Dogs & Laws

Prescription Pet Foods: Medically Necessary or a Marketing Con?

As pet owners, we want what’s best for our beloved companions. Many of us will spare no expense to ensure our animals are given everything they need to live a long, healthy, happy life. Is it so far-fetched, then, that major pet food manufacturer, retail, and veterinary conglomerates could be capitalizing on our passion for animals in order to line their own pockets?

A group of pet parents have recently filed a class-action lawsuit against pet food manufacturers Nestle Purina, Mars Petcare, and Hill’s Pet Nutrition, pet supply chain PetSmart, and veterinary chains Banfield Pet Hospital and BluePearl Vet with the intent to prove that all conspired with each other to falsely promote “prescription” pet food.

Specific pet foods involved in the claim include Hill’s Prescription Diet, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets, Royal Canin Veterinary Diet, and Iams Veterinary Formula.

Mars Petcare, the world’s largest seller of pet food, sells two of the four prescription pet food brands, operates Banfield Pet Hospitals in partnership with pet supply giant, PetSmart, and recently acquired the largest veterinarian hospital chain the United States, BluePearl Veterinary Hospital. Because of strategic partnerships, alliances, and mergers, Nestle Purina, Mars Petcare, and Hill’s Pet Nutrition are in position to influence nearly every aspect of your dog’s life.

The lawsuit does not make the claim that “prescription diets” are not effective in treating or managing certain health conditions. In fact, feeding certain prescription-only pet foods to an otherwise healthy pet could be detrimental. For example, a dog suffering from end-stage renal disease may be prescribed Hill’s k/d, a prescription only dog food that contains reduced protein, phosphorus, and sodium, but that same food would be entirely inappropriate for a healthy, growing dog.

The lawsuit does claim, however, that there is no reason for the above named brands of pet food to require a prescription, as they “contain no drug or other ingredient not also common in non-prescription pet food.” Therefore, according to the class action, selling the expensive pet food as requiring a prescription is unfair and deceptive under California consumer protection laws.

Requiring a written prescription to purchase a specific formulation of pet food implies that a non-prescription alternative does not exist and manipulates the pet owner into making costly purchases they might otherwise not have made.

“Retail consumers, including Plaintiffs, have overpaid and made purchases they otherwise would not have made on account of Defendants’ abuse and manipulation of the ‘prescription’ requirement,” according to the complaint (below).

The class action is brought by a group of plaintiffs, who all state that they own pets who were prescribed pet food manufactured by one of the defendants. The plaintiffs seek to represent a Class of “all persons in the United States who purchased Prescription Pet Food from PetSmart, Banfield Pet Hospital, Blue Pearl Vet Hospital, or any other Defendant.”

The PetSmart, Nestle Purina, Mars Prescription Pet Food Class Action Lawsuit is Tamara Moore, et al. v. Mars Petcare US Inc., et al., Case No. 3:16-cv-7001, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.



  1. Pingback: This Week in Review: 3 New Recalls, Beneful Lawsuit, Lifesaving DNA, Gearing up for Westminster, Hugging Dogs & More! – Dog Couture Country

  2. Frances

    Feb 13, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    One vet prescribe one of these junk prescription pet foods for one of my dogs that had bladder stones. It was mainly corn. Pure JUNK. I refused it, found some thing very close on protein and the other things that need to be restricted and the dog has been fine.

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