How reviewers judge dog food
The pet-food recalls of 2007 served as a wake-up call to millions of pet owners, as well as some -- but not all -- pet-food makers. Although the panic over food tainted with melamine has largely subsided, owners are still casting wary eyes on pet-food labels, and many makers have become more willing to discuss where their foods are made, where their ingredients come from and what kind of testing is being done. Occasional recalls over other issues have done little to soothe pet owners' frazzled nerves.
Consumers have long faced a dilemma when evaluating dog foods because there are almost no professional reviews available from mainstream media sources. In 1998, ConsumerReports.org tested dog and cat foods, but the results caused an uproar when it was discovered that the testing methods weren't scientific and the results weren't accurate. In response, ConsumerReports.org published a correction stating that it had incorrectly measured some minerals and fatty acids in pet food, and editors promised to redo the test. However, ConsumerReports.org hasn't published a dog food comparison since 1998. Taste tests are also ineffective because they are anecdotal and usually don't consider factors such as nutritional requirements and the quality of ingredients used.
Instead, we found the best guidance on dog food at sites such as PetFoodRatings.net, DogAware.com, DogFoodAdvisor.com and others, which concentrate on the quality of ingredients used as well as nutritional factors. Many of these sites also consider the manufacturer's ethical guidelines -- which are not always above reproach -- and the inclusion of ingredients of dubious value.
The website DogFoodChat.com does the same, and it also has an active community of users who add their own ratings and opinions. PetsumerReport.com is another valuable resource as is its companion website, TruthAboutPetFood.com, which has some useful articles regarding pet-food safety; however, ratings and opinions are available only to paid subscribers. Several sites don't recommend specific foods, but they go into great detail about ingredients and how to read a dog food label to find the best quality diet for your dog. Examples include the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine.
Although the massive pet-food recalls of a few years ago are receding in the rearview mirror, those concerned about the quality of the food they feed to their four-footed companions still need to keep abreast of industry news as recalls over other minor and occasionally major issues continue, unfortunately, to this day.
As an example, in April and May 2012, Diamond Pet Foods voluntarily recalled certain batches of dry dog food it had made under its own brand as well as under contract for several dog food brands, including some well-regarded ones. The issue was possible salmonella contamination at the company's South Carolina plant. Recalled products included specific batches of Taste of the Wild, Wellness, Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul, Natural Balance, Canidae, Kirkland (Costco) and others. In addition to concern over pets' well being, people who have handled infected food or come into contact with dogs that have eaten it can contract salmonella as well. More information is available here.