How to rate your dog food

In this article we’re going to teach you a simple yet effective method for how to rate the quality of your dog’s food on a scale from 0 to 100.

All foods start out with a grade of 100.

1.) Subtract 10 points: for every listing of a “by- product”.
2.) Subtract 10 points: If the ingredient list contains BHT, BHA, or ethoxyquin
3.) Subtract 10 points: For every non-specific source listed on the bag. This includes any reference of  “meat” or “poultry” or “meal” or “fat”
4.) Subtract 5 points: For every grain “mill run” or non- specific grain source listed
5.) Subtract 5 points: If the same grain ingredient is listed two or more times in the first five ingredients. Example: brown rice, brewers rice, and rice flour are all the same grain.
6.) Subtract 3 points: If the sources of protein are not meat and there are less than two meats in the top three ingredients.
7.) Subtract 3 points: If the formula contains any artificial colorants. Examples: Blue No. 2, Yellow No. 5, Red No. 40.
8.) Subtract 3 points: If the formula contains whole grain corn or ground corn.
9.) Subtract 2 points: If corn is listed in the first 5 ingredients
10.) Subtract 2 points: If the formula contains any animal fat (With the exception of fish oil).
11.) Subtract 2 points: If lamb is the only animal protein source.
12.) Subtract 2 points: If the formula contains soybeans or soy.
13.) Subtract 2 points: If the formula contains wheat.
14.) Subtract 2 points: If the formula contains beef.
15.) Subtract 1 point: If the formula contains salt.

EXTRA CREDIT:

1.) Add 5 points: If the formula contains any organic meat source.
2.) Add 5 points: If the food is endorsed by a registered nutritionist.
3.) Add 5 points: If the formula is baked (Not extruded).
4.) Add 3 points: If the formula contains probiotics
5.) Add 3 points: If the formula contains fruit.
6.) Add 3 points: If the formula contains vegetables (Corn or other grains do not count).
7.) Add 2 points: If the animal sources are antibiotic-free hormone-free.
8.) Add 2 points: If the formula contains barley.
9.) Add 2 points: If the formula contains flax seed oil (Must state the word “Oil” after flax seed. Simply stating flax seed does not count).
10.) Add 1 point: If the formula contains oatmeal or oats.
11.) Add 1 point: If the formula contains contains sunflower oil.
12.) Add 1 point: For every additional “specific animal” protein source. Example: count “chicken” and “chicken meal” as only one protein source, but count “chicken” and “lamb” as 2 different sources and add 1 point.
13.) Add 1 point: If the formula contains glucosamine, chondroitin, or MSM.
14.) Add 1 point: If the vegetables have been tested as pesticide free.

Here’s How Some Popular Dog Foods Score

A+ (Over 110) — Some of the best dog foods on the market

118 Bully Max High Performance
115 Chicken Soup Senior
114 Innova Dog
114 Innova Evo
112 Canidae

Here’s a list of some additional 5 star rated dog foods: http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-food-reviews/dry/5-star/

A (100-110)

110 Kirkland Signature Chicken, Rice, and Vegetables
110 Wellness Super5 Mix Chicken
106 Dick Van Patten’s Duck and Potato
106 Foundations
103 ProPlan Natural Turkey & Barley
100 Royal Canin Bulldog
106 Royal Canin Natural Blend Adult

B+ (90-99)

99 Diamond Large Breed 60+ Formula
97 Sensible Choice Chicken and Rice
97 Wolfking Adult Dog (bison) by Solid Gold
93 Hund-n-Flocken Adult Dog (lamb) by Solid Gold
92 Diamond Lamb Meal & Rice

B (80-89)

87 Nutrisource Lamb and Rice / Score 87 B
87 Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Puppy / Score 87 B

C (70-79)

73 Iams Lamb Meal & Rice Formula Premium

D (60-69)

69 Science Diet for Large Breed Puppies
68 Bil-Jac Select
64 Diamond Maintenance
63 Science Diet Advanced Protein Senior 7+
62 Purina Dog

F (Under 60) Some of the worst dog foods on the market

23 Pet Gold Adult with Lamb & Rice
17 Purina Beneful
16 Purina Come-n-Get It


Here’s the details on how the rating system works:

By-Products

Animal by-products can contain everything from bones to organ meat to chicken feet to undeveloped eggs. Since you don’t know what kind of meat this is, there’s a good chance it contains lower-quality meat.

These lower-quality meats are not always refrigerated after slaughter…which makes it illegal to sell them to humans—but it’s still legal to include them in pet food.

For every ingredient that has the word “by-product” in the name, subtract 10 points.

Example: Chicken by-product meal, Milk and dairy by-products—subtract 20 points

Non-Specific Meats

If the label doesn’t name a specific animal (such as chicken or turkey), it’s another sign that this product is liable to contain lower-quality meat with less nutritional value.

For every animal source listed in the ingredients, subtract 10 points.

Examples: Meat, Poultry, Animal fat—subtract 30 points

Food Additives

Food additives contain chemicals that may be associated with a range of side effects, such as cancer and damage to red blood cells.

Subtract 10 points for each of these ingredients listed on the label:

  • BHA (Butyrated hydroxyanisole)
  • BHT (Butyrated hydroxytoluene)
  • Ethoxyquin
  • Propyl gallate
  • Propylene glycol

Example: Butyrated hydroxyanisole (BHA), Propylene glycol—subtract 20 points

Non-Specific Grains

If the label doesn’t specify what kind of grains are in the food, guess what? They’re bound to be cheap, low-quality grains…probably the low-nutrition by-products of other foods.

For every ingredient that mentions a non-specific source of grains, or includes the words “mill run,” subtract 5 points.

Example: Soybean mill run—subtract 5 points

Re-Listed Grains

Some dog food manufacturers will try to sneak more cheap grains into their product listing them as several different ingredients. Don’t fall for this trick!

If the same type of grain is listed twice in the first 5 ingredients, subtract 5 points.

Example: Grown brown rice, Rice flower—subtract 5 points

Non-Meat Protein

Meat is the best source of protein; other protein sources are incomplete, which means they do not contain all the necessary amino acids.

If the food’s protein source is something other than meat, subtract 3 points.

Example: Corn protein, Potato Protein—subtract 3 points

Not Enough Meat

Dogs need protein from natural meat sources. If their food doesn’t have enough meat, your dog won’t get enough protein—and they’ll get too much fat and too many carbs.

If there are fewer than two meats listed in the top 3 ingredients, subtract 3 points.

Example: Rice, Corn, Chicken—subtract 3 points

Artificial Colors

Artificial colors may be associated with negative health effects. Note: these ingredients are often hidden inside “artificial flavor.”

If the ingredients contain artificial colors, subtract 3 points.

Example: Yellow 5, Artificial flavor

Cheap Corn Added

Corn products are cheap, tend to irritate allergies, and are hard to digest.

If the ingredients contain corn (ground or whole-grain), subtract 3 points.

Example: Whole-grain corn—subtract 3 points

Too Much Corn

If corn is listed in the top 4 ingredients, subtract an additional 2 points.

Example: Ground corn—subtract 2 points

Unhealthy Animal Fats

Fish oil contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but too many oils from other animal sources can lead to an unhealthy amount of non-omega-3 fats.

If the label lists any type of animal fat other than fish oil, subtract 2 points.

Example: Chicken fat—subtract 2 points

Lamb Meat Only

Lamb contains more saturated fat than other meat sources, such as chicken & turkey.

If the only source of animal protein is lamb, subtract 2 points.

Example: Lamb meat (with no other meats)—subtract 2 points

Soy or Soybeans

Soy is a cheap food ingredient that contains harmful estrogen by-products that can interfere with your dog’s hormone levels.

If the label lists soy, soybeans, or soybean oil, subtract 2 points.

Example: Soybean oil—subtract 2 points

Wheat

Wheat can be problematic for dogs, who are not natural grain-eaters. Plus, the forms of wheat included

in dog food are usually of lower quality than the wheat in human foods.

If the label lists wheat, subtract 2 points.

Example: Wheat flour—subtract 2 points

Beef

Beef contains more saturated fat than other meat sources, such as chicken & turkey.

If the label lists beef, subtract 1 point.

Example: Beef—subtract 1 point

Salt

Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure in dogs, just like it can in humans.

If the label lists salt, subtract 1 point.

Example: Salt—subtract 1 point

  • Mark R

    Thanks for this guide. While a pitbull is a superdog, any synthetics or chemicals are simply not meant for doggie consumption. We should be concerned with the rising cases of doggie cancer.

    • Jimmy Zhang

      I signed up for dog food advisor’s newsletter that send updates when there’s a dog food recall.

  • Jimmy Zhang

    My scored a 82 – Not too shabby

  • Kevin K

    Wow great guide. Interesting that a lot of the more popular dog foods you see on this list didn’t do to well. Crazy how these companies give it a name so it sounds like it’s scientifically proven to be good for your dog, all they are doing is tricking people to buy it.