Various blog writers, pet experts and nutritionists publish ratings for dog foods, but the top rated dog foods on one list may not even appear on some others. This is because different writers use different criteria to rank foods, and not all experts review the same foods. Unfortunately, this makes choosing the best dog food for your pet a bit complicated because it means you need to understand how each site you are reviewing determines its ratings. When you can knowledgeably evaluate published ratings, you will be able to choose a top rated dog food that works for your pet.
Characteristics of a High-Quality Dog Food
People who rate dog foods are an opinionated lot, and they often have conflicting views about what makes a high-quality dog food. There are, however, a few things that most true experts agree on when it comes to high-quality foods. Some characteristics shared by the majority of top rated dog foods include the following:
- A specific type of meat or meat meal as the first or second ingredient.
- No artificial preservatives, colors or flavor enhancers.
- Meets all of a dog’s nutritional needs.
- Free of fillers.
When looking through ratings, make sure to keep these basics in mind. If you are looking at a list and most of the top rated dog foods do not meet these criteria, be cautious about basing your buying decisions on it.
Understanding Ratings of Dog Food
After you assess the general quality of foods on a given list, you should look for an explanation of how the writer determined the ratings. If you cannot find this information, move to another source. A reputable ratings site will always give the criteria it uses to rank dog foods. Some common criteria used include the following:
- Quality of ingredients
- Absence of preservatives, colors or other additives
- Protein source
- Nutrient composition
- Whether or not the foods are grain free
- Presence or absence of certain ingredients
- Whether or not the ingredients are organic
- Reputation of the producer
Once you understand how the foods on a list were rated, you need to decide if you agree with the methodology. Are the criteria the writer used relevant and important for your pet? If so, you need to find out more about which foods the author considered and how he or she analyzed them to decide if his or her recommended foods are right for your pet. If not, find a source that better fits your needs.
Choosing Between Top Rated Dog Foods
Once you understand how different sites arrive at different ratings, you can narrow down your choices. The best strategy for doing this is to choose a set of ratings or a few sets of ratings that most closely match your priorities. Take the top few foods from your chosen list or lists and do some research. Consider cost, availability, your veterinarian’s opinion and your dog’s preferences.
You might have to try a few foods before you find one that will work, so avoid buying large bags or cases before you know whether or not a given dog food will work for your pet. Remember that a food may look perfect on paper, but if your dog refuses to eat it, it is not perfect for you.