diet if there are medical issues involved. Seek the help of a veterinary nutritionist. Talk to other dog parents who have a dog with similar issues and find out what diet(s) are working for them. Be careful NOT to believe everything you read online or in message board forums. Always check with your dog’s vet and/or nutritionist before making any sudden changes in diet.
From the veterinary perspective, Rachel Sheppard provides her take on things as a former vet technician on her My Kid Has Paws blog, so click here to read that side of things.
Fidose of Reality and My Kid Has Paws provide our readers with a twice monthly “Medicine Vs Mom” series from the dog mom versus vet tech perspective.
Do you ever buy dog food directly from your veterinarian? Are there other topics you’d like to see us tackle? Bark back in the comments below.
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