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8 Secrets Before Buying Dog Food from the Veterinarian

veterinarian secrets

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:

Prices

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.

Grains

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).”

Labels

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.

Brand Realities

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.

dog cook

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.

Home-Cooked

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.

Kickbacks

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.

dog food
photo courtesy Felissa Elfenbein.

Balanced

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.

medicine versus mom

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.

Did you like this article? Read more here:

My Dog Hates the Vet

What Dog Product Labels Mean

Why Do Vet Bills Cost So Much

 

A dog lover of the highest order is how Gayle King introduced Carol Bryant, when she appeared with her Cocker Spaniel on Oprah Radio’s Gayle King show to dish dogs. Carol created and owns the trademark, My Heart Beats Dog® and lives that mantra. A 30-year veteran of the dog world, she is President of the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) and the 2020 DWAA winner for Best Dog Blog.

Comments

  1. MattieDog says

    Great write up – the best nutrition is one of the most important things a human can do for their fuzzy family member; and coordinating that nutrition with a caring and compassionate vet will help advance good food choices for your dog or cat (or whatever animal types you have in your home)!

  2. Jana Rade says

    When Cookie had pancreatitis we did decide to stick with the prescription food until it resolved. We did get from the vet. With something as serious and (fortunately in Cookie’s case) short term, I felt it was the safest way to go.

    Otherwise? It depends on the food. If the food is a good food and price is reasonable, why not? Our past vet has a web store which he still let’s me use. I don’t buy food there but other things. It’s actually cheaper that way than anywhere else, delivered to my doorstep.

    So IMO it all depends.

  3. Fur Everywhere says

    There is a lot of controversy over prescription pet foods, but like you say, I think you should feed something that works for your pet, as long as it meets his/her nutritional needs.

  4. Ellen says

    Very good article. I’ve always read the food label on my dogs’ food as my dogs suffer from food allergies. The food my vet recommended did not help with their allergies. When I decided to seek the help of a vet nutritionist, their allergies greatly improved. You are spot on with your info.

  5. Ruth Cox says

    It is so difficult to know what to feed my dog sometimes! I like your bottom line, personally, as well as the bottom line of the article.

    Currently, my dog continues to eat the brand he was fed for his 8 months in a shelter. It seems to cause no problems, so I have no plans to change it.

  6. Amanda says

    I’ve learned that some vets also have a super old school way of thinking AND they don’t know your animals like you do! These are fantastic suggestions.

  7. Amy Desrosiers says

    I actually had no idea my vet sold pet food? I suppose I should pay better attention this Sunday when we visit!

  8. MyDogLikes says

    When we really started looking into nutrition years ago someone I talked to asked me if I would trust my primary care physician to also be my nutritionist. I think like you said there are times what your vet prescribes is exactly right, other times though, I know there are specialists and research out there to get more information.

  9. Steve Pots says

    We had to buy food from the vet for one of the cats and boy was it expensive. Weird thing was the vet removed the labels from the cans. I asked and she swore there were never any labels but you could just make out the glue line where the labels were stuck.

  10. IttyBittyFoodies says

    I guess buying pet food from a vet is like buying products from your aesthetician. Sometimes I do find cheaper prices elsewhere but I do like to support a local business and if the product is good, I’m ok with purchasing it. Great points you made.

  11. Pam says

    We have always stayed away from buying food from the vet. Even our vet has let us know that the clinic she works for charges way too much and we can get similar products at the local Pet shop for much less.

  12. Debbie L. says

    I only feed all natural quality dog food. There is such a big difference in dog food – not everyone understands the differences. I totally agree not all dog foods work for all dogs.

  13. Maureen says

    Great Post! Rosa has a terrible allergy to protein. It took a long time to diagnose and a while to treat correctly. She now eats Royal Canine without vomiting. Rosa actually had biopsies of her stomach done in order to figure out what the problem was with her — protein allergy… even heart worm medication has a meat protein in it. Crazy!

  14. lisa says

    This is great info. We are lucky to have a vet that gives us alternatives to spending a lot of money and she is so reasonably priced. But thankfully we can get our dog food at Sams Club in bulk!

  15. Cape Cod Moms Blog says

    Great tips! Between kickbacks and the unknown it makes it hard to buy the food from the vet. We made the switch to preparing food for the animals ourselves. It is a little more work but the only one enjoying the kickbacks is us then 😉

  16. Amethyst Moon says

    Great tips! I often shy away from treats/food my vet sells because I assume they are just trying to sell me. I may reevaluate a little. I love my dogs and want to take good care of them.

  17. Carissa Bonham says

    We used to buy food from our vet but then we got a second dog and it was hard to keep their food separate so we decided to try feeding them the same food and it’s worked out for the last 6 years.

  18. Alix Mitchell says

    When I first started working at my vet clinic, all of my doctors were pushing me to feed a prescription hypoallergenic, hydrolyzed protein food (primarily Royal Canin’s) to my allergy dog. I just couldn’t get past the rather crappy ingredients and amount of grains. I was able to get his allergies under control with a raw diet. Needless to say, it’s a little awkward to adamantly disagree with the vets you work with for 8 hours+ a day, but when they saw how great my dog looked and was doing they stopped bringing the topic up. Sometimes you just really have to stick to your guns, because you really do know your pet best.

    • Carol Bryant says

      WOW that is fantastic – that is the same type of food a previous vet wanted me to feed my dog with IBD: the hydrolyzed protein for “better digestion.” It was like feeding her cardboard. Way to go with sticking to your guns. That is fantastic news that your dog’s allergies are under control.

  19. Johnny Shi says

    I didn’t know that grains could have a negative effect on weight gain. I am usually trying to help my dog stop gaining weight. Even though we take her on walks often, I know that diet is half the battle. These tips are useful. Thanks for sharing.

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