Sunday, March 6, 2011

Why I Hate Hill's Pet Nutrition

Years ago, the first vet's office I worked in fed Hill's Science or Prescription Diet to the animals in our care. I hated having pets boarded at our place, because I'd walk in and the whole office smelled like someone blew up an overfilled port a potty. Not that poop smells good, but this was worse than usual. And there was so much of it that the first order of the day was giving the boarding animals a bath before putting them back in a clean cage.
Years later, and thankfully the office I'm at doesn't feed Science Diet. We do, however, handle Prescription Diet, which are foods formulated for specific medical conditions that are purchased through vets. We also carry other brands, but my big bitch today is about Hill's.
Corn. I have always avoided pet food with corn, wheat and soy because they are allergens, and especially cheap fillers. Corn is the cheapest filler of all (not so much any more with the biodiesel demand) and the first ingredient listed in any cheap generic dog food. There are plenty of arguments about whether dogs are carnivores or omnivores (read more here) but the truth is, dogs do need a meat based diet. To paraphrase Hill's justification of corn being the first ingredient in their food "there is no scientific proof that corn is an allergen, cooked corn is highly digestible and a source of nutrients." Which I call BullShit. How many dogs and cats do you find in corn fields, shucking cobs of corn and munching on the kernels? They go into corn fields for 2 reasons: to kill and eat something that is eating corn, or to take a dump. As for the argument that "they are getting vegetables and grains from eating the stomach contents of their prey", it's not the first frickin' ingredient or the main source of their diet.
Price. If people want to feed their pets food with corn as the main ingredient, that's their choice. But they usually do it because it's less expensive. Most of Hill's products are priced the same as all meat grain free foods. Why feed Ol' Roy quality at Orijen prices? If I'm going to spend over $40 or $50 for a bag of dry food, it sure as hell better not contain any corn. Corn based foods make more poop. Which means one dog can make a small space into a mine field in the course of a day. That's some pricey poop to be picking up. Hill's has the contract to provide the food for several county animal shelters. When the taxpayer dollars are being spent on food for animals, the county is going to contract with whoever gives them the cheapest price, NOT the highest quality. I've been in some shelters before the kennels are cleaned and the smell is enough to make you gag. That's from cheap food.

Quality Control. No matter how careful, the wrong stuff can get into bags or cans of food, no matter who it's intended for. I've noticed out of what we sell, it's more than likely Hill's than any other product. Dry food with oil in the bags, burst cans. We promptly replace it or refund the pet owner, which brings me to

Customer Service. Hill's customer service sucks. Awhile back in our Hill's order we had several cases of canned food. These are like the short round cat food cans (not like the taller dog food cans) which are very flimsy and easily punctured. They are packed in counts of 24 on cardboard and wrapped in heavy plastic.  Several of the cases had cans that were dented or burst open, and one or two cases were draining green liquid. There was a distinct rotting meat smell. We promptly called Hill's Customer Service line. After being on hold for over 15 minutes, we were told to break open the cases and count how many cans in each case were burst, for which they would give us credit for the bad cans.
WTF? Since when is Hill's blatant lack of quality control in my job description?! They sell this stuff by the case to us, not the individual can.  There is no way in hell I'm going to split up a case of cans where some are open and oozing and sell what appears to be in my novice eyes an okay can and risk the health of a client's pet. That's a lawsuit waiting to happen, and there is no way I'd knowingly do something to risk a pet's health.

Royal Canin and Purina also sell prescription diet foods, in which corn is also a main ingredient.Which I'm obviously not crazy about. But, their quality control is exemplary. If there is a problem with a food, all bags in that lot are picked up at their expense, and replaced. They give immediate credit for expired or the rare problem food and don't expect us to do their jobs for them. There is plenty of room in the prescription diet industry to make quality food, and I'm hoping some other company will step up to the plate. I'm sure we're not the only office who would love to stop having to use Hill's.

Note: Whatever you're using to feed your pet, if it works and you're happy with it, great. I'm not going to get into a debate about feeding, since I'm not a qualified nutritionist and as always, your mileage may vary. I do have a ton of opinions (no kidding) and I think that we need to know what we're buying. I'm not going to buy a bag of crap for the price of a bag of choice steak, and I don't think you should do so either. So here's a great website to educate yourself about dog food ingredients so your choices are more informed: Dog Food Advisor


  1. Currently, I'm feeding my cats Solid Gold's Indigo Moon. My cats ( or actually the cats left in my house that their owners have left with me) are senior citizens (age 14 and 17), I also split out one can of Fancy Feast (because these old picky senior farts will actually eat it) per day. Besides Indigo Moon, I also like Taste of the Wild and Innova products, Not that cleaning litterboxes is fun, but why make it gag worthy? Cats are carnivoresby nature so it's a good thing to make sure their food is mostly (meat protien)