Sunday Tittle Tattle: The Great Dog Food Decider

dog food chooser

This post is rather niche, so my apologies in advance. If you don’t have a dog then you’ll probably want to simply go no further and – perhaps, if you’re after more reading material – click on over to the new post I’ve written on The Uphill. If you have a dog and you can get it to eat without a problem then ditto – you’ll probably want to click away.

But if you, like me, have a dog with a constantly dicky tummy, you might find this of interest.

Dexter the Cockapoo is now three. He’s had ongoing issues with his stomach since almost the first month he came home – soft stools, no stools, weird stools, blockages and periods of simply not eating. Always investigated at the vets but never with a real solution.

After the last serious bout of tummy stuff (it was well over a year ago, thankfully – and Mr AMR still swears that it was because the dog licked a toad at the farm we were renting a barn from!) the vets put Dexter on a Royal Canin Sensitivity Diet, which cost about seventy-eight million pounds a day. He started off eating it very well but soon went off it and had to be coaxed and bribed with bits of rice and “treats” mixed in to get him to eat anything.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I started researching dog foods online to try and find one that he would readily eat but that wouldn’t upset his stomach, and I came across this brilliant website: Dog Food Directory.

As far as I can tell, it’s a totally impartial non-sponsored website that reviews (nearly) every food on the market and has a very clever filtering system that refines your search so that only the relevant reviews appear. Your dog’s age, breed and weight, for example, or the daily cost, type of food and nutrient levels you’re after. Each food then has a rating and quite a detailed breakdown of what’s in it – cutting through the bullsh*t, basically.

What an eye-opener! It seems that many of the vet-recommended foods are full of absolute rubbish, even if they’re apparently “non-allergenic” or what have you. Even many of the premium, niche foods get a so-so review. In the end, I used all of the filters and then chose the food on my list that had the highest rating – a 5/5 – the Aatu 80/20.

aatu dog food

Now this isn’t by any means a dog food recommendation post – it’s a nudge towards the website, if you too need to try and find a good food for your pooch*. But I have to say that Dexter loves the Aatu, his toilet habits are the best they’ve ever been and he’s just stockier, happier and sparklier eyed. I’m impressed.

There were a few others on the list with a top rating, but I was conducting this search on my iPhone whilst in Pets at Home and Aatu was right in front of me on the shelf! It was a sign… Also the baby was kicking off and there were no guinea pigs to look at so I had to be quick.

Sorry for the crazily specialised post this week, but I’ve been meaning to write about this for weeks and the dog rarely gets a big mention on here. Take a look at the Dog Food Directory here and let me know if you find a good solution to your picky/dicky dog tummy problems!

(*Please don’t comment about raw diets below, I just can’t. I barely have enough time to prepare the humans any dinner, let alone chop up bones with a cleaver and weigh raw meat and then disinfect everything and at the same time try and stop the baby from eating it out of the bowl… Also, please listen to your vet if your dog has been prescribed a certain food or medication. We were prescribed over a year ago and it was fine to introduce other foods.)

2016 A Model Recommends: all opinions are my own and any sponsored or paid posts will always be clearly marked. I accept press samples and receive product and services to review as part of my job. Outward links to retailers will usually be affiliate links. Please see here for full "about" section and disclaimer. A Model Recommends and Ruth Crilly are registered trademarks.

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60 Comments

  1. April
    September 18, 2016 / 7:53 am

    This may be a niche post, but I’m looking for a new cat food, so i feel your pain. Getting the right food is expensive and time consuming. And raw feeding? Fugghedaboutit. Especially if you have a ground dwelling human. Dexter does look quite healthy there.
    I’ve been feeding my cats a grain free diet, and that has kept them at a healthy weight, etc….if anyone needs to adjust food, I’d certainly start there, but labels, labels, labels!

  2. Alice
    September 18, 2016 / 7:56 am

    Hi Ruth,

    We too have a dog with a very sensitive tummy. He is the same age as Dexter and we have tried everything. At one point the vets had us feeding him food that was costing us £6 a day…just crazy! Someone recommended Chappie to us and we have tried that for a while. All has been good until now…suddenly we are back at square one with coming to accidents on the floor in the morning. I must admit to rather despairing!

    Thank you for the helpful post. We will have a look at the website and see if we can get Monty back on track. These pooches can be such high maintenance!! X

  3. September 18, 2016 / 8:06 am

    Our mini Doxie has similar issues. She’s been on Purina Pro Plan HA – hypoallergenic – for about 6 months and it does seem to help. It’s about £19-26 for 3 kilos depending where you but it. Your dog should be under a vets care if you use it, but our vet said she could eat it forever and be fine.

  4. Lowri
    September 18, 2016 / 8:12 am

    Awwww poor Dexter! Glad to hear he’s bright eyed and bushy tailed again.

  5. Amalia
    September 18, 2016 / 8:13 am

    I never feed my dogs with those kind of food. I cook for them – difficult with working and having 3 children though-! All was very healthy, no stomach problems, no allergies, no teeth/ gum problems. They aged well (15-16.5 years). Please ignore my bad english.

  6. Kiwil
    September 18, 2016 / 8:19 am

    Well this is interesting! I’m a long time reader but never commented before…but am also a vet! Not a website I’ve had mentioned by any clients, shall have to check it out and see what it recommends. Diet is always a very tricky area as people have very differing, and quite definite opinions on the subject! You are also sensible to steer clear of raw food – the health risks with a baby around are just too great in my opinion. Hope Dexter gets on ok now!

    • Vikki
      October 3, 2016 / 1:51 pm

      Sorry but that is utter rubbish ! I have fed raw for years and never has any child,adult or dog got sick because of it. No raw may not suit everyone but it is far far healthier than the rubbish dished out by vets.

  7. September 18, 2016 / 8:31 am

    I know you said not to comment about the raw Diet thing however I am totally grossed out by the thought of chopping bones. I have found Natural Instinct complete food, Its a complete meal that comes in a tub which you just soup out, I actually don’t gip with it which is magic! ha ha

    Just a comment for any of your readers who easily throw up at the thought ha ha ha. I feel your pain though with finding for that is not packed with grains and utter crap!!

    • Nicola Barton
      October 4, 2016 / 1:54 pm

      We use Natural Instinct too except for the stinky tripe! Scout loves it and all his poop problems seem to be under control – yay!

  8. Fleur
    September 18, 2016 / 8:31 am

    Thanks for this! One of our two has all sorts of allergies (including to meat!) so we have him on Orijen food (the fish one)…..it’s expensive but absolutely brilliant. If Dexter ever gets tired of the Aatu, I can highly recommend it x

  9. September 18, 2016 / 8:57 am

    This is a coincidence! My hairdresser has a one year old Pekinese and she is having similar problems with him. Trips to the vet haven’t done anything except leave her very out of pocket (what is it with the size of vet bills? Its a mutt! Not the cure for cancer!). Anyway, I’ll let her know about the site and the Aaut food and hopefully it will help.

  10. Charlotte
    September 18, 2016 / 8:57 am

    We’ve had similar issues with our cats – and have found Applaws to be a great solution. I think vets must be on some great con to make money by recommending food which makes animals worse. We also do a raw fish thing which they love but you don’t want to know about… it’s all about the prep in advance though as we buy, portion and freeze so it takes a minute or two per day and the cats Hoover it up instantly so no chance of baby getting into it, and no mess… if you ever bring yourself round to think again about it, I’m sure you could figure out a way to make it possible as it is so much better for them to have real food.

  11. Natalie
    September 18, 2016 / 9:07 am

    Hi Ruth, do you mean the website all about dog food? Mines been on Aatu for over a year now and she loves it too X

  12. Sophia
    September 18, 2016 / 9:12 am

    I visited this website once before and was unsure as to whether it was reliable! Did not expect to find the answer to this on your blog .. Thanks for posting this I will actually give it a try

  13. Lucy Dixon
    September 18, 2016 / 9:16 am

    Oh that’s good, I wonder if there’s a similar site anywhere for cats?

  14. Jasmine Alderton
    September 18, 2016 / 9:17 am

    I know you said “don’t” with the raw food diet due to the pain of chopping and weighing bits up but there is an alternative! My dog, Ziggy the large Munsterlander has had similar problems since he was a little puppy. We tried everything and eventually nailed it to a sensitive tummy and also allergies to all the common vaccinations that unfortunately the vets recommended (little evidence that they’re actually needed.). He’s fed on a raw diet with added sweet potato and we get all of his food from a company called the natural food pantry. I’m sure that there will be something similar to you up your neck of the woods too :) he’s sparkly eyed and bushy tailed more so now than he ever has been! I’d also recommend visiting a homeopathic vets if there is one near to you, We’ve visited one in Chichester who has been incredible in identifying allergies and getting him back on the right path. Good luck with Dexter and keep up the good work xxx

    • suzanne manser
      October 3, 2016 / 12:55 pm

      Hiya, natural food pantry Google search, even with UK tagged on the end gives me a load of Canadian natural food shops for humans. Any more info please?

  15. M
    September 18, 2016 / 9:33 am

    Phew Ruth! What a coincidence! Our schnauzer has been in and out of the vet for the past few months due to gastro problems and we have been searching high and low for a good diet we can follow. Our dog eats everything, so fussy eating is not a problem rather it is about his fussy stomach. Will go through the website! Thank you!

  16. Kate
    September 18, 2016 / 9:36 am

    It constantly astonishes me that almost nobody reads the ingredients last on their dog’s food. It’s not written in Japanese! Most of the “supermarket” brands have less than 5% meat in, and all kinds of other junk. Some of those advertised as “premium” or “vet diet” aren’t that much better, esp for the crazy price.

    As an obsessive dog mum who also can’t face raw, can I recommend you check out Millie’s Wolfheart? Only available direct from them online, British company, real ingredients, free delivery so no lugging it home. My whippet loves the Salmon & Sweet Potato and will work for individual bits as if they were treats. About £40 for 10kg!

  17. Sarah
    September 18, 2016 / 10:07 am

    Our dog wasn’t eating. We went to the vet, switched his food, gave him treats, etc. but nothing would get him to eat…. From his bowl. Then it dawned on me one day when I picked it up and got a little electric shock. It’s made of plastic and I was just shuffling on carpet.

    My poor dog was afraid of his bowl because he must have received a shock on his nose at some point. We got rid of the bowl and started putting his food directly on the mat. No problems since. Also, my dog is a weirdo.

    • September 18, 2016 / 3:19 pm

      HA! How amazing! Imagine if you’d never worked that out? x

    • whippers
      September 19, 2016 / 9:14 pm

      Aww, this is so cute.

    • suzanne manser
      October 3, 2016 / 12:56 pm

      Poor pup. Thank goodness you worked it out.

  18. sian white
    September 18, 2016 / 10:52 am

    Hi Ruth, I have a 2 year old collie with a super sensitive tummy. I find giving her a daily doggy probiotic helps and i am super strict that she doesn’t have any “people” food because it messes her tum up! Also found out she is lactose intolerant… it is surprising how many dog treats contain dairy!!!! Good luck with the new dog food!! xx

  19. Dawn
    September 18, 2016 / 11:18 am

    We recently lost one of our dogs to liver cancer, feeling like we may have been able to influence his life with better food we did a lot of research on a healthier diet for our dogs. We have like you chosen to put ours on a grain free diet as in the wild dogs would not eat rice or oats which is often about 80% of commercial dogs foods (even the so called organic ones!), it far more expensive than the ‘complete’ crap we were using but we know how much better it is for them.

  20. Elise
    September 18, 2016 / 12:27 pm

    Our family dog was also easily stomach sick so when I got my own dog (a lovely Samoyed male named Woola and who’s 3 years old as well), I decided I wanted to give him the best I could without going as far as raw food. After searching, I found out that dogs absolutely don’t need cereals in their diet and that’s just rubish for them. We give him cereal-free kibbles, he’s never been stomach sick! Well, he has but that’s only happened when we gave him our food, never with his kibbles :)

  21. DRTVrMoi
    September 18, 2016 / 12:32 pm

    As the owner of a miniature poodle with digestive issues, this was a great read. Unfortunately, we live in the colonies but it inspired me to look for comparable USA-based sites.

    Be assured, with patience and good diet, Dexter will have a long, healthy life. Our Bob is just turned 12 and still believes he is a puppy

  22. nicole
    September 18, 2016 / 12:47 pm

    hi ruth and everyone! been a long time reader but first time commenting because i need all your opinions. does rhe dog food attract pests? i hate them with a vengeance and thats the only thing stopping me from getting a dog. i heard ants love cat and dog food. if you have indeed encountered pest issues, how did it get resolved?

    • September 18, 2016 / 3:18 pm

      Never had a problem with this! I suppose if it was left out for long periods? But I’ve always left dried food out (the cat has wet but gobbles it down) and never seen ants!

    • suzanne manser
      October 3, 2016 / 1:07 pm

      Dogs generally eat all food in one go so no issues there. We feed our dog morning and evening, all gone. Then you can pick up the bowl, wash and put away.
      Cats. Our cats get sick on wet food so it is dry food only with water always available. Because of the dog, I put the cat food down when the cats come in the kitchen and pick it up again when done. Cats are more likely to be grazers. Generally, dry food won’t attack flies etc but might attract rodents. If you feed cats indoors, rodents are less likely plus food won’t get wet. We have trained our cats to eat 2 or 3 times a day and when I wasn’t at home, just twice a day so just clean up when they are done. Hope that helps.
      Many rescues do a fostering thing which you could do to help you decide if you want your own additional family member.

    • Nicola Barton
      October 4, 2016 / 1:58 pm

      Scout hoovers all of his raw food up. So much so that we had to get him a special slow eating bowl! So no issues with ants etc

  23. Minty
    September 18, 2016 / 1:02 pm

    I have a cat with the feline equivalent of IBS so I feel your pain (or rather Ted feels Dexter’s pain). After trial and error mainly, I can report that if he sticks to James Wellbeloved then he’s fine. Anything else really does upset his tummy.

    I buy my cat food from Fetch.. massive savings and delivered in one hour slots by Ocado.

  24. marymary
    September 18, 2016 / 1:06 pm

    If he’s not a working dog he may not need to eat much. I don’t think dogs need super high nutrition either going by what they eat in the wild. They probably don’t eat every day and scavenge a lot. I’m not saying to feed any old thing but I wouldn’t worry too much as long as he eats something.

  25. Zara
    September 18, 2016 / 3:27 pm

    With you on the vet recommend ones , I have cats and these foods have low meat cotennt sugar and grains at astronomical prices , no doubt the vets have deals with these companies which is a shame as you want the best for your pet and so go with what the vet recommends

    I buy German imported cat food online, works out cheaper than the high street fodder, I feed high meat sugar and grain free with no tummy issues and shiny costs

  26. Susan Carrigan
    September 18, 2016 / 3:45 pm

    I have a schnauzer mix and she has always had food issues. Most of the recommended foods are full of ingredients that upset her. Thanks for the heads up on the website.

  27. Chantell
    September 18, 2016 / 4:10 pm

    I work at a vet clinic.

    The prescription foods you are referring to have been created by vets with many years of schooling and a lot of science. The non-prescription dog food manufacturers do not have that kind of science in play when they make food. Some of them do a good job, but when your pet has specific dietary needs, listen to your vet and pay for the prescription diet. Much of the marketing you see around dog food is just that–marketing. Grain is for many creatures a very good thing, when unprocessed. Please don’t assume a website knows more than experts in the field.

    Also, for the love of God, don’t feed your animal raw diet. Salmonella is rampant.

    • September 18, 2016 / 10:53 pm

      There’s literally NO meat in this vet-prescribed food. It’s all filler and cereal. So… Not sure how many years of schooling makes up for that – I’m assuming dogs need to eat meat!

    • Danielle
      October 3, 2016 / 3:01 pm

      What you write is complete garbage. A balanced raw diet of human grade ingredients is the best and most natural diet you can feed your dog, comprising of 80% meat, 10% bones and 10% organs (5% of which should be liver)

      The absolute worst diet you can feed your dog is prescription “food” (I hate to use that term, as you can hardly call it food) thanks to the inferior ingredients, tons of starchy fillers (perhaps you’ve ignored the fact dogs can’t digest carbs) and a mountain of preservatives.

      Prescription diets are the biggest con out there. Science? What science is needed to know how to feed a dog? Pet food manufacturers are preying on owners’ insecurities and making it sound so complicated there is no alternative but to feed their junk. And no, grain is a very bad thing for dogs. Since when do you see dogs munching on fields of corn? Grains are only used because they are CHEAP. No other reason. Certainly not for your dogs’ needs.

      Salmonella, give me a break. How many wolves do you know that die of salmonella? Perhaps you’re not aware that a dog’s digestive tract is very short and designed to deal with any bacteria present. You know salmonella is everywhere, right? Ice cream, spinach, cantaloupe melon, just to name a few recent outbreaks.

      You are recommending a junk food diet. Suggest you go away and educate yourself on what dogs thrive on, not what the junk pet food manufacturers indoctrinate the vets with. And no, they are not experts. They just know how to market rubbish well.

  28. September 18, 2016 / 4:39 pm

    My dog turned out to be allergic to corn and wheat. He sneaks some occasionally or I forget and give him a bit of human food. He gets bad eye goop and his skin starts flaking. Luckily, we have a decent food thats within our budget that is more meat centric, with lamb and rice. No byproducts or anything bad. He loves it, even after 6 years of eating it!

  29. Shanene
    September 18, 2016 / 4:42 pm

    Hi Ruth,
    I do not own a dog myself but remember reading an article on dooce.com about the brand Canidae. Amazon uk stock it . If you google dooce and Canidae you should find the article. She highly recommends it.

  30. Tricia
    September 18, 2016 / 7:46 pm

    No experience of dogs, but one of my cats used to get frequent urinary infections – miserable for all of us, especially him, and expensive in vets’ fees. Tried all sorts of cat food and the best I’ve found is Thrive. The wet food is really wet, so the cats get the moisture they need without trying to get them to drink and as long as I minimise the dry food (I use it as a snack rather than a full meal for them), no UTIs. There are sufficient varieties of flavour to keep my fussy pets happy (they love all but the chicken and liver one) and it’s expensive, yes, although not the most expensive. I get mine from zooplus which has good offers if you buy in bulk. Thrive also does dog food, which may be worth a try for Dexter. I get so cross with the so-called prescription brands which have the same crap in as the supermarket varieties but claim to be so much better.

  31. Schulzey
    September 18, 2016 / 7:58 pm

    Dog Food Advisor is also an excellent source of information on dog foods, plus you can enroll in their alerts email in case any food gets a recall notice.

    • Virginia Villalobos
      September 23, 2016 / 9:26 am

      I have also used this website and find it very helpful.

  32. Heidi c Johnson
    September 18, 2016 / 8:39 pm

    Thanks for the tip…
    I just spent an entire Saturday at five different dog boutiques in Phoenix…buying several types of food from each place after researching food for days for my four legged furbaby…
    Trying to transition him to the healthiest most life preserving option I can find has been a chore as he is sooo snarky with food…
    I’m heading to that directory right now!

  33. Jennifer
    September 18, 2016 / 11:04 pm

    Ruth, check out zooplus – an expensive but good site for pet food. Easy to see the ingredients breakdown…where the manufacturer has nothing to hide. Aatu looks great – 80% meat content. Royal Canin simply list the ingredients – they don’t say what % of each. This tells you everything.

  34. Cait
    September 19, 2016 / 1:37 am

    I have found that a spoonful of canned pumpkin (straight up pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling) solves all my dogs’ tummy troubles, from blackages to loose poop. It also helps address anal gland/scooting issues. I mixit in with dry food and water and they really like it.

  35. Valerie Horne
    September 19, 2016 / 11:06 am

    Orijen is our favourite dry food my girl is fussy but both of us are very happy with orijen and wouldn’t change food again but also occasionally for a treat have a little wet food on top we have lily’s kitchen x x

  36. Liz UK
    September 19, 2016 / 8:55 pm

    Hi Ruth, I too was grossed out by the raw food our breeder recommended for our cat but…. touch wood she loves it and has never had any tummy trouble. I use a brand called “Nutriment” – they deliver, it’s frozen and all in cartons so no having to pulverise bones or similar! The cat wolfs it down in minutes so it’s not hanging around. Like other commenters have said above, when you think about it it doesn’t make sense to be feeding them cereals/grain – that’s never been part of their diet. Honestly, I was sceptical about raw food too but anecdotally for me it’s been easier (and cheaper!) than I thought it would be and I would recommend x

  37. Cath
    September 19, 2016 / 10:15 pm

    Another Orijen fan here. As well as being 80% meat and grain-free it has the added benefit of being free range. I couldn’t get my head round being veggie myself, then being happy to feed my dog the lowest common denominator for animal welfare standards. It’s prices, but so is owning a dog in the first place.

    • Cath
      September 19, 2016 / 10:16 pm

      *pricey

  38. LCF
    September 20, 2016 / 5:16 am

    Oh my goodness that ‘About’ page you linked to is just the sweetest. With that photo as well!

  39. Carrie
    September 20, 2016 / 8:17 pm

    I live in the states and buy dog food from Just Food For Dogs. It is human grade food and my dogs, who used to have stomach and allergy issues, are much better. Not sure they ship to the UK, but maybe there is something similar? We cooked for them for a year and we were so glad to find JFFD. Good luck.

  40. September 23, 2016 / 10:47 pm

    In the U.S ProDiet Holistic Health Foods for Dogs is a small company in Minnesota but they ship anywhere. Began making food in the late 1970s. Really affordable!

  41. Rosie
    September 24, 2016 / 3:39 pm

    Hi Ruth,
    My golden retriever went through a similar thin but we actually found it was a build up of gluten. We were put on the hills prescription stuff for sensitive tummies. It worked. He loved it. My bank account did not! We have since had him on Marcus Mule. It has worked wonders – no dicky tummies since. Definitely would recommend!

    Ps. Congratulations on baby number 2! Been watching the uphill, such an inspiration and very brace of you to do – well done!

  42. September 28, 2016 / 3:22 am

    I have a toy poodle (love of my life) called Rupert. He is pretty fussy, would way rather chase a tennis ball that eat. I have to make meal time a game of fetch too, I throw each biscuit kibble at him to get him to eat! Its ridiculous but kind of amusing. I’ll definitely be looking at this website thank you Ruth. Also congratulations on your second baby on the way!

  43. Michelle
    September 28, 2016 / 5:39 am

    Orijen and Acana, and I occasionally buy beef that I cook and mix in, though I’m a vegetarian. Origen and Acana claim to be a Canadian brand and as close to organic I can find without all the fillers; I buy it from an online service here in Germany – delivered to my door (free) within 3 days.

    Like you, I did research because I wanted a high protein diet for this very active dog and this seems to keep him healthy, no stomach issues, no skin issues, no vet visits (except the occasional bee sting from his bee hunts…). Pricey? I suppose, but he eats it — and my goodness, he can’t feed himself. So interesting to read through other people’s philosophies on this great topic – thanks for sharing!

  44. Lady Eve
    September 28, 2016 / 12:51 pm

    It’s very clear from the avalanche of responses that this niche post is a big hit. It just goes to show that you never can tell!

    Thanks for the website tip.

    And I’m happy I’m not the only one who cannot visit Pets At Home without visiting the guinea pigs.

  45. October 2, 2016 / 6:59 am

    Very cool site! I do not have a dog at this time, but my two had their own special needs. Royal Canin was the first thing the vet recommended for them, too. I’ll have to revisit it when I adopt another :)

  46. C
    October 3, 2016 / 2:15 pm

    This website has been a wonderful source of help to us. We too have a dog with stomach problems. We use Gentle cold pressed food and have just switched to the fish version. The vet has been very impressed with the food and assistance we received from the food company.
    The site doesn’t push you toads any foods in particular and the breakdown of ingredients is superb and we would not have found the food we are using without it.

  47. Paul
    October 3, 2016 / 4:22 pm

    I found the Markus Muhle is great value for money and so is the Lupo both under £40 for 15 kilo Both are cold pressed kibble, but the pieces.are quite big, We also buy Lukullus dog food pouches, my Bichon loves them.

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