4 min read
Is Dog Food Advisor Legit? What Pet Parents Should Know
By Adam Lee-Smith
Published: 07/08/2021, edited: 08/10/2021
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Like most pet parents, you want Scoob to lead a long and happy life, which means feeding them the best dog food possible. While searching online for the best diet for your barking buddy, you'll probably come across a few dog food comparison websites.
One of the most famous dog food comparison websites is Dog Food Advisor (DFA). Type in any brand of dog food, and you'll probably get a search result for Dog Food Advisor near the top. On its website, Dog Food Advisor states it's rated over 5,300 dog food products, which means the site will probably show up even when pet parents search for lesser-known brands.
With its prominence on the web and the number of products it's reviewed, Dog Food Advisor seems legit. But is Dog Food Advisor trustworthy? Here's a quick look.
What is Dog Food Advisor?
Dog Food Advisor is a privately owned website that publishes information and ratings of dog food products. DFA's disclosure states, "The descriptions and analyses expressed in every article on this website represent the views and opinions of the author." The disclosure also claims the authors "make every effort" to support those views and opinions with scientific evidence.
Dr. Mike Sagman is the founder, editor, and primary author of Dog Food Advisor. Sagman is a retired dentist who graduated from the Medical College of Virginia. He also states he minored in chemistry and biology.
While the Dog Food Advisor website states Mike Sagman has professional experience in human nutrition, he isn't certified in canine nutrition and doesn't have the official qualifications to recommend diets for dogs. That being said, the website does state that DFA has one veterinarian on staff. The website doesn't state the name of this veterinarian.
Is Dog Food Advisor approved by vets?
Dog Food Advisor has a veterinarian on staff — does that mean DFA is approved by vets? Some veterinarians and certified nutritionists have refuted claims made by DFA. While Dog Food Advisor provides citations in their articles, their claims are often at odds with scientific evidence. Let's take a look at a couple of examples.
Corn in dog food
One section of a DFA article on corn in dog food looks at whether corn causes allergies in dogs. The article cites several sources that state there's little reason to believe corn causes allergies. However, DFA goes on to say there have been "thousands of reports" of corn being the "likely cause" of food allergies in dogs. This claim is based on anecdotal rather than research-based evidence.
The article also explores the "myth" that corn is high in nutrients. In an article published on the DVM360 website, certified veterinary nutritionist Dr. Julie Churchill refutes this myth. She confirms that corn is chock full of protein, amino acids, and fatty acids. Dr. Churchill also said corn is "definitely a valuable pet food component" and is not likely to cause allergies.
Meat byproducts in dog food
An article on the DFA website claims "generic" meat byproducts:
- may contain "roadkill, dead zoo animals, dead-on-arrival poultry, diseased and dying livestock, [or] euthanized pets from animal shelters."
- are "what's left of a slaughtered animal after the parts intended for human consumption have been removed."
- "are used for making dog food because they save money. Not because they're more nutritious."
All 3 claims are false. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), dog foods containing meat byproducts that aren't derived from cattle, pigs, sheep, or goats must include the species in the ingredients list. Additionally, AAFCO says meat by-products include "some of the parts people eat (such as livers, kidneys, and tripe)".
An article published by the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University states that meat by-products "often provide more nutrients than muscle meats" and are also dietary staples for humans in other cultures. The article also states that animal byproducts aren't "inferior in quality, safety, or nutrition".
These claims, which have been refuted by scientific evidence and recommendations from veterinary nutritionists, diminish DFA's credibility as a source of reliable information on dog food.
How does the Dog Food Advisor decide its ratings?
Perhaps the most important way of telling if Dog Food Advisor is legit is to look at how they rate pet food. The Dog Food Advisor website states that it uses resources from the National Library of Medicine's PubMed libraries and government-approved pet food labels.
Dog Food Advisor also states it isn't affiliated with any dog food companies and doesn't accept payments or samples from brands to promote a specific product. This suggests DFA avoids any biased claims about specific dog foods, seemingly improving its trustworthiness.
However, Dog Food Advisor has changed its ratings of certain products over the years, despite the ingredients of those products mainly staying the same. One commonly highlighted example is Hill's Science Diet Adult Dog Food. DFA gave this food a 1-star rating in 2010, but changed it at some point to its current 3.5-star rating.
There are several possible reasons for this change, including updated views on grain and animal fat in dog food. Dog Food Advisor gives Hill's Science Diet Adult Dog Food 3.5 stars, despite stating in its conclusion that the food has below-average levels of protein and above-average levels of carbs.
It seems like Dog Food Advisor has improved the way it reviews products over the years, but there are still issues with consistency and evidence-based decisions.
Is Dog Food Advisor legit? Wrapping up
Overall, Dog Food Advisor does seem earnest in its attempts to review dog food products. However, DFA falls short when it comes to presenting evidence-based facts on nutrition and consistency in reviews. The fact that DFA was founded by a dentist with no experience or qualifications in canine nutrition also weakens the site's credibility, despite the claims in the disclosure statement.
If you have any questions about your dog's nutrition or you're worried about their diet, consult a vet for trustworthy advice. Steer clear of dog food comparison websites that aren't authored or maintained by veterinarians or certified nutritionists.
Other resources and alternatives to Dog Food Advisor
- The Petfoodology blog, maintained by the Cummings Veterinary Center at Tufts University
- The Nutrition blog, maintained by DVM360
- Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) website
- World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Global Nutrition Guidelines
- Merck Veterinary Manual: Dog and Cat Foods