Dog Food: Ratings of Sources
On this site, Susan Thixton rates big- and small-brand dog foods based on their ingredients, nutritional benefits, freedom from controversial ingredients and other attributes. More than 2,700 brands are reviewed, covering canned food, kibble, raw food, dehydrated food, and treats. You can filter the lists by looking for foods that are made in human food plants, without Chinese-sourced products, and other desired features. Thixton reports on the manufacturing facilities and supply chains for each brand. Controversial ingredients are flagged.
Susan Thixton also maintains this website about all things pet food-related. This is an excellent place to learn about recalls or any dog food safety concerns or issues. Thixton also publishes a yearly list of the foods she would feed her own pets (available for a donation, starting at $10). There are 20 brands in all listed, including four canned dog foods, three kibbles, and one brand that's deemed as an economical choice.
The Food and Drug Administration posts pet food recalls here, organized by date. This is the website to visit to find out whether a dog food you're feeding -- or considering feeding -- has been recalled.
DogFoodAdvisor.com rates dog foods from 1 to 5 stars, based on their ingredients and nutritional value. Site owner Mike Sagman gives a bottom-line assessment, highlights controversial ingredients and often answers reader questions and comments. A large number of foods earn the site's highest rating, but that number is dwarfed by the many foods that score lower -- sometimes substantially so. Highest rated dog foods in a number of categories, including dry, wet, grain-free dog foods and more, are listed here. A shorter but continuously updated Editors' Choice list is also available, but requires a subscription.
This website rates dry dog foods based on their ingredient content and quality. Editors also rate the foods' cost, but they don't take that into consideration when making their top picks. Discussion is brief but adequate, and the authors don't hesitate to say when the food is found lacking. Lists of best dry dog food and grain-free dog foods make easy to zero in on top choices.
Mary Straus is a self-described "dogaholic" who is knowledgeable about dog health and nutrition. This site includes a lengthy and informative discussion about feeding needs (for homemade diets and otherwise), with specific commercial food recommendations. Straus briefly explains why she recommends each food, but she doesn't rate the foods. Separate lists of canned and kibble (including dehydrated kibble) dog foods are maintained.
Dog Food Guru provides reviews and information about dog food including a list of top choices. In addition you can search for foods by their rating, get specific recommendations for certain breeds, and get recommendations in many cases for specific diets, such as limited ingredients or weight control.
Each year, Whole Dog Journal publishes a lists of approved canned and dry dog foods. The criteria used are rigorous, with an emphasis on high-quality protein sources. Other content includes discussions of what makes a dog food high quality, how to find the best choices for your dog and budget by reading ingredient labels and more. However, except for some teaser copy, most articles are only available to paid subscribers. The dry food ratings were updated this year, however the canned food ratings are older.
PetFoodTalk.com is like several other dog food review sources as it makes its recommendations based on the quality of the ingredients and how appropriate they are for feeding to a dog. Top products are named and rated, and a rating for relative cost is provided. User feedback gleaned from the internet is shared in a The Word on the Street section. Ratings seem balanced, and the editors don't hesitate when it comes to saying whether or not a dog food is high quality.
Amazon.com sells a wide variety of dog foods, ranging from supermarket varieties to high-quality foods that are hard to find anywhere else. Popular foods often get hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of reviews. Write-ups can vary in quality, but many are long and helpful accounts of a dog owners' satisfaction in the short and long term with the food in question.
This is the website of Petco, a large pet supply company. Here, users can provide reviews and ratings of dog food and other products. Although many foods get only a handful of ratings, some get high grades in dozens and sometimes hundreds of reviews. The number of ratings is not shown on the main page so there's no way to tell whether a score is based on a handful of reviews, or 100 or more, and that makes navigation tedious -- especially since many dog foods get similar grades.
OnlyNaturalPet.com is another good source for user reviews especially for higher-grade dog foods Reviews list pros and cons and a bottom-line opinion about whether the reviewer would recommend a dog food to a friend, along with a brief write-up. Many of the reviews are from those who have been verified as buyers.
Chewy.com is another online seller of dog food that's worth checking out. Many of the foods here have significant owner feedback, often totaling hundreds of reviews. Write-ups tend to be short, but still helpful, and most say whether or not they would recommend the food to another dog owner.
This site is owned by a pet store with two locations in Orange County, Calif. The site has all the usual sales links, such as toys, bowls and treats, but it also has one page devoted to nutrition, which is well researched and in agreement with other sources. There are no ratings or recommendations, but there's a list of foods to avoid because they contain by-products, animal digest, hydrochloric acid or other undesirable or unhealthy substances.
This government site goes into great detail about labeling regulations and industry standards. A great resource for devout label-readers, the article gives guidelines for spotting label trickery, including, for example, the 25 percent rule. If the named ingredients make up at least 25 percent of the product but less than 95 percent, the name must include a qualifying descriptive term, such as "beef dinner for dogs." No pet-food guidelines or ratings are found here, however.
This site belongs to a breeder of Labrador retrievers. This article looks at gimmicks and labeling with a critical eye. The author's position is that named by-products are OK -- in the wild, dogs certainly eat organs and other parts considered unpalatable by humans -- but unidentified by-products are not. The author states that her dogs do best on mid-range dog food (neither the most expensive nor the least) but no recommendations are made.