Pet Food Partnering with Veterinary Schools

13 Sep

I just finished Marion Nestle’s book, “Feed Your Pet Right” and thought it was very helpful.  The book reiterated some things I learned in my Animal Science/Biochem/Chemistry courses at Mizzou, gave factual information on things I’ve observed at veterinary hospitals in my last 11 years as an assistant, and surprised me in some ways too.  The aspect I found most controversial and problematic (for me) as a wannabe veterinarian was the alliance between big pet food corporations and veterinarians.

From other veterinary blogs I’ve seen, the book is correct about the fact Hills sponsors a LOT of things at veterinary schools.  I have read about their logo being emblazoned on lab coats, notebooks, textbooks, etc.  And I have seen the Facebook posts from veterinary students that talk about the Hills sponsorship of one student and heavily discounted pet food for a lot more.  I wonder what the dollar amount of the pet food donations comes to at veterinary schools across the country. . .

Like the book, this concerns me.  Just like I don’t want the medical professionals to be bought off by large pharmaceutical companies, I do not want veterinarians influenced by pet food bribery.  I think veterinarians should be impartial about food branding especially given the dearth of Agricultural/Animal Science backgrounds and nutrition credits offered to vets.  Though the book makes a rational conclusion that veterinarians in practice must obviously promote certain brands (ie Science Diet) I have not found this to be true in my own experience.

It seems unbelievable to the public, but veterinarians find it a bother to retail ANY products in their hospitals–especially heavy food that is large to store.  It is troublesome keeping inventory on food, a bother to keep track of expiration dates, and a major headache to keep up with the ever-changing sizes and prices. Plus it makes hospital traffic dense when people just stop by at any (busy) time to purchase products.

No matter what anyone says–the real money makers at veterinary hospitals are the services rendered.  The doctors set those prices.  The rest of the prices are simple marked up minimally to cover the purchase price, shipping, labor to stock the stuff, etc.  Vets aren’t making huge sums on drugs/food/product.  It’s the long, involved surgeries or extended hospitalizations bringing in the big bucks.  I have worked at six different hospitals in three states catering to rural, urban, small animal, large animals, equine, and emergency clientele and not ONE of those practices focused on, or made a lot of money from, food.

To sum up:  It is concerning that Hills and other pet food companies are so deeply entrenched in veterinary schools.  It should be a priority to fund vet schools in a more impartial way (government) so vets can be unbiased.  Secondly, in my direct contact with a variety of veterinarians in many types of practice, in different states, they do not seems swayed by the corporations that helped fund their education.  And they certainly do not like, or depend upon product sales for income–it is a necessity driven by the owners (ie marketing).

check out Marion Nestle’s blog:  Food Politics

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