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There’s a whole array of prescription dog foods out there. Several different brands now produce these specialized foods, just in case your dog develops any chronic health issues.

They’re really expensive, and your vet might recommend you feed one of these prescription diets for the rest of your dog’s life. So you need to know if it’s really worth it and whether prescription dog food is really necessary.

What makes prescription diets different? Is prescription dog food really better? Or is it just a rip-off?

I wanted to find out what’s so special about prescription diets. I started checking the ingredients in these pricey foods to see how they compare to regular dog foods you can buy at your local grocery store.

And here’s what I found …

Prescription Dog Food Vs Store Food

Here are two dog food labels. See if you can tell which one you think is the veterinary prescription food.

Food #1

iams-food-1

Food #2

iams-food2

If you haven’t noticed already, the top 5 ingredients in Food #1 are:

  1. Chicken by-product meal
  2. Corn meal
  3. Sorghum
  4. Barley
  5. Chicken

Moving along to Food #2, the top 5 ingredients are:

  1. Chicken by-product meal
  2. Sorghum
  3. Corn meal
  4. Chicken meal
  5. Barley

Both foods have the exact same top 5 ingredients, in a slightly different order … but nothing that gives away which one is the prescription dog food.

Here’s something that might help: the prescription diet is for joint care. So maybe the next few ingredients have something that’s good for joints. That should give us the answer.

If both foods are looking so alike by this point, doesn’t it make you wonder why you pay so much more for the prescription diet? And to that point, how the heck do you know what food to buy going forward? At Dog’s Naturally, we’ve taking these common two pain points to heart and have come up with a 3-part mini series to help. In this free video workshop, we literally hand you a simple calculation tool you can use on any pet food bag or can to determine whether or not your dog is getting the nutrients he requires – AND you’ll know right away whether that food is worth the extra $$$ or not!

Still The Same

Here’s a table showing the first NINE ingredients in both foods. With chicken flavor, dried beet pulp, chicken fat and dried egg product, we can STILL see that the primary ingredients in these foods are virtually the same.

iams-table

I’m guessing you still can’t tell which food is the prescription diet and which one isn’t.

Which Is Which?

Here’s the answer.

Food #1 Is Veterinary

It’s Iams Veterinary Formula Joint Plus Dry Dog Food.

At the time of this article, it was available on Chewy.com and the food retailed at $72 for a 30 lb bag. That works out to being $2.40 a pound.

Food #2 Is Regular Store Food

This food is also made by Iams. It’s their Premium Protection Senior Plus Dry Dog Food.

You can get this one at a big box retailer for approximately $29 for a 24.5 lb bag, or $1.18 a pound. That’s less than half the price of the Veterinary Formula.

What’s “Veterinary” About It?

So what makes the veterinary joint diet veterinary? Let’s look for some ingredients in this food that can help your dog’s joints. And we’ll see if they’re worth paying twice the price for.

Let’s go back to the ingredients to find out.

highlighted-ingredients

Skipping past the vitamins and minerals, since they’re about the same in both foods, I found the following additional ingredients:

Brewers Yeast

This is a source of B vitamins and actually a potential allergen. It’s in both foods.

Fish Oil

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which definitely reduce inflammation so might help your dog’s joints. But not if they’re rancid. Unfortunately fish oils are very unstable and they break down quickly when exposed to oxygen, heating and processing. And then they can do your dog more harm than good.

So even if the fats are sprayed onto the food after processing and aren’t heated, they’ll turn rancid and oxidize the moment that bag of food is opened – and they’ll actually increase inflammation. That’s ironic because they’re supposed to help joints, not hurt them!

Both foods contain this ingredient too, so that’s probably not the one that makes this a special joint formula.

(A great alternative to fish oil is coconut oil. Find out why here.)

The Mystery Prescription Ingredients

But there are four ingredients in the expensive prescription diet that aren’t in the regular senior food. They’re:

  • Flax meal
  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin
  • Marigold (also known as calendula, a herb that can soothe inflammation)

Are they really prescription ingredients?

Well, you can buy them in any  health food store, probably for less than the difference in the price of the two foods. They certainly aren’t ingredients that require a prescription.

The further down the ingredient list, the smaller the amount of the ingredients. And these ingredients are a long way down the list. That means there probably isn’t enough of them in the food to provide any therapeutic benefit for your dog’s joints.

These four ingredients also aren’t unique to prescription dog foods. Many over the counter formulas also contain them.

Save Your Money

Iams isn’t the only dog food maker who plays these tricks. This is just one example. We’ve found other nearly identical diets with different labels, made by a variety of different manufacturers.

If you think there’s anything special in most veterinary diets, then I hope I’ve just shattered that illusion. The main difference is how expensive they are.

Holistic veterinarian Dr Jodie Gruenstern calls them “High Price, Low Value!” Read what else Dr Gruenstern says about prescription dog foods.

It turns out these prescription dog foods are the biggest scam in the pet food industry – and believe me – there are a lot of scams in the pet food industry!

Read what some of our favorite veterinarians had to say when we gave them a bunch of ingredient labels and asked them to rank them, and to guess which one was the prescription diet!