Dog owners looking for good quality food will find dog food reviews to be a valuable resource, but only if they know how to read and use the details they are being given. Making use of a dog food review when picking a diet for your pet requires much more than following a reviewer’s recommendation.

Before you use any dog food ratings websites to choose a brand for your dog, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. You need to understand dog food terms itself, and that online dog food reviews can be biased by the author, customers with negative experiences or customers who have been compensated for their positive review.

How To Use Dog Food ReviewsDog food reviews online are not always up to date either, and they may reflect older recipes or foods manufactured when a company was under different ownership. Remember that one dog’s experience with a food does not equal every dog’s experience with that same food.

Most importantly, keep in mind that not every dog food review is written by someone with experience in canine nutrition or veterinary medicine. While it's okay to take advice from other knowledgeable pet owners, it's best to consult the experts when trying to find the best diet for your canine companion.

Sarah Ann Taylor, a pet food expert from the industry, has written a short guide on how to choose the best dog food yourself and what to look for when browsing dog food reviews.

Once you understand how to be critical when look at pet food reviews online, we can discuss what makes a reputable dog food review. I'll also explain the best way to educate yourself on canine nutrition and find the food that will meet your dog's individual needs.

ALSO READ: Dog Food Ratings – What you Need To Know

How to Use Online Dog Food Reviews to Pick the Best Foods for Your Dog

How To Use Dog Food Reviews

Tips to Identify Reputable Dog Food Reviews

The following tips don’t guarantee that a dog food ratings are from a reputable source, but they certainly help to weed out the less reputable online dog food reviews.

1. A good review is well-rounded

Look for dog food reviews that highlight the positive and the negative. A dog food with all positive or all negative review points may reflect a bias on the part of the reviewer.

For example, a well-rounded review may state: “This food is high in carbohydrates, but is manufactured by a company that has not had a recall in the past 20-years.”

2. Know when the review was written

Check the date of a dog food review and when that review was last updated. Next, check the dog food in question to determine whether any formula changes or company management changes have taken place between then and now.

For example, a review of Acana Singles pet food from 2012 is not likely to reflect Acana Singles manufactured in 2017, since the company has since altered their formula to include herring oil.

3. Know the specifics of the review

When reading a dog food review, pay attention to dog-specific factors. Not every dog is going to react in the same way to the same brand of pet food.

For example, a review written based on the experience of a diabetic or senior dog is not going to reflect the experience of a non-diabetic or young adult dog.

4. Know who is writing the review

Look at the author of a dog food review and their experience in the veterinary or nutrition field. Is this person qualified to make knowledgeable recommendations?

For example, a dog owner reviewing a food based on their dog’s experience is going to be less reliable than a canine dietitian with experience in dog food nutrition and/or dog health and who's written an evidence-based dog food review and analysis.

RELATED: 4 Most Dangerous Ingredients In Dog Food (According To Science)


Where to Look (and Where Not Look) for Reliable Dog Food Reviews Online

There are many resources for dog food reviews online, but not all carry the same weight.

Reliable resources include:

  • Speaking directly to a canine nutritionist
  • Speaking with your vet if they are well versed in canine nutrition

When looking for reliable unbiased dog food reviews, avoid:

  • Personal blogs
  • General review websites that don’t specialize in dog food or pet products
  • Pet food review websites that offer glaring misinformation

For example, here on Top Dog Tips we have canine experts with degrees in related fields and years of experience in the industry, whether they are animal scientists or veterinarians, and we focus on evidence-based information to avoid any bias.

Some examples of unbiased articles based on evidence and research include:

Beginning Your Search for a Reliable Dog Food Review

Now you know where to look and what to look for in a reliable online dog food review. With so many different options out there, where do you begin?

Step 1: Identify Your Dog’s Needs

  1. What allergies if any does your dog have? Identify ingredients you need to avoid.
  2. What are your dog’s caloric needs? How many calories does your dog need based on his lifestyle, health concerns and current weight?
  3. What is your dog’s life stage? Nutrient requirements change as your dog ages.
  4. What Additional Needs Does Your Dog Have? Does Fido have a dislike for certain flavors or proteins?

Step 2: Educate Yourself

Dog food reviews outline nutrient profiles of a particular food in terms of fat, protein, carbohydrates and fiber. This is very helpful as long as you understand what it means and you know how to apply this information to better feed your dog.

Fat Requirements

Life Stage Minimum % Recommended %
Puppy 8% 17%
Adult Dog 5% 9 – 15%
Working Dog 8% 20%
Extreme Working Dog NONE 50%
Lactating Dog 8% 17%
Senior Dog 5% 5 – 12%

*Note that these requirements may change based on specific health conditions.

A dog food that contains too little fat results in a fatty acid deficiency and a failure to gain weight. Too much fat results in too much weight gain.

Protein Requirements

Life Stage Recommended %
Puppy 28%
Adult Dog 18%
Working Dog 25%
Extreme Working Dog 35%
Lactating Dog 28%
Senior Dog 20% – 27% (High quality source)

*Note that these requirements may change based on specific health conditions.

A dog food that contains too little protein results in low energy levels, dull coat, itchy skin, increased incidence of infection, refusal to eat their food, low mood, and begging for food other than their own. Too much protein can put excessive strain on the kidneys.

Carbohydrate Requirements

There are no minimum or recommended levels of carbohydrates for dog food. This is because carbs are not nutritionally necessary for dogs. They are, however, a good cheap source of energy so they are often used to “fill out” commercial dog foods.

A dog food with too many carbohydrates will be high in calories, high in filler content and have lower nutritional value (which should come from protein and fat).

Fiber Requirements

Life Stage Recommended %
Puppy 2% – 4%
Adult Dog 2% – 4%
Working Dog 2% – 4%
Extreme Working Dog 2% – 4%
Lactating Dog 2% – 5%
Senior Dog 3% – 5%

*Note that these requirements may change based on specific health conditions.

A dog food with too much fiber will increase the volume and frequency of bowel movements as well as lead to excessive flatulence. Too little fiber may lead to constipation and anal irritation.

RELATED: What Dog Food Is Good for Dogs and Why?


Step 3: Identify Dog Food Brands Within Your Budget

Identify a dog food brand name or selection of brand names that you are comfortable with. What can you reliably spend on a quality dog food every month? This number will establish which dog food brands you can select from when referencing dog food reviews.

Now that you have the list of brands that you can afford, narrow it down.

Answer these questions about the brands that you've selected:

1. Does a brand name have regular or recent recalls? A reliable brand name will have neither.

2. What parent company manufactures the brand, and have they had regular or recent recalls? A brand name does not always reflect a manufacturer.

3. Does each brand make their food in the U.S.?

4. Does each brand source their ingredients from China or only from countries with food safety regulations similar to the U.S? Keep in mind that “made in the U.S.” is not the same as “sourced in the U.S.A.” A dog food can be made in the U.S. using ingredients that have been sourced from China. Reliable dog foods are both sourced and made in the U.S. or countries with comparable food safety regulations.

5. Is a dog food brand available to you locally or can you order it online for delivery?

Step 4: Begin Reviewing Reviews

You have identified your dog’s specific needs, nutritional requirements and reliable brands within your budget. Now you need to begin comparing these foods based on their reviews from reliable and reputable sources.

To compare reviews of dog foods from different websites you need to determine what rating system a review site uses.

  • Does a food rank highly because it has organic ingredients?
  • Does a food rank highly because it is budget friendly?
  • Does a food rank highly because it contains balanced nutrition?
  • Does a food rank highly because of numerous factors?

Once you know how each review website rates a dog food, you can determine which review site should receive more weight in your decision-making process. While some review scales should receive more weight than others, you should also consider the big picture.

For example, a food that ranks 5/5 for ingredient quality, 4/5 for affordability and 2/5 for balanced nutrition would not necessarily be preferable to a food that ranks 4/5 for ingredient quality, 4/5 for affordability and 4/5 for balanced nutrition.

When comparing and contrasting online dog food reviews, particularly the ones that use different rating scales, the amount of information can be overwhelming. The best method of keeping your data straight is to create a spreadsheet. This allows to compare foods that you are considering based on reviews as well as any personal notes you have made.

RELATED Video Guide: How to Read Dog Food Labels Accurately

Begin a Dog Food Trial

Once you have selected a dog food based on reviews and other available information, it’s time to begin a trial of this new dog food brand. You should always begin a new dog food diet by integrating it with your dog’s old food over a period of 9-14 days following the schedule below:

Day 1 80% old food 20% new food
Day 3 60% old food 40% new food
Day 5 40% old food 60% new food
Day 7 20% old food 80% new food
Day 9 100% new food

This schedule will allow for a period of adjustment rather than shock your dog’s digestive system with a sudden change of food. Some dogs may even require a little longer to adjust to a change in food if you notice diarrhea or stomach upset, slow down the food transition process.

Is the New Dog Food a Good Fit?

Tips on How to Read Online Dog Food Reviews to Pick the Best Dog FoodsNot every dog food is the best selection for every dog, even if it has been rated very high.

When trying a new brand of dog food, you may notice a difference in your dog almost immediately. For example, a dog with grain allergies that has been switched to a grain free food may show improvement as soon as he is eating 100% grain free food.

Other dogs may take longer to show change after being switched to a new food. For example, a dog with a dull coat may not show improvement until two weeks after beginning on 100% new food.

If a new food is not a good fit, however, you may notice signs almost as soon as your dog begins trying the new diet. For example, your dog may have excess gas, begin itching uncontrollably or simply refuse to eat. If this is the case, abandon your new food and go back to the drawing board. When you do, however, keep track of potential causes of your dog’s trouble so that you can avoid them in the future.

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Diana currently lives and works in London, UK and she's been an animal lover and dog owner since she was a child. After graduating high school, she focused on getting her degree in English to become a writer with a focus on animals, pets and dogs.