Treats are those special delights that we give ourselves when we feel we are deserving, and treats are what we give our dogs, when they behave in a proper manner.
We usually prefer our treats to be something delicious and sweet, while our dogs will eat anything sweet, full of fat, meat tasting or any and all of the above.
A dog treat should be something special and if you have one of those rare discriminating dogs, a treat has to be a cut above its regular foodstuff.
What comprises a “good treat” versus a “not so good treat?” Many commercial treats are not very good for our dogs. Many are made with inferior ingredients and with some artificial preservatives and coloring that can cause cancer.
Too many treats contain a great deal of sugar, and when given too often can possibly lead to a diabetic condition. Treats made with a large amount of fat can lead to a pancreatic condition. Too many treats good or bad can change a dog’s eating habits by creating a craving for a certain taste, and thereby destroying healthy eating habits, and the taste for nutritionally balanced foods.
There is also the possibility that some treats may contain things your dog is allergic to and long term use can cause medical problems, not mentioning that too many treats can lead to obesity, and its share of problems.
So what is a pet owner to do? Number one read labels. Buy treats that contain only healthful ingredients, look for whole grains, and/or fresh meat, and treats made with vegetables and fruits. Stay away from sugar added, corn syrup products, food-coloring additives, most preservatives and treats that may contain animal by products, (whatever they may be.) Organic treats are best.
In reading labels what criteria should you follow? Here are a few things to keep in mind and it will only take you a few minutes to glance at the list of ingredients on the label.
The first trick is to understand the labels as they can and do lead you astray.
The first ingredients are the most important as they compile the base of the treat. If the treat is a “meat treat” than the label should have the meat listed first, such as lamb, beef or chicken.
Then the grains should follow suit such as brown rice, oatmeal, or wheat. If you see ground wheat, corn gluten meal, or ground yellow corn meal these are low cost fillers and contain very little protein.
Look for natural sweeteners such as cane molasses, honey, applesauce, and if a treat is to remain moist usually a vegetable glycerin source is noted such as Guar Gum. Sweeteners listed as sucrose, corn syrup or ammoniated glycyrrhizin should be avoided if possible.
Vegetables and/or fruits should be noted, if natural flavors are used they should be noted also such as a natural smoked flavor. Many brands will list such things as bacon fat as a flavoring, if there is bacon in the product more than likely it has been treated with sodium nitrate (not a good preservative.)
Natural preservatives such as sorbic acid or mixed tocopherois should be noted. If you see such as preservatives as BHA and sodium nitrate these are two of the worst artificial additives to be found. Many treats contain natural preservatives and should have an expiration date listed on the package.
Colors such as “color red 40,” which is the worst of colors added to pet food followed by yellow 5, yellow 6 and blue 1 should be avoided.
Any label that mentions the word “meat” without naming the meat and if the word is way down on the list of ingredients, you can wonder just what it is and not buy it, as it is suspect.
Reading the labels is easy once you set your mind as to what ingredients to look for and remember the higher on the list the good named ingredients are the better and to beware of BHA and sodium nitrates as preservatives.
Another thing to consider is the country of origin; not all countries have the same regulations as the United States. This can be another whole article, as can be the conversation about “human grade” products used in pet food versus food grade or feed grade, along with USDA Approved-Inspected facilities.
The world of pet food manufacturing is very interesting and complex, I as a mere mortal can only touch upon a few things concerning what we feed our pets. All we can do is our best, read labels and be aware that most of the time you get what you pay for. Buy the best quality dog food you can.
Feed your dog treats as a reward for good behavior and for doing its tricks, do not feed treats as a substitute for a normal meal. Let a treat be something