Why My Silly Moral Code Won’t Let Me Blog About Dog Food
I write about a lot of things when it comes to dogs, but food isn’t one of them.
And you wanna know why I don’t blog about dog food? Because I’m not an expert when it comes to dog nutrition. Dog food is a subject I’m not comfortable writing about, because I honestly have no idea what food is the best for your dog. I have a pretty good idea of some brands to avoid, but that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable telling anyone else what they should be feeding.
If it sounds a little familiar it’s probably because I touched on it briefly in 5 Dog Articles I’m Tired of Seeing, among a few other things that really bother me about pet blogs, but today let’s dive in a little deeper.
Now let me clarify one thing – I am not talking about general dog food posts, I don’t mind those & actually find them pretty insightful. Articles like “5 Superfoods For Your Dog” are fine by me, because they tend to be written by real dog owners sharing their own experiences with certain foods & brands. I consider those honest reviews – ones written by people who have actually tried the food their pimping.
The ones I don’t like, the ones I don’t trust at all and find unethical, are the very specific ‘best foods for insert dog breed here’ ones.
But looking at the new dog blogs that pop up everyday I’m seeing more & more people who do just that – tell you exactly what you should feed your dog. But the problem is I’m not buying it, and I’m not sure you should either.
The Types of Dog Food Posts I Find Untrustworthy
There’s a ton of reviews that I’m perfectly fine with, even if I suspect they’re written only with affiliate income in mind. Reviews about dog toys, harnesses or shampoo are fine by me because even if I don’t end up liking the product they’re not likely to have an impact on my dog’s health like a bad review about dog food can.
Food & nutrition, to me at least, is a ‘serious’ subject that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Changing your dogs whole diet based on one review isn’t something to be taken lightly, and I really wish the people writing these crappy dog food posts understood that certain diets can have dire consequences for some dogs. They never even hint at the fact that slowly transitioning your dog to a brand new food is a good idea, they just say ‘hey this one is awesome for Golden Retrievers” and leave it at that.
But unfortunately nutrition isn’t a one size fits all sort of subject, yet many crappy dog food reviews treat it as such. But it’s not exactly true. There isn’t one single miracle food that will make every dog thrive.
Now when I say crappy dog food reviews you might be wondering which ones I’m talking about – and oh let me tell you about these lovelies. The ones I don’t like are the ones that are breed specific & obviously written for the sake of targeting the keywords “dog breed + best dog food.” Catchy as they are I distrust titles like “The Top 10 Best Foods for Your Greyhound” & “The 5 Best Brands of Food for Your Beagle.”
And why don’t I trust them? Why do I find them so unethical?
Well if you look at the about section of these blogs there’s no mention of them being experts in that breed, experts in nutrition, nor do they tend to have any real life stories of their own experiences with the brands they’re trying to sell. Most times you can’t even find a photo of the author with a dog, let alone a single photo of their dog with the food mentioned.
Call me weird but if I can at least see photographic proof that you’ve at least had that dog food you’re reviewing in your possession at one time I’m a little more at ease. But if you can’t provide that why should I believe you’ve even tried it? And why is it OK for you to tell me to use it if you haven’t used it yourself?
Secondly you can find all the nutritional information they’re listing right on amazon – the place they’re trying to send you to buy it anyway. Now they do make it nice & convenient with their comparison tables & fancy 5 start rating system. I get it, they look nice, and it’s hard not to trust a site that looks so professional.
But what they’re doing is spinning the stuff that other owners have already written about on amazon & making it into their own article. They’re hoping that when people search for “what’s the best food for my Wheaton Terrier” they’ll end up on their own articles so they can refer them to to amazon for some of that sweet affiliate income.
Why I Don’t Blog About Dog Food
I get it, we all want to make money, and writing about dog food can be pretty lucrative. But that sort of ‘reviewing stuff I don’t actually use’ mentality isn’t a practice I find ethical – especially when we’re talking about food – something that can directly effect your dogs health & wellbeing.
I don’t have kids, therefore I don’t blog about kids & what’s best for them. How the hell would I know? What I do know is that I’d have trouble sleeping at night if I was trying to make my living by telling other people what to feed their children. To me it’s just a subject you shouldn’t touch if you have no idea what in the hell you’re talking about.
I don’t have a bearded dragon, so you won’t find me writing a post about “The 5 Best Heat Lamps for Your Bearded Dragon – Guaranteed!” Though I’m sure there’s a lot of money to be made there if you’re so inclined…
So what I’m getting at is that if you don’t have a Cocker Spaniel, nor do you even have a dog at home, I’m not sure you should be feeling good about making money from writing posts like “The 7 Best Dry Dog Foods for Cocker Spaniels.” I don’t even know that I’d be comfortable writing that article if I had a damn Cocker Spaniel myself because guess what? There isn’t one miracle food that’s perfect for all Cocker Spaniels.
When it comes to dog nutrition you need to think about the dog in front of you, not the general label of ‘medium breed dog’ or specific breed itself. Even if you have two dogs of the same breed and age that doesn’t mean that they’ll both thrive off of the same exact diet. It may, but it may not, it’s all about considering the dogs themselves.
The most extreme version of this practice is known as lying. But more often, bloggers will take a little bit of knowledge and pass themselves off as topical experts about complex matters. It’s fine to give advice or discuss a multifaceted subject; just don’t write as if you are a field specialist if you aren’t one. – Unethical Blogging Practices to Stay Away From
Not All Dogs Thrive on the Same Food
The other part that really bugs me about these ‘best dog food’ type articles is that they don’t take into consideration any one dogs specific nutritional needs.
Now OK maybe it’s a given that you shouldn’t just take any advice you find online blindly, but it certainly hasn’t stopped people from searching things like ‘what to do if my dog won’t stop bleeding’ and asking for advice on dog forums. The internet has given us such easy access to ‘all the answers,’ yet we sometimes forget that those answers are often created by people just like you or me – not necessarily experts in the field they’re writing about.
When it comes to caring for our pets & choosing their food we each do our own level of investigating & research. Some of us do much of it on our own, while many of us (myself included) look to ‘experts’ for help.
For as much good advice as their is online there’s a lot of crap to sift through. And when it comes to something as important as my dogs diet I’m not going to trust just any site I stumble upon – I want some sort of proof that they’re educated in dog nutrition, not just another affiliate marketer.
And seriously if we could just stop with the idea of thinking that all dogs of a certain breed just need the same exact diet. That’s certainly not something I’d expect a real expert to say. As anyone whose had more than one dog at a time knows each of dog does better or worse with certain diets, and it’s not something that’s just dependent on breed.
I mean going by that logic what in the hell should I feed Laika or any other mixed breed dog? Should we just take the best dog foods for each breed & divide it equally? Using specific breeds in dog food reviews is for marketing purposes – you certainly can’t rank in google for the term ‘best dog food for my dog,’ but if you switch it to ‘best dog food for Silky Terriers’ you’ve got a chance.
What to Keep in Mind When Reading Dog Food Reviews
Now I know we can’t purge the internet from all unethical deeds. But there are a few things we can keep in mind when deciding whether or not a blog should be deemed trustworthy when it comes to reviewing dog food.
Think about their intent first. If someone is willing to give you advice on what exact food to feed your dog please consider why. On their about page does it mention that they’re an expert in dog nutrition? Are they writing the review based off of their experiences with their own dog, or are they just rewriting the same crap you can find in other online reviews?
Do they have a bunch of dog food reviews on their blog, and if so are they all targeting different breeds? If so run. Seriously just run. Don’t give them any of that affiliate income. You can find the same information they’re regurgitating on amazon anyways.
My intent for writing this piece is to not only get this off my chest because it is a subject that really pisses me off, but also to hopefully help someone decide to shop around a bit before making a decision regarding dog food. Much like when I wrote Is There Really a Best Breed For First Time Dog Owners I also hope that maybe someday, far in the future perhaps, someone googling ‘best dog food for x” can end up here and at least see the other side of the story from a bloggers perspective.
As bloggers I believe we have a tremendous amount of accountability since it’s so easy to trust most things you come across online as long as they’re presented nicely. Us pet bloggers are writing about stuff that can directly effect another living being, and I believe we should stick to writing about stuff we know about firsthand. I can’t tell you what food is best for your dog so I don’t, even if there’s money to be made.
I know we can’t make the internet a truly ethical place, one where everyone writes for the sake of either entertaining, informing or inspiring. There’s a lot of money to be made in the dog blog world, and a lot of it comes from promoting dog food. And if there’s money to be made you can bet that people will be out there hustling for it.
But perhaps we can at least make the internet a little more decent by choosing not to support blogs that make their money off of selling crap they know nothing about. Next time you come across another one of those “Best Canned Dog Food For Your German Shepherd” just run. Leave that site and don’t return. They’re not in the business to help or inform you, they’re just out to make a buck – and when it comes to the serious decision of choosing a food for my dog I’m not giving them a dime.
What Do You Find Unethical In the Dog Blog World?
So you probably guessed by now that blogging about dog food without being an expert or at least offering proof bugs the hell out of me. And reviews of dog medications – don’t even get me started on those, they’re just as bad. There’s something very off putting to me about pimping products that directly effect your dogs health.
What bugs you about dog blogs? Are there certain subjects you wish people wouldn’t write about? Have you come across any of these ‘crappy dog food reviews’ yourself?
All Things Collie says
I try to only do product reviews for things I would feel safe giving to my own dogs. I do not receive any reimbursement for my reviews, I do them just for myself and my readers. I write honest reviews, pointing out things I dislike about a product, the things I love about the product, and why. I never claim to be an expert on any subject, I just share my own observations about products, my life with my dogs, and occasional other subjects. I try to be as informed as possible about dog food brands, and the hidden dangers, but I agree there is no one perfect food for an entire dog breed.
Jen Gabbard says
I love reading people’s experiences with different products, and to me that’s what blogging should be about – sharing the information you’ve learned through your own experience.
Kimberly Gauthier says
What bugs me are lazy product reviews. By lazy, I mean when someone posts a positive review about a mediocre product without fleshing out the pros and cons of a product. If I’m going to spend my money on something, I really want to know what I’m getting into. I’ve seen products where I’ve done the review and when I check other blogs to see their thoughts, they barely scratch the surface. One that comes to mind is a dog food where the cost of the food to feed big dogs would be nearly $2000 a month! On other blogs, no one mentioned the cost of the food and I thought that was a disservice to readers.
I also have an issue, and I struggle with this, when I see bloggers promoting products that I feel are dangerous for dogs. Shampoos with dyes and harsh chemicals or treats with unhealthy ingredients. I know it boils down to “to each their own,” however I feel that we as a blogging community have such a huge voice and a lot of influence – why not use that influence to push brands to provide quality, safe products?
Jen Gabbard says
Exactly, and thank you for sharing. The only reviews I actually love are the ones that clearly state the pros & cons of a product. Those ones that just focus on all the positives leave me with a ‘um, are you sure about that? sounds too good to be true’ feeling.
I struggle with reading reviews on flea medications & a few others as well (haven’t read shampoo ones specifically). For me those reviewing products that can impact a dogs health should not be taken lightly. Even if it there is only a slight chance of complications those risks should be stated clearly, no matter who it’s being written by.
I’d love to see us pet bloggers push more for safe products, and you’re right, we have enough influence that I know we could make a difference.
Dog food is the only topic I have never written about in my ten plus years of blogging. I agree with everything you said, but my main reason is that so many dog owners are hysterical beyond reason that their choice is the best for all dogs and I don’t want to enter the fray.
Jen Gabbard says
Oh my goodness great point. Some of the things I’ve seen on forums & facebook regarding food drives me insane. People do get very hysterical about even mentioning x brand or suggesting that someone may want to try something else if x, y or z isn’t working.
Jana Rade says
I blog about dog food sometimes. I only accepted sponsored post to promote dog food once. It’s food that I like, Cookie likes, and I will feed it happily still.
Amen to that! I don’t write about dog food either because I don’t feel qualified. It’s funny that a good friend of mine said they wished I would do a post to recommend dog food. I tried to explain how complicated the issue was, but I don’t think she understood.
I have written a couple of articles about Haley’s experience with a few medications that have worked really well for her, but I’m always careful to not present it as a recommendation for all dogs, just our experience with it. My goal for those articles is to have a place where people can read many comments from people that have used the medication to get a better idea of first hand opinions and pros and cons. I think it can be especially useful for drugs that are relatively new, like Apoquel.
I hope most readers of our blogs can judge our integrity and tell the difference from websites that are just trying to sell products. Thanks for helping to spread the word about the other guys.
Jen Gabbard says
For me your article about Adequan is exactly what a review should be like. It’s in depth and goes into the details and experiences you had with your own dog, and you clearly state that. The medication ones I don’t like are the ones along the lines of ‘the 10 best flea collars,’ where it’s obvious that the person hasn’t tried all of them.
And I agree completely about not feeling qualified to write about what food I’d recommend. I know what seems to work really well for Laika, but I know she’s different than other dogs.
I can not agree more with this article!! I have blogged about foods in the past but they are explorations into a type of food to learn more, not a BUY THIS! and make me money types of post.
Thank you for shining a light on this topic.
Jen Gabbard says
Aww thanks so much for the kind words. I figured I wasn’t alone when it comes to seeing these sorts of posts all the time, and they just stick out like a sore thumb compared the awesome reviews I see on the pet blogs I follow myself.
And I agree with you about the importance of citing your articles; the ones I’m referring to in this post rarely do.
Carma Allen says
There are a lot of pet bloggers that are far from experts in their field yet they blog about it as if they are. I am a service dog advocate but I blog about the laws and I include the sources of the law. I don’t blog about dog food either saying it is the best because I don’t eat dog food. I have a occasional bowl of kibble like people have a bowl of popcorn but I am a rare fed poodle.
Unfortunately in the raw dog food community I get attacked saying it is just as bad as kibble.
Jen Gabbard says
The dog food community can be a very nasty place indeed, I’ve seen those sort of personal attacks many times. It’s unfortunate that what could equate to an in depth topic for debate/sharing experiences such as pet nutrition often ends up just being people taking one side or the other with no room for trying to understand the other side. I guess in a way it’s a lot like politics…
Kathy Lopez says
I think the majority of folks are well intentioned and just want to share their experiences. Some people insist that one dog food is superior to another and want to argue that, however, I think that is more about their personality style than it is about the food. They are, perhaps, that way in more than one area of their life (‘ I only use Ragu, it is THE BEST…how could you use ). The reader has some responsibility to determine, as you clearly do, the validity of the statements in the blog. We as consumers must be willing to do our homework!
Manufactures, on the other hand, ahhhh, now that’s what really bugs me. I can use my own judgement when it comes to personal opinions, but when you advertise a product to be or do something without any disclaimor, ie, “this food contains….. and may not be good for all dogs…see your Vet….” then I think that’s WRONG.
I loved reading your article. Real. Raw. Honest. Thank you!
Jen Gabbard says
Thank you so much, and I couldn’t agree more. For the most part the ‘real bloggers’ I know all seem well intentioned. It’s the bloggers who don’t post any photos of themselves or their dogs with said product (or even on their about page) that make me wonder about their original intention, and whether or not they’ve even tried the food they’re promoting.
And yes pet food brands themselves are a whole other beast.
Amy James says
Pets are an extremely important part of our life and I can’t even begin to imagine our family’s lives without our loveable and floppy Basset Hounds, Fred and Lucy. They bring all of us so much joy and comfort, and I know we are fortunate to have them. Unfortunately, there are so many pets and animals who aren’t as fortunate as Fred and Lucy to be part of a loving family like ours.
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