Recent issues with dog treats made in China aside,
what is in your dog's treats?
what is in your dog's treats?
Today, many owners appreciate the importance of quality food for their dogs. They know to read the list of ingredients. They often choose to feed grain-free, raw, or homemade dog food, in order to keep inferior or unhealthy ingredients out of their dogs' food bowls.
But what about treats and snacks for dogs?
In the past I've thought of dog treats as "junk food" in moderation. I might eat a processed candy bar filled with high fructose corn syrup once or twice a week. Why is it so bad if my dog has a few unhealthy treats as well? My dog and I live active lifestyles, neither of us are fat and overall we eat a healthy diet.
Will a few "bad" treats hurt us?
Well, probably not. But a "few" unhealthy treats here and there add up over time.
Why eat such unhealthy treats when there are healthier, tastier options out there (for dogs and humans)?
After taking the time to actually read some of the ingredients in popular dog treats on the market, I now think twice about the kind of treats I give my dog.
Reasons to avoid many
commercial dog treats
1. Many commercial dog treats contain sugar or corn syrup
It never occurred to me that dog treat companies would actually put sugar or corn syrup in dogs treats! I assumed there were regulations against this. Boy was I wrong! I started reading the labels of popular, commercial dog treats. It turns out many of the companies list sugar or corn syrup among the top ingredients!
Sugar has many of the same negative effects on dogs as it does on people. Consuming sugar can increase a dog's risk of developing health problems such as obesity, diabetes and dental disease.
Do read the labels on the treats you buy for your dog as you would on your dog's food.
2. Commercial dog treats often contain chemical preservatives
Unfortunately, it's common for commercial dog treats to be loaded with chemical preservatives and dyes. These ingredients provide no nutritional value to the dogs but help make the food look more appealing to people.
Potential carcinogens such as ethoxyquin, BHT and BHA are permitted in U.S. pet foods as preservatives, according to the animal advocacy organization, Born Free USA.
Reading the ingredients on many commercial treats and I was not surprised to see these chemicals listed. Dog owners should make sure to shop for natural dog treats made with wholesome ingredients such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin or natural, sugar-free peanut butter.
Semi-moist dog treats will also likely contain propylene glycol, generally recognized as safe within certain levels, yet prohibited in cat food formulations. Think about it, do you really want to feed your dog these things?
3. Many dog treats contain corn and other cheap fillers
Corn is a cheap filler with little or no nutritional value to a dog, yet many commercial dog food companies use some form of corn (corn gluten meal, ground corn, etc.) as the top ingredient in their food and treats. That's because corn is cheap.
On top of that, many dogs are actually allergic to corn. Some potential allergy symptoms in your dog could include itchy skin, an upset stomach or ear infections.
Many veterinarians suggest that dogs do not need grain in their diets at all. I feed my own dog Ace a grain-free dry food. If you do decide to feed your dog grain, make sure it's high-quality grain such as whole brown rice. Avoid cheap grains such as soy and brewer's rice.
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Brewer's rice is a cheap rice by-product that provides zero nutritional value, according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials. The AAFCO establishes nutritional standards for pet foods, but does not regulate pet foods.
Editor's note: While I don't believe that the issue of corn and grains in dog food and dog treats is as simple as that, I do agree that they are used in much higher amounts than what would serve our dogs' best interest. For example, I believe that healthy dog's diet should not contain more than 20% of carbohydrates. Yet, most dog food products derive at least 50% of the calories from carbohydrates. That is so partially because these ingredients are cheap and partially because certain levels of starch are needed for processing of many of these products. Certainly, grains contain protein also—that is the other reason they are used in high quantities—but that is a source of a whole other set of issues. I won't argue that quality grains in reasonable quantities can be of benefit. Overloading dog food and dog treats with grains, or worse, grain products such as gluten meal, does not a healthy dog make.
Here is an example of ingredients on one of the popular dog treats: Ground wheat, corn gluten meal, wheat flour, ground yellow corn, water, sugar, glycerin, soybean meal, meat, hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, bacon fat (preserved with BHA), salt, phosphoric acid, sorbic acid (a preservative), calcium propionate (a preservative), natural and artificial smoke flavors, added color (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Yellow 6), choline chloride.
So how can I make sure my dog's treats
Before you buy any commercial dog treats for your dog, make sure to read the list of ingredients!
Avoid treats that list any of the above things such as sugar, corn syrup, cheap grains, chemical preservatives and other inferior or potentially harmful ingredients.
I like to shop at local dog bakeries where they make homemade natural dog treats that are safe for my dog. I would rather buy treats from an individual or a small business rather than a larger pet-food company.
I also prefer to shop at our natural pet food store where all the dog treats, chews and food are safe for my dog. The owners and staff members are knowledgeable about canine nutrition and are happy to answer my questions and address any concerns. I notice the employees at larger pet food chains typically know very little about canine nutrition and show little interest in my dog's health.
Another option is to make the dog treats yourself!
I like to make peanut butter treats for Ace using a simple recipe of whole grain brown flour, peanut butter and water. Unfortunately, most brands of peanut butter contain sugar, but if you shop in the organic section you should be able to find sugar-free peanut butter. It's healthier for you and your dog!
Certain fruits and veggies also make healthy treats for dogs, but not all fruits and veggies are safe for dogs. Just make sure to ask your dog's vet if you are unsure if a certain food is safe for your dog. Ace loves apples, carrots, bananas, asparagus and green beans.
What kind of treats do you give your dog?
Lindsay Stordahl maintains the blog and dog training forum at ThatMutt.com. ThatMutt.com is a dog blog dedicated to everything about dogs - dog training, dog rescue, dog behavior, dog health and much more!
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