Do You Buy Pet Food From Any of These 6 Con Artists?

They're now embroiled in a class action lawsuit alleging that the companies are engaged in a con game, with your money and pets at risk.

And - that needing a prescription for what amounts to junk food is insane.

If your vet disagrees, it's time to find a new one.

Story at-a-glance

A class action lawsuit has been filed in California against several pet industry companies alleging they engaged in price fixing of “prescription” dog and cat food

The named defendants in the lawsuit are Mars Petcare, Nestlé Purina, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, PetSmart and Banfield and Blue Pearl pet hospitals

The suit alleges the pet diets in question contain no drugs or other substances that can’t be found in conventional pet diets, and therefore should not require a prescription from a veterinarian

The lawsuit further alleges that the defendants are colluding to market and selling pet food as prescription pet food to consumers at above-market prices

In other pet food legal news, a judge has dismissed a class action lawsuit against Purina’s Beneful dry dog food

I frequently discuss "prescription" pet diets in terms of the cheap, biologically inappropriate ingredients they contain, much like most other processed pet foods on the market.

I typically don’t talk as much about the high cost of these diets or the fact that there’s nothing in the majority of them that requires a prescription, because my focus is usually on the low-quality ingredients instead.

But if you’ve ever purchased one of these “special” dry or canned diets for a pet, you know how expensive they are.

And you might be interested to learn that a group of pet parents recently filed a class action lawsuit against several pet industry companies, alleging they engaged in price fixing of prescription dog and cat food in the U.S. in violation of anti-trust and consumer protection laws.

Defendants Include 6 of the Biggest Pet Industry Players

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California and lists the defendants as:
  1. Mars Petcare
  2. Hill’s Pet Nutrition
  3. Nestlé Purina Petcare
  4. Banfield Pet Hospital
  5. Blue Pearl Pet Hospital
  6. PetSmart
The plaintiffs, pet owners who purchased prescription diets from one or more of the companies, assert they conspired with each other to falsely promote “prescription” pet food.

The specific pet diets mentioned in the complaint include:
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet
  • Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets
  • Royal Canin Veterinary Diet
  • Iams Veterinary Formula
The complaint points out there’s no reason for the foods to require a prescription, since they contain no drug or other ingredient not commonly found in non-prescription pet diets.

The lawsuit further alleges:

“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.”

Lawsuit Accuses Big Pet Food of Abusing Their Dominant Position in the Marketplace

Mars PetCare is the largest supplier of pet food in the world. Nestlé Purina Petcare is in second place, and Hill’s Pet Nutrition is No. 4.

PetSmart is the largest pet supply chain in the U.S., Banfield is the largest veterinary clinic chain and Blue Pearl is the largest veterinary specialty and emergency care chain.

The lawsuit argues that these companies abuse their position as the biggest players in the industry to promote “prescription” diets for dogs and cats.

Veterinarians actually hand pet owners written prescriptions for a certain kind of pet food, and the pet owners go to PetSmart or another location to purchase the prescribed food.

These pet guardians, according to the complaint, are typical of people who consistently follow the advice and direction of medical professionals.

Why Is a Pet Product Containing No Drugs or Other Controlled Substances Being Sold by Prescription Only?

However, the “prescription” dog and cat diets manufactured by Mars, Purina and Hill’s are not evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because they don’t contain drugs or other controlled substances.

According to Tim Wall, writing for

“The case document states that the American public reasonably expects a prescription requirement implies that a substance is medically necessary, contains a drug, medicine or controlled ingredient, has been FDA evaluated and legally requires a prescription.

The plaintiffs allege that the prescription pet foods do not meet these criteria.”

The lawsuit asserts that the prescription requirement allows the defendants to “… market and sell Prescription Pet Food at well-above market prices that would not otherwise prevail in the absence of the Prescription Authorization.”

There are legitimate reasons why “prescription” diets for specific medical conditions should not be fed to healthy animals.

For instance, feeding a diet intentionally lower in protein and phosphorus may be warranted for end-stage kidney disease patients, but it would be a poor choice for healthy or growing animals.

The deception about “prescription” ingredients in the foods, for the most part, is legitimate.

There is one exception.

One human-grade, fresh pet food company producing medical diets that actually do contain therapeutic ingredients, such as Chitosan to bind phosphorus in their kidney formula.

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