The Allure of Dog Treats

We've all been there.  We're marching the isles trying to choose dog treats and find ourselves surrounded by beautiful packages.  Bright colors, fun designs, and happy dogs on the front.  How often do you look past the bag and read the ingredients?  Or do you just trust the front of the bag when it says No By-Products and Grain Free! 

Freya loves Lamb Lung, string cheese, and pot roast!

Freya loves Lamb Lung, string cheese, and pot roast!

This past week all I've done is research dog treats, because I want to offer more variety for you all.  Let me tell you, company names can be misleading, packaging claims are far from the truth, and those lovely grilled chicken breasts on the front aren't what's going into the treat.  And before you say, my dog LOVES XYZ TREAT, I'm going to stop you and say one simple thing.  I love caffeinated pop, especially for breakfast (don't judge,) and it isn't even sort of good for me.  Let me tell you a little secret, your dog will love single ingredient or minimally messed with treats even more than your sugar, grain, fat filled treats! 

Believe me, nothing gets my dogs doing backflips more than freeze dried lamb lung, baked chicken breast, or some lean stew meat.  They love single ingredient stuff!  I used to swear by a few brand name treats, and to be fair there are good ones out there.  However, more often than not, the flashy packaging and allure of gluten free, grain free, cage free, antibiotic free, by-product free, or whatever else they claim catches us.  The real telling sign for a treat are the ingredients and where an ingredient is coming from.

So in a treat ingredient list, you have to start at the beginning and work your way down.  For example, if I saw the following ingredient list: Chicken, Ground Rice, Ground Barley, Malted Barley, Vegetable Glycerin, Tapioca, Natural Flavor, Cherries, Sunflower Oil, Salt, Lecithin, Phosphoric Acid, Rosemary, Turmeric, Sorbic Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Mixed Tocopherols, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Propionate.

I'd know that the largest amount of this treat is chicken because it's right at the beginning.  However, I'd also know that the ground rice, ground barley, and malted barley combined probably outweigh the chicken.  Why is this a problem?  Barley, especially malted barley can send your dogs system into yeast overdrive.  So while chicken is the first ingredient and there isn't soy, wheat, or corn, you still have a high grain content in this treat. 

The other sneaky ingredients in this treat are things like salt, which no dog ever ever needs.  Another sneaky one is cane molasses, which is the equivalent of sugar, corn syrup, and glucose.  Sugars and the grains that dogs metabolize to sugars (like wheat, corn, and others) are good to avoid because they lead to yeast production and some strange behaviors.  Just drink pop for a week and take vitamins, then see how you feel.

Next, start to get curious about sourcing of your meat products.  Where is the meat coming from, cull lots, Canada, Organic Farms, Australia, Brazil, irradiated piles?  It's good to know what's going into your dogs treats.  The good companies boast about USDA inspected facilities and human grade meats, which is a great place to start!

Next time you find yourself surrounded in that treat isle, start asking questions, flipping bags, and doing some research.  You'll be shocked to see what you find.