You love making your dog happy with something as simple as a yummy treat. Sure, she’ll gulp down almost anything that’s edible (and a few things that aren’t), but you want your dog’s treats to be nutritious as well as delicious. Unfortunately, many brands of dog treats include ingredients that aren’t good for your dog’s health. Some ingredients offer zero nutritional value, and others have potentially harmful side effects. Here’s a list of common ingredients in dog treats you want to avoid.
#1 – Meat Meal or Meat By-Product
Meat is an important part of your dog’s diet, but there’s a difference between meat meal or meat by-product and the nutritionally-rich meat your dog deserves. Meat meal and meat by-product are all the leftover bits of animals that humans would never consider eating. According to Dog Food Advisor, meat meal could be made from slaughterhouse waste, outdated supermarket meats, and even euthanized animals.
There’s an “anything goes” philosophy to meat meal, and you never know what your dog is actually eating. There could be bits of hooves, feathers, and even tumors mixed in with those meat meal dog treats. Named meat meals and by-products, like chicken meat meal, are slightly better than the nondescript “meat” listed among treat ingredients, but even that doesn’t give you much reassurance.
#2 – Artificial Food Dyes
Lumpy bits of brown dog treats rarely look appetizing to the human eye, and pet food manufacturers know all too well that appearance matters. They know people are more likely to buy dog treats if they look like they taste good, so they add extra ingredients to change the food’s color. These artificial food dyes have zero nutritional value, and they’ve been linked to conditions including hyperactivity and possibly even cancer.
Dog treats are dyed all colors of the rainbow to make them look more like natural foods including meats and vegetables. Even brown-colored treats could have caramel-colored food dye in them. Those colors might make the treat look more appealing, but dogs don’t care. Food dyes are purely for human benefit, and they could put a dog’s health at risk.
#3 – BHA and BHT
Preservatives are common ingredients used to make dog treats and human foods last longer. It sounds like a good idea, but specific types of preservatives including BHA and BHT are harmful to dogs. Both BHA and BHT have been linked to a number of serious health issues. Dog Food Insider reports long-term exposure can potentially lead to kidney damage, liver failure, and cancer.
BHA and BHT are both chemical preservatives considered to be carcinogens. Many countries ban their use in human and pet food, but Canada and the United States allow certain amounts. Products including embalming fluids, pesticides, and cosmetics also contain BHA and BHT. You definitely don’t want your dog eating any of those, and treats with chemical preservatives aren’t much better.
#4 – Corn Syrup
Corn syrup is a popular sweetener used in all kinds of human foods, and it’s unfortunately one of the common ingredients in dog treats too. It already has a notorious reputation for getting kids addicted to sweets and causing obesity. When it’s used in dog treats, those same risks apply to your pet.
Pet food manufacturers use corn syrup because it’s cheap and dogs seem to love it. It turns normal dog treats into candy for dogs, and there’s absolutely no nutritional value. Regularly eating corn syrup-filled dog treats can lead to obesity, diabetes, and dental problems.
Choosing Healthy Dog Treats
With so many potentially harmful ingredients, it’s not always easy to tell what’s good for your dog and what isn’t. Packaging often features pictures of happy dogs and scrumptious-looking foods like chicken and steak, but don’t let those marketing tactics fool you. Always turn over the bag to check out the list of ingredients. If you find any of these four ingredients, it’s best to put that bag back on the shelf.
The number of options you have for treating your pup is overwhelming. You can narrow down the possibilities by choosing treats that are either all-natural, or better yet, single ingredient. This means instead of BHA and BHT, look for natural preservatives like vitamin C and vitamin E. Instead of meat meal, you want treats that list whole, human-grade proteins like chicken, beef, turkey, or lamb.
Single ingredient treats like chicken jerkey, fish chips and bully sticks are good choices when you want treats that are high in protein and low in fat. There are no dangerous additives in all-natural or single ingredient treats, and dogs love them.
The next time you say the word “treat,” you want to know you’re giving your dog something special that won’t harm her health. You want her tail to wag in excitement, but you also want her to live a long and happy life. Knowing more about the common ingredients in dog treats will help. You’ll never regret taking a few extra seconds to read the back of a treat bag. It’ll reveal a lot about what you’re feeding your pet and help you make healthy decisions.
Sources: Dog Food Advisor, Dog Food Insider, Greatist, Scorecard
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