The Problem with Online Dog Food Reviews
One of my ‘pet peeves’ when it comes to pet food is related to the online reviews. Over the years, I have stumbled upon these reviews while collecting data and doing my research on pet food ingredients, calories and macronutrients. To illustrate the problem with online reviews, I will use a recipe produced by a popular pet food brand.
The Online Dog Food Rating
First, let’s look at the overall rating and sample a few reviews from the Brand’s own site.
The overall rating is 4.5 out of 5 stars based on 75 reviews. As an added validation, 69 out of the 75 reviewers would recommend this product. Pretty convincing data from the masses. Digging further, here are 2 of the reviewer comments:
“Healthy Choice! My dog loves this dry food! It obviously has very good, tasty flavor!”
“Dogs LOVE IT! I have 3 Great Danes and they love this food. They are pretty picky eaters but I have no trouble getting them to eat this. It is also very good for them.”
Based on this (and most of the other reviews), this food must be a no-brainer, great choice for a dog.
Looking at the same food on Amazon, the results are similar, although there are a sprinkling of negative reviews. On Amazon, this food rates out at 4.2 out of 5 stars for 643 total reviews. Still a very high number.
OK, I am almost sold on this. But unlike many people who would consider these reviews sufficient evidence to purchase this dog food, I would like to take one more step. Let’s look at the ingredients and macronutrients in this food and then I will order it. Based on the reviews, I am sure that it is high in protein, full of real meat and vegetables,
Dog Food Macronutrient Profile and Ingredients
This food’s guaranteed analysis is as follows:
Crude Protein: Min 23.0%
Crude Fat: Min 11.0%
Crude Fiber: Max 4.0%
Moisture: Max 12.0%
Uh oh! This food’s macronutrient profile is not appropriate for a dog. Using dry matter basis, it is about 26% protein and 54% carbohydrate, Too little protein and too many carbs for most normal dogs. How come this wasn’t mentioned in the reviews?
Uh oh again! Look at these ingredients and ask yourself if this is really an appropriate choice for a dog.
Ground Whole Grain Corn, Poultry By- Product Meal (Source Of Glucosamine And Chondroitin Sulfate), Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Ground Whole Grain Wheat, Animal Fat (Source Of Omega 6 Fatty Acids [Preserved With Bha And Citric Acid]), Soybean Meal, Chicken, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Natural Flavor (Source Of Meatier Flavor), Fish Oil (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Salt, Monocalcium Phosphate, Meat And Bone Meal (Source Of Calcium), Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Dried Peas, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Choline Chloride, Niacin [Vitamin B3], Biotin, Dried Carrots, Bha & Citric Acid (A Preservative), Blue 2, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, D-Calcium Pantothenate [Source Of Vitamin B5], Riboflavin Supplement [Vitamin B2], Red 40, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride [Vitamin B6], Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid
This food is full of cheap fillers. Corn, rice, and wheat dominate the list. Further, it uses “poultry by-product meal” (really?), “animal fat” (what kind of animal?), “meat and bone meal” (what kind of meat?) the artificial preservative BHA, and four different artificial colorings! Tell me, how could this possibly be a 4/5 out of 5 star dog food? Not by my analysis. This food is at best a 1 out of 5 star food and I would not serve it to my dogs unless it was the only food available. Even then, I would think twice about it.
One other point is worth making with respect to the specific comments in the review section. Many of the comments seem to focus on the fact that their dog “loves the food”. This is about as useless a piece of information as I can think of. Just because a dog “loves” the food does not mean it is a good product. To use a human analogy, if you gave your 8 year old a choice between broccoli and ice cream, which do you think they would choose? Same with many dogs, who will eat foods that are sweetened or contain added (and often unnatural) flavor enhancers.
The moral of this story is that you can’t trust the consumer reviews that are published on the web. Although at times, they can provide a good indication of a pet food’s quality, you need to look more closely than the ratings and comments.