Blue Prescription Dog Food Now Available
A leading brand in ‘natural’ pet food is now selling prescription diets. The “Natural” claim is one of the biggest selling points in pet food marketing and Blue Buffalo is taking advantage.
Blue Buffalo currently sells six dry kibble veterinary recipes for dogs for kidney support, food intolerance, weight management and urinary care, a separate weight management formula, and mobility, and gastrointestinal support, along with a novel protein diet.
They also sell three canned recipes for weight management and urinary care, kidney support, and gastrointestinal support.
If your dog is prescribed a veterinary diet, you might opt to choose Blue because their veterinary diets are labeled as natural.
Will evaluation of these formulas show that Blue Buffalo has raised the bar with these prescription diets?
First, we’ll analyze the ingredients and guaranteed analysis and look for potential health benefits.
The Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet GI Gastrointestinal Support Dry Dog Food comes with this description:
“Feed your pal the finest natural ingredients featured in Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet GI Gastrointestinal Support Dry Dog Food. Made with easily digestible ingredients from proteins, carbohydrates and fats to promote your pal’s optimal nutrient absorption. The veterinary diet contains prebiotic fibers to help balance and maintain your furry best friend’s healthy GI microflora. The healthy holistic formula contains vitamins E and C, plus antioxidant-rich ingredients including blueberries and cranberries to help support a healthy immune system.”
Now to uphold their claims, the food will need to be easily digestible, promote healthy bacteria in the gut, supply more than ordinary amounts of vitamins E and C, and contain a fairly large amount of berries to supply any real antioxidants from cooked food.
That’s a lot to ask of food cooked four times over!
If you haven’t yet read how kibble is made, now would be a good time to do so. “How is Kibble Made?”
Look for Beneficial Ingredients
Next, let’s take a look at the ingredients to see if they offer the benefits purported.
Ingredient List for Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet GI Gastrointestinal Support Dry Dog Food:
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Brown Rice, Peas, Potatoes, Dried Egg Product, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Pea Fiber, Canola Oil (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Dicalcium Phosphate, Pea Protein, Apple Pomace, Salt, Cranberries, Pumpkin, Dried Kelp, Dried Chicory Root, Potassium Chloride, Fish Oil, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Hydrolyzed Yeast, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, DL-Methionine, Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin E Supplement, Choline Chloride, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Vegetable Juice for color, Blueberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Biotin (Vitamin B7), L-Lysine, Vitamin A Supplement, Taurine, Dried Yeast, Zinc Sulfate, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Ferrous Sulfate, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Copper Sulfate, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Oil of Rosemary.
Underlined ingredients require evaluation to consider whether they meet the claims of the description or not.
Pay Attention To Protein
Starting with the ingredients that should fit the advertisement, this recipe includes Deboned Chicken, chicken meal, dried egg product, and pea protein as it’s sources of “easily digestible” proteins.
Unfortunately, the only two valid sources of easily digested proteins are the chicken.
Dried egg product may not be a high-quality product, and not much is known about this product for use in pet foods.
Pea protein does not contribute any complete proteins for your dog. This will require the dog to eat more protein overall to complete the protein chains necessary for bodily functions.
Pea protein, dehydrated alfalfa meal, alfalfa nutrient concentrate, DL-methionine, L-Lysine, and Taurine are all protein supplements that are less-easily digested. They make inferior supplementation to sufficient amounts of meat in the diet.
Dogs with sensitive digestive tracts (such as those who might be prescribed a gastrointestinal support veterinary diet) may have an especially difficult time digesting incomplete proteins from plant matter and synthetic supplements. This puts them at risk for protein deficiency which will halt the healing of the gut.
Further ingredients to notice include oatmeal, brown rice, peas, and potatoes which are all high carbohydrate foods.
Potatoes contain more pesticides per pound than any other crop, including several potent carcinogens.
Peas and rice contain high glycemic loads of sugars, lectins and phytic acid which collectively are called anti-nutrients. Anti-nutrients are little thieves that irritate the mucosal lining of the gut and interfere with the absorption of vitamins, minerals, other nutrients and the work of digestive enzymes – in effect stealing nutrition from your dog!
If you are feeding a dog in the process of healing GI issues, you certainly wouldn’t look for a diet that contains pesticides, carcinogens, high glycemic loads, anti-nutrients, and synthetic protein supplements. This is definitely a downside to this prescription diet.
Rancid Fats and A Synthetic Mineral
Next, on the list, we find canola oil and sodium selenite. Regarding the canola oil, this can be a highly toxic ingredient, which is a little-known fact among many pet owners and vets alike. The oil will oxidize and become a rancid serving of toxins before your dog ever sees it in his bowl. This will certainly compound any GI issues with further damage and complications.
Sodium selenite is the synthetic form of selenium, a vital mineral in the diet that works closely with vitamin E. Many cheaper dog foods use a natural form of selenium yeast which is better absorbed and lowers the risk for toxicity and deficiency.
Also, examine this guaranteed analysis. Even here we find nothing unusual about the percentages of protein, fat, fiber or moisture here compared to any other dog food.
So far our investigation of the Blue Buffalo ‘natural’ claim on a prescription diet hasn’t raised the bar very far.
Bowl of Inflammation Anyone?
How would a prescription GI support diet cause inflammation? The carbohydrate percent is very high, contributing 47% of the food!
This percentage is rather high for natural pet food, but not high for a prescription diet. In a recent past article, we saw that other brands of prescription dog foods can be as high as sixty percent carbohydrate.
These carbohydrates can be harmful to the digestive tract. This is especially important to consider if you are looking to put your dog on a natural prescription food for existing digestive issues. Some carbohydrate-rich foods irritate the gut lining and rapidly raise the blood sugar causing inflammation.
Excess consumption of starchy carbohydrates leads to increased food sensitivities and intolerances, allergies, leaky gut syndrome, yeast/bacterial skin infections and decreased immune function. Unfortunately, kibble cannot be made without these starchy carbs.
Nutrition for Dogs with GI Issues
Blue Buffalo’s prescription pet foods may not be the definition of “natural,” however, their prescription diets do have some benefits.
Their formulas use higher quality ingredients than some other prescription diets, avoiding ingredients like by-products and artificial flavors. The addition of antioxidants and extra supplementation of Vitamins E and C can be especially beneficial to immune-compromised dogs.
The accuracy of Blue Buffalo’s ‘natural’ claim is questionable though, as highly processed foods like kibble and canned recipes lose significant quantities of nutrients, like delicate proteins, antioxidants, and vitamins.
While Blue Buffalo has taken prescription pet foods to the doorway of more natural diets for specific health issues, prescription foods could certainly be taken all the way in the door.
If your dog is in need of a special diet for digestive issues, or any other health issue, we encourage you to find the best way to feed your dog to help him heal.
This might mean avoiding high-carbohydrate foods or specific allergens for your dog. If could mean making his meals easier to digest with fresh foods and digestive enzyme supplementation.
Dogs with digestive issues, skin problems, allergies, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, and other chronic health concerns often find relief when switched to a less processed diet. Options for less processed diets include fresh, frozen, homemade, raw, dehydrated, freeze-dried, and air-dried. For some dogs, replacing even just half their kibble or canned diet with a fresher food may give them relief.
Another way to help dogs with chronic health concerns through their food is the addition of superfoods. Check out our Healthy Additions series to find nutritious, healing foods that are safe for your dog!
– Cassy Kay
Learn more about prescription diets.