By Dawn Todd
My dear husband Dr. Todd has a habit of eating the treats we sell in our office. It’s not that he’s hungry; he just wants to know how edible they are. Now that got me thinking… Are you willing to eat the treats you feed your dog?
Throughout the week I generally create two or three recipes for home cooked diets for our patients. I usually get around to asking, “What do you feed for treats?”. I did it yesterday with a client who was already feeding a high quality diet, but wanted to begin cooking for her pampered pug Trixie. To my surprise, Trixie gets “biscuits with a marrow filling” and “Beggin Strips”.
Now the “marrow treats” we’re talking about aren’t the real ones that we have at Noah’s. Long frozen bison femur bones that still have real marrow in them. I’m talking about those little crunchy treats with the bright red center. The Beggin’ Strips might resemble a strip of fried bacon, and have a peculiar bacon-ish scent, but check out the ingredients of each of these treats:
Ingredients Milkbone Mar-O-Snacks:
Wheat Flour, Meat and Bone Meal, Sugar, Dried Poultry By-Products Digest (Preserved with BHA, Propyl Gallate, and Citric Acid), Cooked Bone Marrow (Preserved with BHA, BHT, and Citric Acid), Beef Fat (Preserved with Tocopherols), Salt, Corn Starch, Annatto Color, Red Iron Oxide (Color), Red 40, Sodium Metabisulfite (Used as a Preservative)
Ingredients Beggin’ Strips:
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.
As a health care professional, I advise you NOT to eat these treats; I’ll go further and say be sure to wash your hands after you touch these treats! While wheat, the first ingredient in both these treats, may not be inherently bad in small amounts, there’s not one other ingredient in these that you’d want to feed your pet. If you’ve got the stomach for it, look at the glossary below to see exactly what some of these ingredients really are.
What should I feed my pampered pooch for treats you might ask?
I often advise clients to just eliminate mass marketed commercial treats completely. But if you want to buy a treat, here are two simple tips:
Tip # 1. Look for “Made in the USA” – Not China, the land of many recalls. How could you possibly make something in China, and ship it all the way to Franklin, NC, and still make a profit? I’ll tell you how. The ingredients may be misrepresented, are very poor quality, and may be adulterated. Beware also bags that say vaguely “America”, with some version of a flag. That can also be Mexico (legitimately in North America), but where regulations are far more lax. I recently strolled the treat aisle in Walmart. I couldn’t find a single pet treat on the aisle that was made in the USA.
Tip #2. Look for treats with a single ingredient, or recognizable ingredients – Keep it simple. When you read a label, you shouldn’t need to have a dictionary in the other hand. The products we sell at Noah’s all have ingredients that are familiar to you. Our dry roast chicken treats have one ingredient – Chicken Breast Tenderloins– and that’s the way it should be.
Then there are treats the good old-fashioned way … what you have at home, that you might actually eat yourself. I recommend lots of baby carrots, apple slices, fresh fruits and veggies of all kinds, low sodium mini rice cakes, small pieces of cooked chicken, beef, fish or turkey – fresh or frozen. Bone Appetit!
What’s in Pet Treats? A very short glossary:
In the US, ingredients allowed in pet foods are determined by AAFCO:
The Association of American Feed Control Officials is an organization and not a governmental agency such as the FDA. Members include employees of state, federal and provincial agencies as well as employees from pet food companies. This group sets standards for what’s allowed in pet food.
AAFCO Definition: A material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and undecomposed animal tissue. The animal tissues used shall be exclusive of hair, horns, teeth, hooves and feathers, except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice and shall be suitable for animal feed. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind or flavor(s), it must correspond thereto.
In plain English, digest is a cooked-down broth made from unspecified parts of unspecified animals. The animals used can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. Any kind of animal can be included: “4-D animals” (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), goats, pigs, horses, rats, roadkill, animals euthanized at shelters. Because the industry received such bad publicity for using euthanized companion animals, there’s been pressure to completely end this practice.
Beef & Bone Meal:
AAFCO Definition: The rendered product from beef tissues, including bone, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents, except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.
In plain English, a byproduct made from beef parts that are not suitable for human consumption. It can incorporate the entire cow, including the bones, but the quality cuts of meat are always removed. This is an inexpensive, low quality ingredient used to boost the protein percentage.
Chicken Byproduct Meal:
AAFCO Definition: Consists of the dry, ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines — exclusive of feathers except in such amounts as might occur unavoidably in good processing practices.
In plain English, chicken byproducts are much less expensive and less digestible than the chicken muscle meat. The ingredients of each batch can vary drastically in ingredients (heads, feet, bones etc.) as well as quality, thus the nutritional value is not consistent. Byproducts consist of any parts of the animal OTHER than meat. If there is any use for any part of the animal that brings more profit than selling it as “byproduct” it will be used for another more profitable use. Byproducts are the very end of the food production chain.
Can include sucrose, cane sugar, caramel, corn syrup and others.
Sugar or sweetener is an absolutely unnecessary ingredient in pet foods, added to make the product more attractive. Pets get “addicted” to foods that contain sugars, so it can be difficult to make them eat something healthier, especially cats.
If you’re interested in learning more about the devastating effects of sugar and high fructose corn syrup on our health, watch this lecture: Is Sugar Toxic?