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Doctor’s Orders? The Truth About Whether Prescription Diets Are Really Better For Your Dog

Doctor’s Orders? The Truth About Whether Prescription Diets Are Really Better For Your Dog

Doctor’s Orders? The Truth About Whether Prescription Diets Are Really Better For Your Dog


In recent years, we’ve seen a huge rise in ‘prescription diets’ or ‘veterinary diets’. With big claims - and eye-watering price tags to match - these foods market themselves as the pinnacle of canine nutrition. The name, paired with the fact they’re often only available from vets, suggests that these foods contain medicinal powers to treat poorly pups. But is that really the case?


In this post, we’re going to vetting the claims made about prescription foods. By looking closely at exactly what’s on the labels, we’ll assess how much the veterinary recipes differ from other high-quality options you can buy elsewhere.


What Are Prescription Foods?


The truth is, ‘prescription food’ is a bit of a misnomer. Why? Because you absolutely do not need a prescription to buy it!

Also, most of them don’t actually contain any medicinal ingredients. They are often available solely through vets because the manufacturers choose not to sell them elsewhere. This clever marketing strategy gives the food an air of exclusivity and quality. After all, who could we trust more with our dog’s health than a vet?


Whilst there are a handful of prescription foods that contain active ingredients that make a difference for diagnosed health problems, most prescription foods are, in reality, just standard dog foods. Granted, some brands can offer better nutrition than the cheapest mass-produced kibbles. But this doesn’t necessarily make them better than other high-quality dry food options.


To put this to the test, let’s look at the labels on leading prescription foods and compare them to some of our bestsellers here at McDug Nutrition.


Hill’s Prescription Diet Vs. McDug


Perhaps the most popular prescription diet brand, vets across the UK recommend Hill’s for a range of canine health concerns such as gastrointestinal disorders, pancreatitis and bloating.


As well as being highly digestible, Hill’s also highlights that their food contains electrolytes - to replace losses caused by vomiting or diarrhoea - and antioxidants to neutralise free radicals.


Whilst that all sounds great, is it really unique to a prescription food? The answer is: not really. Electrolytes are found in abundance in any complete dog food whilst antioxidants must be added to all dry dog food to stop it from perishing.


Now, let’s take a closer look at the ingredients in the Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care Dog Food with Chicken:


Cereals, meat and animal derivatives (chicken 7%), eggs and egg derivatives, derivatives of vegetable origin, vegetable protein extracts, oils and fats, minerals, fruit, seeds. Highly digestible ingredients: Maize, brewers' rice, dried whole eggs, chicken and turkey meal, maize gluten meal, animal fat, vegetable oil.


You’re probably as surprised as we were to see cereals as the first ingredients on the list. As the cereal isn’t specified, this food wouldn’t be suitable for any dogs with known intolerances or allergies to difficult-to-digest grains such as wheat. .


Next up, let’s take a look at the all-important protein content. Meat and animal derivatives are listed as the second ingredient, yet chicken makes up only 7% of the recipe. It’s also in the form of meal - a cheap alternative to fresh meat that uses the parts of an animal unsuitable for human consumption.


Now, let’s compare to McDug’s Simply Good Chicken With Rice Adult Dog Food:

Chicken 29% (including Dried Chicken 26% & Chicken Fat 3%), Rice (26%), Barley, Oats, Beet Pulp (2%), Dried Fish, Brewers Yeast, Minerals, Vitamins, Yucca Extract (190 mg/kg)


You’ll notice straight away that, although our recipe contains grains, it leads with protein. The first ingredient is chicken, making up 29% of the overall recipe as a fantastic lean protein source. Rice, a gentle option for the digestive system, is added to create a balanced meal.


As it doesn’t contain any common allergens for dogs, our recipe is hypoallergenic and suitable for sensitive tummies. Wondering why we added yucca extract? This natural ingredient is thought to reduce stool odour - making owners happier too!


Royal Canin vs. McDug


Next up, let’s take a look at Royal Canin’s Gastrointestinal veterinary dry food, recommended for dogs suffering from diarrhoea and other stomach complaints:

Dehydrated poultry protein, rice, animal fats, wheat gluten, vegetable fibres, maize gluten, hydrolysed poultry liver, minerals, egg powder, beet pulp, fish oil, soya oil, yeasts products, psyllium husks and seeds (source of mucilaginous substances), fructo-oligosaccharides (0.48%), hydrolysed yeast.


Promisingly, the first ingredient is protein. Yet, we don’t know the percentage or the source as ‘poultry’ is a vague term. On their website, Royal Canin states that it uses chicken by-product meal in its products, meaning that this dehydrated protein is likely coming from low-grade sources.


For a gastrointestinal food, it’s a surprise to see wheat and maize so high on the list. Yet, because gluten is high-protein, some brands add it to inflate a food’s protein content - without the amino acids and digestible protein found in meat.


Let’s compare to McDug’s Nourish Grain Free Turkey with Sweet Potato & Cranberry.


Turkey 50% (including Freshly Prepared Turkey 28%, Dried Turkey 20% & Turkey Stock 2%), Sweet Potato (26%), Peas (9%), Potato, Beet Pulp, Linseed, Omega 3 Supplement, Minerals, Vitamins, Vegetable Stock, Cranberry (0.3%), FOS (96 mg/kg), MOS (24 mg/kg)


All of the protein in our recipe is animal-based, coming from low-fat, nutrient-rich turkey. We don’t do filler ingredients, preferring to get the carbohydrates and dietary fibre in our food from vegetable superfood sources.


Whilst we might not have ‘gastrointestinal’ in our name, our recipe offers sensitive digestion and includes prebiotics to contribute to a healthy gut. An omega 3 supplement also helps to keep skin and coat supple and healthy.


The Takeaway


Whilst overall the Royal Canin Gastrointestinal is more nutritious than the Hill’s i/d Digestive Care, it still includes filler grains and protein-inflating glutens to cut costs. Crucially, neither food included medicinal ingredients that would help to treat or soothe the specific health conditions they claim to target.


Owners may invest in prescription diets because - understandably - they want to provide their canine pals with the best available nutrition. But, the truth is, many brands offering ‘prescription foods’ are simply using clever marketing strategies to sell standard or even low-grade foods at eye-watering prices.


Whilst we’d never call ourselves a ‘prescription food’ here at McDug Nutrition, thinking about your dog’s health is at the centre of everything we do. By creating recipes packed full of lean protein, essential amino acids and vitamins, all of our foods are designed to support the vitality and health of your four-legged friends. Now, isn’t that exactly what the doctor (or vet!) ordered?

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