A Pile of Trouble?
There is a cosy relationship between the veterinarians and pet food manufacturers that undermines the independence of the vets and which compromises the quality of care that the vet provides. I am writing this from the point of view of the cat and, in this instance, I am thinking about UK veterinarians because I have first hand experience of them. The same probably happens in the USA where veterinarians are even more commercially minded.
Some vets in the UK have become the equivalent of a cat MacDonald's with rows of convenience foods, the cat equivalent of a Big Mac. Actually that is being unkind to MacDonald's because convenience dry cat food fed to a cat without any other type of food is not a good idea. This is not just me saying this but a growing number of consumers (and some vets) are coming forward to report what they feel are cat health problems associated with their cat's diet, perhaps the most common of which are:
- weight gain to the point where health is jeopardised
- urinary tract problems. Urinary problems are one of the most frequently diagnosed conditions in cats. Vets tell us "encourage your cat to drink more water"
These are just four health problems that come immediately to mind but it is not a comprehensive list.
I remember about 12 years ago or more going to my vet and after the usual yearly vaccinations (which I now realise are not always necessary) and on leaving the surgery he entered into his salesman routine, pointing to row upon row of Hills dried cat food and proclaiming how cheap it was to feed a cat on it (25 pence a day I think he said). As my cat was a bit overweight at the time he recommended r/d, which is more expensive that printer ink! He also recommended that my cat be fed the stuff permanently and exclusively. This is now considered unwise but I am sure many cat owners do exactly as the all wise veterinarian says.
You know the type of Hills food I mean, the c/d, r/d etc. stuff. It all sounds very scientific. It is even called "Science Diet". A group of marketing men invented that a number of years ago. I am sure that these marketing men decided then that the way to a pet owner's pocket was through the ever reliable and trustworthy veterinarian. There wasn't a better salesman anywhere. People believe the vet. They listen to the vet. What he says goes. Or it used to. Because once a veterinarian sells his soul to making a fast buck people start to stop listening.
The marketing plan was to link the science of veterinary work to cat food - hence the Science Diet name. Even the different labels are very scientific looking (the c/d etc. names all in lower case and a bit fiddly looking).
The beauty of Hills dry cat food (and of course all dry cat foods) is that it can stay on the vet's shelf almost indefinitely - good business that. And for Hills, the sales advantage is that row upon row of large bags of the stuff in vets waiting rooms gradually indoctrinate us into associating Hills cat food with health.
It all seems to perfect, win win and all that. The trouble is that is undermines the very foundation upon which the entire veterinary profession is built - trust supported by independent advice unfettered by a conflict of interest, the way it used to be.
I am told that the large pet food manufacturers are not content to simply try and indoctrinate us, the consumer. Through sponsoring veterinary colleges they also weasel their way into the minds of trainee veterinarians to the point were I expect that even the vets think perpetual dry cat food packed with carbohydrates is good for the cat. This is big brother (big business) running the world.
It is time for change. The vets should behave like doctors. Does a doctor's surgery look like a health shop? No. Lets have vets that do vet's work and nothing more. Regulations need to be in place that protects the animal because what is happening is the health of our cats is being subtly abused by the very people who have sworn to protect their well being.
And here is the really neat thing from the point of view of the vets and the pet food manufacturers. The food they sell causes illness (sometimes) and that inevitably means another visit to the vet. More money, more dry cat food, more insurance..but a less healthy cat. An abuse of the vulnerable by the powerful.
The cosy relationship between the veterinarians and pet food manufacturers must stop.
Hills Products - notice how long the list it is! I wonder what the actual difference is between each product:
- h/d - Heart Disease
- a/d - Accident recovery, weight gain
- c/d - Feline lower urinary tract disease and adult cat maintenance diet
- d/d - Allergic Skin Reactions
- w/d - Weight control for specific problems
- g/d - Geriatric Diet
- z/d - Food allergy
- i/d - Gastrointestinal diseases
- k/d - Kidney disease
- l/d - Liver disease
- m/d - Weight loss and diabetes management
- x/d - Oxalate crystals
- r/d - Obesity or hyperlipidemia
- s/d - Struvite crystals
- t/d - Dental disease and tartar prevention
The parent company of Hills is Colgate-Palmolive Company