⚠ Important recall information appears below.
Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc. produces dog and cat foods under the labels Hill’s Prescription Diet, Hill’s Science Diet, Hill’s Healthy Advantage and Hill’s Bioactive Recipe. (A brand line called Hill’s Ideal Balance was discontinued in 2019.)
Hill’s Prescription Diet was created in 1948, but its roots go back even further than that. Today, it is available through veterinarians or authorized online retailers.
Below, we share information about the fascinating history of this pet food — plus up-to-date Hill’s Prescription Diet recall information going back many years.
Hill’s Prescription Diet Quick Facts
Brand line includes: Hill’s Prescription Diet a/d Urgent Care, Hill’s Prescription Diet b/d Brain Aging Care, Hill’s Prescription Diet c/d Urinary Care, Hill’s Prescription Diet d/d Skin/Food Sensitivities, Hill’s Prescription Diet g/d, Hill’s Prescription Diet h/d Heart Care, Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care, Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d Joint Care, Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care, Hill’s Prescription Diet l/d Liver Care, Hill’s Prescription Diet m/d, Hill’s Prescription Diet r/d, Hill’s Prescription Diet s/d, Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d Dental Care, Hill’s Prescription Diet u/d Urinary Care, Hill’s Prescription Diet y/d, Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d
Company: Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc. (a subsidiary of Colgate-Palmolive Company)
Headquarters: 400 SW 8th Ave #101, Topeka, KS 66603
Contact info: 1-800-445-5777, email, website
Hill’s Prescription Diet History
This pet food brand’s history is intertwined with the career of the first Seeing Eye dog, Buddy.
Buddy, guide dog to Morris Frank, a young blind man, developed kidney failure in the 1930s. Frank suspected that the dog’s health condition was the result of poor nutrition. So, he corresponded with lauded veterinarian Mark L. Morris Sr., DVM.
“Dr. Morris discovered that a lack of table scraps during these difficult years [of the Great Depression era] led many dog owners to turn to inexpensive commercial foods in order to feed their pets. The low-quality feed was contributing to kidney disease and failure,” according to the Morris Animal Foundation.
Dr. Morris and his wife set to work on a kidney diet recipe for dogs. They worked up the formula in their own kitchen.
The first consignment of renal dog food was shipped to Frank in glass jars. However, glass tends to break during transit, so Frank sent the Morrises a canning machine — as well as a commission for thousands of orders. After a while, Buddy’s health improved.
And that’s how the world’s first veterinary diet for dogs was born.
It was called Raritan Ration B. Its name was a nod to Raritan Township, the original name of Edison, New Jersey, where Dr. Morris had opened his animal hospital just a couple of years after earning his veterinary degree.
Raritan Ration B is the dog food that would become the basis for Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d Canine.
Groundbreaking Pet Food
As the Morris Animal Foundation notes, this was “the creation of something most pet owners now take for granted — the use of specially formulated diets to treat disease.… The vast selection of prescription diets now available for dogs and cats owe their origins to this remarkable clinician.”
Today’s Canine k/d is clinically proven to help pets live long, better lives and delay progression of kidney failure. A 2001 press release noted:
“[A] double-masked, randomized, 2-year study of 38 dogs concluded that dogs fed Prescription Diet k/d live twice as long as dogs fed a grocery dog food brand. At the study’s conclusion, 4 times as many dogs fed Prescription Diet k/d were still living. These dogs also were 50% less likely to suffer clinical signs associated with renal failure, such as vomiting, lethargy and loss of appetite.”
The Hill Name Is Added
With demand for his dog food growing, Dr. Morris was finding this to be a much bigger operation than a single canning machine and a husband-and-wife team could handle.
So in 1948, Dr. Morris took his Raritan Ration B dog food to the Hill Packing Company in Kansas for a dog food canning collaboration.
Founded in 1907 by a man named Burton Hill, Hill Packing Company had begun manufacturing dog food, as well as horse meat for human consumption, in 1930. Before that, the packing company was known as Hill Rendering Works.
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The collaboration worked out well for both Dr. Morris and Hill Packing Company. Dog foods emerging from the facility featured brand names like Hill’s Dog Food and Sky-Hy Dog Food, sold nationally.
We don’t know what was in the recipe for Raritan Ration B back in those days, but Hill’s Dog Food labels of the era featured ingredients like horse meat, horse meat byproducts, corn, wheat and something called “green bone,” which we think was a bone meal.
Soon, the company got a new name: Hill’s Pet Nutrition. And in the 1960s, Morris’s son, Mark Jr., who was also a veterinarian, expanded the business.
In 1968, Hill’s Pet Nutrition was acquired by Riviana Foods Inc., which immediately began work on bringing additional products to market, such as the Hill’s Science Diet brand line.
Hill’s began distributing its food via veterinary practices and other pet professionals. That would turn out to be a genius move.
As the Wall Street Journal noted in 1997, “Since almost everyone asks their vets what to start feeding a new pet, Hill’s cleverly has managed to steer billions its way with that all-important early recommendation.”
In 1976, Colgate-Palmolive purchased Riviana Foods, which included its highly profitable Hill’s Pet Nutrition subsidiary, in a deal valued at about $180 million.
Adweek, in a 1990 look back at that acquisition, said that until Colgate-Palmolive came along, Hill’s had just been “an obscure pet food maker … a tidy backdoor business, selling specialty foods for sick pets to veterinarians who would sell them in turn to pet owners.”
And now? As of 2020, Hill’s Pet Nutrition was the No. 4 pet food company in the world, with nearly $2.4 billion in annual revenue, according to data provided by Pet Food Industry.
Hill’s Prescription Diet Pet Food Innovations
Here is a quick list of some of the brand’s milestones over the past few decades:
- 1948: Dr. Morris partners with Hill Packing Company to can Canine k/d and Canine p/d, and works out a licensing agreement to produce his pet food formulas.
- 1949: Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d (for gastrointestinal disorders) and Hill’s Prescription Diet r/d (for obesity) are released for dogs.
- 1964: Hill’s Prescription Diet h/d (for pets with heart failure and heart disease) debuts.
- 1965: Hill’s Prescription Diet d/d is developed for pets with dermatological conditions associated with certain food allergies.
- 1971: The company develops Hill’s Prescription Diet c/d, intended for cats with lower urinary tract disease. This was followed by Hill’s Prescription Diet u/d, in 1977, and Hill’s Prescription Diet s/d, in 1981, both intended for dogs with certain urinary tract conditions.
- 1980s and 1990s: The Hill’s Prescription Diet pet food line continues to grow, with the launch of w/d (weight control and digestive troubles), a/d (assisted feeding and recovery), t/d (oral care) and z/d (food allergies).
- 1998: Hill’s Prescription Diet n/d is clinically proven to increase the survival time of dogs being treated for cancer.
- 2000s: Additional products introduced, including Hill’s Prescription Diet m/d (weight loss and diabetes control), j/d (mobility problems) and y/d (thyroid health).
- 2010s: Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic Advanced Weight Solution and Healthy Weight Protocol released, to help support weight loss. In 2014, the company launches Hill’s Prescription Diet Stews, a therapeutic canned pet food hailed as “a breakthrough in wet food technology.” The stews are said to use “a proprietary processing technique and natural ingredients.”
Dr. Jack Mara, DVM, who served as director of veterinary affairs at Hill’s for many years, said his job was about more than simply selling Hill’s products: “It was selling the human–animal bond to veterinarians and businessmen alike.”
“We love our pets, and each year more and more of us demonstrate a willingness to do anything within reason to keep them healthy and alive. That commitment ranges from major surgery to teeth cleaning,” Dr. Mara said. “Our profession has become extremely sophisticated the last quarter-century, thanks to new equipment and treatment techniques. But without a quality, balanced diet — and in some cases, Prescription Diet — pets’ lives will be shortened.”
In the next section below, we provide information about all known Hill’s Prescription Diet recalls over the years.
Has Hill’s Prescription Diet Ever Been Recalled?
Yes. Hill’s Prescription Diet has had 2 recalls that we are aware of.
Most recently, in January 2019, Hill’s Pet Nutrition issued a massive, worldwide recall of 33 different varieties of its canned dog foods — 22 million cans recalled in all — because of toxic levels of Vitamin D, which Hill’s blamed on a “supplier error.”
The recall included both the Hill’s Prescription Diet and Hill’s Science Diet brand lines. However, no dry foods, cat foods or pet treats were included in the recall.
Reportedly hundreds of dogs died after eating the affected dog food.
The other Hill’s Prescription Diet recall was about a decade earlier, in April 2007. That is when a single dry cat food — Hill’s Prescription Diet m/d Feline — was recalled as part of the massive 2007 Menu Foods/melamine recalls. “It is our priority to help consumers understand that there is only one product in question: Hill’s Prescription Diet m/d Feline dry food,” the company said on its website.
Complete details of every Hill’s Prescription Diet recall appear below.
This next one was not a recall, but way back in August 1987, a study published in the journal Science drew attention to the fact that thousands of cats had been dying every year from a form of heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), because of an apparent taurine deficiency in popular cat foods at the time.
In the study, researchers observed cats who were diagnosed with DCM and had been fed popular commercial cat foods such as:
- Hill’s Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Feline
- Hill’s Prescription Diet h/d
- Hill’s Science Diet Maintenance
- Purina Cat Chow
- 9Lives Beef and Liver
- Carnation Fancy Feast Beef and Liver
- Blue Mountain Kitty O’s
Taurine deficiencies observed in the cats seemed like too much of a coincidence. Clearly, cats needed more taurine than was being provided by the foods at the time.
By the time the groundbreaking Science article was published, pet food makers like Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Ralston Purina had already begun changing their recipes to include higher levels of taurine.
Again, no recall was ever issued, to our knowledge. However, the recipe reformulations brought about a dramatic decrease in the incidence of DCM in cats.
Next, we list the full details of every single Hill’s Prescription Diet recall.
List of Hill’s Prescription Diet Recalls
Cause: Elevated levels of Vitamin D. Announcement: FDA report dated Jan. 31, 2019 (archived here); company webpage updated May 15, 2019 (archived here). What was recalled: In the United States, the following Hill’s Prescription Diet canned dog foods were recalled:
- Hill’s Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Canine Chicken & Vegetable Stew, 12.5 oz., SKU #3384, Lot #092020T29, or 102020T10 or 102020T25
- Hill’s Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Urinary Care Chicken & Vegetable Stew, 5.5 oz., 24-pack, SKU #3388, Lot #102020T18
- Hill’s Prescription Diet g/d Canine, 13 oz., SKU #7006, Lot #092020T22, or 112020T19, or 112020T20
- Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Canine Chicken & Vegetable Stew, 12.5 oz., SKU #3389, Lot #092020T28, or 102020T24, or 102020T25, or 102020T04, or 102020T10, or 102020T19, or 102020T20, or 102020T21
- Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Canine Chicken & Vegetable Stew, 5.5 oz., SKU #3390, Lot #102020T11, or 112020T23, or 122020T07
- Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Low Fat Canine Rice, Vegetable & Chicken Stew, 12.5 oz., SKU #10423, Lot #092020T27, or 092020T28, or 092020T24, or 102020T17, or 102020T19, or 112020T04
- Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Low Fat Canine Rice, Vegetable & Chicken Stew, 5.5 oz., 24-pack, SKU #3391, Lot #092020T27
- Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Canine, 13 oz., SKU #7008, Lot #092020T21, or 092020T30, or 102020T07, or 102020T11, or 112020T22, or 112020T23
- Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d Canine, 13 oz., SKU #7009, Lot #112020T20
- Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d Canine, 13 oz., SKU #7010, Lot #102020T10 or 102020T11
- Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d Kidney Care With Lamb, 13 oz., 12-pack, SKU #2697, Lot #102020T25
- Hill’s Prescription Diet r/d Canine, 12.3 oz. cans, 12-pack, SKU #7014, Lot #092020T28, or 102020T27, or 102020T28
- Hill’s Prescription Diet w/d Canine, 13 oz., SKU #7017, Lot #102020T24, or 102020T25, or 112020T09, or 112020T10, or 092020T30, or 102020T11, or 102020T12
- Hill’s Prescription Diet w/d Canine Vegetable & Chicken Stew, 12.5 oz., SKU #10129, Lot #112020T11, or 112020T05, or 102020T04, or 102020T21
- Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Canine, 13 oz., SKU #7018, Lot #102020T04 or 112020T22
- Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Canine, 5.5 oz., SKU #5403, Lot #102020T17 or 112020T22
- Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic + Mobility Canine Vegetable & Tuna Stew, 12.5 oz., SKU #10086, Lot #102020T05 or 102020T26
- Hill’s Prescription Diet Derm Defense Canine Chicken & Vegetable Stew, 12.5 oz., SKU #10509, Lot #102020T05
Note that Hill’s Science Diet canned dog food was also recalled. See our Science Diet page for details.
Of special note to anyone outside the United States:
“Impacted products outside of the United States will be subject to separate notices on the country-specific website. If you are outside of the United States, please check your own country’s Hill’s website for more information.”
Cause: Melamine. Announcement: Company announcement dated April 1, 2007 (archived here). What was recalled: Hill’s Prescription Diet m/d Feline dry cat food, sold in 4 lb. and 10 lb. bags.
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Have You Had a Problem With Hill’s Prescription Diet?
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- “Hill’s Ideal Balance: Order Forms Effective July 2019.” Hill’s Pet Nutrition. May 31, 2019. https://www.hillsretailorder.com/medias/sys_master/root/h7f/hff/9203118047262/Ideal-Balance-Form-Q3-2019-HRO.pdf.
- “Our History.” Hill’s Pet Nutrition. https://www.hillspet.com/about-us/our-company/hills-pet-nutrition-history.
- “History.” The Seeing Eye. https://www.seeingeye.org/about-us/history.html.
- “Dr. Morris’s Ideas and Innovations Continue to Positively Impact Pet Lives.” Morris Animal Foundation. Dec. 28, 2017. https://www.morrisanimalfoundation.org/article/dr-morriss-ideas-and-innovations-continue-positively-impact-pet-lives.
- Howe, Marvine. “Mark L. Morris, 92, a Developer of Diets for Cats and Dogs.” New York Times. July 13, 1993. https://www.nytimes.com/1993/07/13/obituaries/mark-l-morris-92-a-developer-of-diets-for-cats-and-dogs.html.
- Burns, Katie. “Legends: Innovator in Nutrition.” American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Sept. 1, 2013. https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2013-09-01/legends-innovator-nutrition.
- “Who We Are.” Raritan Animal Hospital. http://www.raritananimalhospital.com/locations/new-jersey/edison-raritan-animal-hospital/about-us-who-we-are.
- “Celebrating the Vision of Dr. Mark L. Morris Sr. During Our History Month.” Morris Animal Foundation. Aug. 11, 2016. https://caninelifetimehealth.org/all/general-interest/celebrating-the-vision-of-dr-mark-l-morris-sr-during-our-history-month/.
- “Hill’s Pet Nutrition Company Fact Sheet.” 2013. Cision. http://www.multivu.com/assets/7156751/documents/7156751-Hill-Company-Fact-Sheet-Timeline-original.pdf.
- “Prescription Diet Canine k/d Is Only Product Clinically Proven to Extend and Improve Quality of Life; First Therapeutic Pet Food Still Best Treatment for Pets Battling Renal Failure.” PR Newsire. July 26, 2001.
- “President of Hill Packing Company Dies.” Estherville (Iowa) Daily News. Sept. 18, 1962. https://www.newspapers.com/image/?clipping_id=140426&fcf.
- “The President of The Hill Packing Company.” Builders of Topeka. 1956. 114. https://images.findagrave.com/photos/2012/341/67624323_135488896188.jpg.
- Parker-Pope, Tara. “Colgate Gives Doctors Treats for Plugging Its Food Brands. Wall Street Journal. No. 3, 1997. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB878509979865406000.
- “Riviana Foods Inc. History.” Funding Universe. http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/riviana-foods-inc-history/.
- Ng, Serena. “Pet-Food Brand’s Image Bites Back Colgate.” Wall Street Journal. Feb. 5, 2013. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324761004578281832634101580.
- Bird, Laura. “Iams and Hill’s Wage a High-Fiber, Low-Cal War Against Ralston Purina and Carnation.” Adweek. Oct. 1, 1990.
- “Top Pet Food Companies Current Data.” Pet Food Industry. 2020. https://www.petfoodindustry.com/directories/211-top-pet-food-companies.
- “Q1 2014 ColgatePalmolive Earnings Conference Call.” FD (Fair Disclosure) Wire. April 25, 2014.
- Green, Ranny. “Dr. Jack Mara: A Leader in Exploring the Role of Diet in the Health of Dogs and Cats.” The Seattle Times. Nov. 12, 2000.
- “Melamine Pet Food Recall of 2007.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/recalls-withdrawals/melamine-pet-food-recall-2007.
- “Hill’s Opens Call Centers.” Topeka (Kansas) Capital Journal. April 6, 2007.
- Maugh, Thomas H. II. “Thousands of Cat Deaths Traced to Pet Food Deficiency.” Los Angeles Times. Aug. 14, 1987. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1987-08-14-mn-805-story.html.
- Pion, Paul D., DVM, DACVIM, et al. “Myocardial Failure in Cats Associated With Low Plasma Taurine: A Reversible Cardiomyopathy.” Science 237, no. 4816 (Aug. 14, 1987): 764–768. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/237/4816/764.
- “Hill’s Pet Nutrition Voluntarily Recalls Select Canned Dog Food for Excessive Vitamin D.” FDA. Jan. 31, 2019. Archived at https://www.petful.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/ucm630232-v2.pdf.
- “Voluntary Canned Dog Food Recall: United States (Updated).” Hill’s Pet Nutrition. May 15, 2019. Archived at https://www.petful.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Hills-Pet-Nutrition-science-diet-and-presription-diet-recall-2019-vitamin-D.pdf.
- “Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc.’s Activities in Support of Its Single Product Recall: Hill’s Prescription Diet m/d Feline Dry Food.” Hill’s Pet Nutrition. April 1, 2007. Archived at https://www.petful.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/menu_foods-mdFAQ_040107_en_US.pdf.