We all wish picking out healthy dog treats would be easy. Unfortunately, too many brands are more interested in making a profit rather than helping your dog live his best life. You know the basics of what you’re looking for, but no one has time to stand in the dog food aisle and Google all the ingredients they’re unsure about. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t pronounce it, it probably doesn’t belong in your dog’s food. At the same time, there are ingredients that sound harmless, but they’re far from it. Choosing healthy dog treats can be a struggle, but avoiding the ingredients found on this list is a great place to start.
- BHA and BHT
Used to extend the shelf life of food, chemical preservatives like BHA and BHT are banned in countries including Japan and Australia. The U.S. and Canada, however, have no such laws forbidding it from being in your dog’s food/treats. Despite scientific evidence linking BHA and BHT to conditions including hyperactivity in children and cancer in rats, these chemicals are still found in countless food products for both humans and dogs. While there isn’t enough research to pinpoint exactly why these chemicals are harmful to your canine’s health, the concern is for long-term health and disease development in our pets. Instead of these chemicals, look for treats that use natural preservatives like vitamin C and vitamin E.
- Artificial Colors
You might think colorful dog treats look more appealing, but if those colors aren’t natural, they’re not good for your dog. Ingredients like Red #40 and Blue #2 are never found in healthy dog treats. Certain artificial food dyes have been called potential carcinogens, and they’ve also been found to cause hyperactivity. Simply put, there’s no reason for your dog’s treats to be blue, green, yellow, or any other unnatural color. Your dog doesn’t care what his treats look like, so you shouldn’t either.
- Corn Syrup
You probably already knew corn syrup is quite unhealthy for humans. It’s found in processed foods and sweet treats that are okay on occasion, but you never want to overindulge yourself on anything containing corn syrup. Corn syrup is commonly listed on the back panels of popular kids’ cereal boxes, but you might also find it in your dog’s treats. Sweeter than sugar, corn syrup is often used in dog treats because it’s cheap to produce. That lower retail price, however, comes at the cost of elevated blood sugar, obesity, and diabetes. And like most sugary snacks, treats with corn syrup can be addictive for dogs. Your dog will fall in love with them, and the more he eats, the more his health will go downhill as a consequence.
- Rendered Fat
This one is tricky, because fat is an important part of a dog’s diet and should be included in healthy dog treats. It gives the body energy and plays a big role in the function of cells, muscles, and other body tissues. The issue is where that fat comes from. If you see rendered fat, animal fat, or poultry fat listed on your dog’s treat bag, consider it a red flag. These vague forms of fat are listed as such because they come from unidentified sources. The fat could come from farm animals that died of disease or dead zoo animals of any species. (That’s a scary thought just in itself!) You don’t know what else is in there, and rendered fat is a low-quality food source that is likely to contain toxins. Instead of rendered fat, you want to feed your pup named fats like chicken fat, pork fat, or coconut oil.
- White Flour
You use white flour for cooking and baking all the time, but that doesn’t mean it belongs in your dog’s treats. White flour is stripped of nearly all its nutrients. It has zero nutritional value for your dog, and it’s nothing but a filler to bind other ingredients together. It’s a simple carbohydrate that does nothing to quench an appetite. Eating flour-based food will most likely end with your dog feeling hungry again sooner rather than later. White flour also causes conditions including obesity and diabetes. Better sources of grains, like rolled oats and quinoa, are a much more ideal option to source from when it comes to the health of your dog
- Meat or Meat By-Product
Don’t confuse the word “meat” with a named protein like beef, chicken, or lamb. When dog treat brands list meat or meat by-product as an ingredient, it means yes, there is meat in there, but they don’t exactly know what kind. For all you know, those treats could be made from roadkill or euthanized pets. You also don’t know which part of the animal the meat comes from. It could be organs or even hooves. And since you don’t know what it is or where it comes from, there’s no way of knowing if it was exposed to chemicals or toxins. If you choose dog treats that include animal protein, you want the ingredient list to be as specific as possible. It’s also important to remember that your dog doesn’t need animal protein in their treats. Other sources of high-quality protein, like rolled oats or organic peanut butter, are a safer option to lean towards.
If you ever find yourself questioning an ingredient in your dog’s treats, it’s best to go with your gut. If you can’t pronounce it or don’t know what it is, the odds are good it’s not healthy for your dog. Your dog deserves the best, so look for healthy dog treats to support a nutritious and delicious diet. Show them you love them by giving them the very best for their health.