Dog Food Evaluation- A “Natural” Approach

We are often asked by dog owners to rate or comment on their dog’s food.  As people become more educated about the commercial dog food industry, they are more interested than ever in understanding what they are serving their pet.

In July 2014, we will launch our Pet Food Reviews.  This article is meant to provide an overview of the rating process we employ for our food reviews, which is based on the approach used by and the SlimDoggy Food Ranking system.   We also provide a simple framework so that you can make your own dog food evaluations.

A Snapshot of a Good Dog Food

Our overall philosophy is rooted in two core concepts:

  1. Dogs are meat eaters: dogs are descendants of the carnivore wolf, and thus, they should eat meat.  Their ancestors ate a diet high in protein and fat.
  2. Stay close to nature: when given a choice between artificial and natural, choose natural.  When given a choice between more processed and less processed, choose less processed.

At a very high level, your dog food should have the following attributes:

  • High in protein (meat as a first ingredient).
  • Real, named protein sources (e.g., beef or chicken, not meat or poultry).
  • No by-products.
  • High quality fats (e.g. named fats like chicken fat” or pork fat and/or healthy oils like canola or herring oil).
  • High quality carbohydrates (e.g. oats, peas, sweet potato, not mill run or cereal).
  • Fruits and vegetables for color, sweetness and vitamins.
  • No artificial ingredients (e.g. food coloring like red 40, yellow 5, or preservatives like Propylene Glycol , which is used in anti-freeze and Ethoxyquin which is used in pesticides).
  • Little or no fillers.  If you see corn in the first few ingredients, be wary.  You don’t want things like cellulose, hulls, or mill runs.
  • Low in sugar and no artificial sweeteners.

Our  methodology ‘rewards’ foods that match with the above profile and ‘penalizes’ foods that don’t.  SlimDoggy’s extensive database of over 3,000 dog foods and treats enables us to examine the ingredients in most commercially available dog food products.  We scrutinize their ingredients and search for both good and bad items.  Taken all together, we then create a rating which encapsulates the overall ‘goodness’ of each food.

Beautiful labrador retriever with a stethoscope on his neck, isolated on white

Other Considerations

Besides the ingredients themselves, there are other factors that can determine whether or not a food is a good fit for your dog.  Our methodology does not consider these factors either because they are specific to your individual situation or the data needed to evaluate the factor is not generally available.

  • Food allergies.  Your dog may be allergic to certain ingredients in which case you need to find foods that are free of the specific ingredient that your dog is allergic to.
  • Special health conditions.  Some dogs may have health conditions that require special diets, like a low protein or low fat diet.
  • Budget.  In a perfect world, we could all afford the best quality food and price would be no issue.   In reality, we all have different budgets available for our pet’s food.  We recommend that you find the best possible food that will fit within your budget parameters.   Don’t settle!
  • Ingredient sourcing and production environments.   Although we can collect and analyze the ingredients for most foods as reported on their labels, we have no way to confirm the dog food company’s sourcing policies.  Nor can we evaluate the company’s production policies related to the actual cooking process (e.g. higher temperatures can reduce the nutrient values) or cleanliness and sanitation.

Are you thinking of switching your food?  Remember to consult with your veterinarian before making dramatic changes to your dog’s diet.

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