GoodGuide's Cat and Dog Food Ratings: Which Brands Are Best?

Science Diet dog foodScience Diet takes double honors as the best brand of both cat and dog food among 50 brands of pet food rated by GoodGuide. The ratings were released exclusively to Consumer Ally and will be online in their entirety on Monday.

Consumer Ally recently teamed up with GoodGuide, whose experts have rated more than 65,000 consumer goods -- including food, toys, personal care and household products -- using factors that include concern for the environment, personal health and social responsibility, as consumers begin increasingly to consider those in addition to price.GoodGuide's ratings also include a brief explanation for each category, though the user can drill down into each score for more detail. The health score measures a product's potential health impact on consumers.

The environment score is based on the impact of the product in question and the company's overall policies and practices. The society score evaluates social impact, which can include treatment of workers, workplace diversity, community involvement and corporate ethics.

GoodGuide encourages users to request new items for ratings, and Senior Director of Business Development Josh Saunders told Consumer Ally that pet food is "by far the most requested category from our users," adding "no one has ever rated pet food like this before."

GoodGuide's experts rated 1,500 products from 50 brands of cat and dog food. The health ratings were designed with input from a leading veterinary nutritionist, while Good Guide's methodology was validated by surveying members of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition.

The compete cat and dog food ratings, which will include all best and worst products, are scheduled to be published on Monday. But in a WalletPop exclusive, below are the top-rated brands (averaging their GoodGuide scores and only including brands for which they have at least 5 products):

Top 5 Cat Food Brands
  1. Science Diet
  2. Eukanuba
  3. Evo
  4. Innova
  5. Eagle Pack
Top 5 Dog Food Brands
  1. Science Diet
  2. California Natural
  3. Innova
  4. Evo
  5. Karma
When the complete ratings are published, they'll also include important information for pet owners, such as advice for avoiding hype, GoodGuide recommendations and what consumers should look for, which are as follows.

Avoiding the Hype
  • In general, the industry relies on wastes and by-products from human food production that might otherwise be dumped in a landfill or burned. Just because an ingredient seems less appetizing to a human doesn't mean that it doesn't provide valuable nutrients that is both bioavailable and tasty.
  • Despite all the discussion and concern, there is no scientific basis to differentiate between synthetic vs. "natural" preservatives for health reasons. GoodGuide consulted with experts who said many pet foods need preservatives to minimize chances of product spoilage.
  • An Organic USDA seal on the package doesn't carry much meaning because the certification was never intended to apply to pet foods.
  • The terms "complete and balanced" or "100% nutritious" mean that the product can be used as the sole source of nutrition. Products that don't use this language should be used only as supplements, such as treats.
GoodGuide Recommendations
  • In general, pet food products all meet the basic nutritional standard as established by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) and are safe for your pet. Just like people, pets can be perfectly healthy from a variety of diets – there isn't one correct diet or formulation, let alone fad diets. Your pet's health and happiness is the best indication of a healthy diet.
  • Since many health-based claims are simply cleverly worded marketing or based on unpublished internal research, foods used to minimize specific health conditions or allergies for your pet should be recommended only by a veterinary professional.
  • If you're concerned about the right amount of nutrition for a given condition or preventative maintenance, the Guaranteed Analysis shouldn't be used to inform these decisions. Only a full nutrient profile can provide a detailed and meaningful assessment of what the food contains.
  • The most relevant information is found in the AAFCO nutrition label and in calorie disclosure
  • For most pets, it doesn't matter very much from a health perspective which food is purchased.
What consumers should look for
  • Look for the phrase "Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (the product in question) provides complete and balanced nutrition for (gestation, lactation and growth or maintenance).
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