Dog Treats 101: The Good, the Bad and the Yummy

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What to Look for in Dog Treats

Dogs love to munch on tasty snacks just as much as we all do. Another thing we have in common? As with humans, choosing the wrong snacks for dogs can be bad for their weight and overall health. With so many different treats on the shelves in the pet store, choosing the best one for your dog can be difficult. Taking an in-depth look at the good and the bad can help you evaluate the options and make the best choice for rewarding your dog in a safe and healthy way.

Identifying Quality Ingredients

Choosing healthy dog treats in the store is a lot like choosing healthy foods for yourself. Avoid being swayed by the words on the front of the package. One popular marketing strategy is to make claims about what’s not in the treats, such as soy or wheat — but your work doesn’t end there. Instead, turn the package over and look for the ingredients list. Focus your attention on what’s actually in the treats. Ingredients are listed by weight, meaning that main ingredients are the ones that come first. If you can identify these foods as ones that you would eat, then chances are that they’re good for your dog, too. Quality ingredients are minimally processed, fresh, and pure. Whole foods have less chance of being contaminated and retain most of their nutrients. The process, as you see, is similar to evaluating your own snacks.

Ingredients to Avoid

While you’re scanning the ingredients list, keep your eyes open for additives that aren’t good for your dog. Certain ingredients affect the color and appearance of the treats, which appeals to humans more than dogs. While they might make treats look more enticing to you, your dog isn’t going to care that much about that old saying that we eat with our eyes first.

Some harmful food additives include:

  • Artificial colors: Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, caramel color
  • Artificial preservatives: BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, potassium sorbate, sodium nitrate
  • Propylene glycol
  • Rendered animal fat
  • Glycerin, unless it’s identified as “vegetable glycerin”
  • Meat meal
  • Animal by-products and fractions
  • Artificial sweeteners: Xylitol, which can be extremely toxic to dogs and should be avoided at all costs

Wheat and corn are two debated ingredients. Most dogs can digest them without any issues, but others can face serious health consequences. As a pet owner, you have to make the call for yourself. You and your vet know better than anyone else what your pet can tolerate.

Counting Calories

Just like humans, dogs are at risk of becoming obese if their snacking isn’t kept under control. Only 10% of your dog’s daily calories should come from treats. Chosen treats should also be low in fat to help your pup keep a trim waistline. If you’re using treats as part of your dog’s training, opt for low-calorie or bite-size snacks, or break up regular treats into smaller pieces before rewarding your dog.

Country of Origin

The country of origin is another major factor to consider when choosing any food or treats for your dog. Ingredients sourced from the United States are fresher and more trustworthy than those from other countries due to stricter guidelines and regulations on manufacturing. In particular, wheat gluten and chicken products sourced from China and used in dog treats and foods have been linked to pet illness and death in recent years. No matter which treats might whet your dog’s appetite, it’s important to do your due diligence and make sure you’re choosing healthful snacks.



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