Things to Avoid Including in Dog Treats
Our dogs love and serve us unconditionally and we reciprocate the love by making sure they are as happy and healthy as possible. A significant component of a dog’s health is the nutrition he or she consumes. For a healthy diet, dogs need food specially made for dogs as they cannot simply consume the same food as humans do. While a lot of this food can be prepared at home, most are usually purchased. But the ingredients in the treats we get our pets should always be considered.
Just like people, every dog is different, and each may have its own peculiar dietary needs. But several things should never be included in any food or treats that a dog consumes, in some cases at least not in large amounts. Dogs are not picky eaters and generally will eat anything offered to them, so it is up to their humans to be aware of the effects those offerings could have on their health.
Even name-branded dog food that we purchase for them to eat, while loaded with many nutrients, since a dog’s body needs strength and energy, can also contain ingredients that carry potentially unsafe for pets (artificial preservatives, food coloring, ‘meal products’, etc.).
To that end, here is a list of things to avoid giving your dog in their daily treats and meals.
The use of artificial coloring in dog food is done for just one reason: to give it a marketable look. However, a dog does not care about the visual appeal of the food, and neither should their owners. Aside from their irrelevance, artificial colors have been linked to negative effects on multiple biochemical processes in a canine’s body and research shows them also being associated with increased hyperactivity.
Before using white flour to bake any dog snacks, consider using oats, whole grain, or grain-free alternatives. One of the problems with white flour is that it's a simple carb devoid of any actual nutritional value. Carbs, being basic sugars, trigger a spike in blood sugar, followed by a sudden drop. Just like with humans, this causes the dog to become hungry shortly after eating. If the dog eats more, he or she will experience weight gain and potential obesity, which can lead to diabetes.
While salt is a general necessity in canine diets, as it is for humans, a high amount of it has negative effects such as dehydration, high blood pressure, stomach cancer, cardiovascular disease, and strokes. Needless to say, if you are buying treats for your dog, go with products with lower salt (sodium) content. Salt is added to marketed dog treats because it promotes thirst, leading the dog to hydrate more. The problem is that a lot of dog owners actually supplement the treats with additional salt in the belief that it will be more appealing to their pets. Clearly, that is unadvised.
People have been increasingly avoidant of gluten in order to promote better digestion, but for dogs not having gluten in their diet is more critical. Because dogs do not normally consume gluten through materials like barley and wheat, their bodies are not easily equipped to deal with processing it. The problem is that many dog treats sold on the market use gluten to form the texture and shape of kibble (as binding agents). Because dogs’ bodies are not naturally used to it, however, it might cause the dog to suffer digestive issues and develop allergic reactions that are evident through hot spots, chronic ear infections, and itchiness.
While vegetable oil is high in fats and vegetable-based nutrients, it is not the ideal option for how your dog should obtain these in its diet. Vegetable oil is primarily made up of corn and soybean oils, both of which contain omega 6 fatty acids (a necessity in a dogs diet), they also contain far too much of them. Omega 6 fatty acids have nutritional benefits, but excessive consumption can lead to joint problems, arthritis, and inflammation. Because dog treats and meals already contain a sufficient amount of omega 6 acids, it is unwise to supplement them with vegetable oil. If making snacks, using products that have high omega 3 level acids (like olive oil, flaxseed oil, or fish oil is preferable. Chicken and pork-based fats are even healthier choices in terms of canine diets.
Food should be flavorful on its own merits, so dog owners should be wary of foods that are flavored to taste in certain ways. In the case of dog food, bacon and smoke flavorings are common, but the presence of the flavor does not mean that the flavor is natural. In market brands, if the flavor is not listed as ‘natural’ you should assume that it is artificially added. Many pet treat manufacturers also use “flavor” as a catch-all to avoid listing ingredients that dog owners are on the lookout for, so anything listing “flavor” could be composed of undesirables hiding in plain sight.
While preservatives are used to extend the time within which human and pet food remains edible, they are not all created equal. BHA and BHT are preservatives that are permitted to be used in the U.S., Canada, and most of Europe but are outlawed elsewhere. That is because there has been research that suggests, though not conclusively, that these preservatives have been linked to health detriments to both animals and humans. Any treats that use these preservatives should be avoided if possible. You can instead seek out products with natural preservatives such as sage, rosemary, clove, Vitamin C, or Vitamin E.
We want our pets to be healthy, and like their owners, it is on us to be vigilant about what we offer them for treats. Dogs will lovingly accept what a master offers, so we should repay their affection and trust by feeding them things that will not make them ill in return.