Features September 2012 Issue

Shopping for Top-Quality Dog Treats - It's All In the Ingredients!

MEATY DOG TREATS

Meaty treats may be 100 percent meat, or contain just one or two other ingredients.  Animal muscle and organ meat ingredients are much more expensive than grain- or vegetable-based products, so meaty treats will generally cost more, ounce per ounce, than other types of treats.

Products may be quite dry (with a moisture content around 5 percent); or chewy, with as much moisture as 25 percent. The moist products necessarily contain ingredients known as “humectants” – substances that promote the retention of moisture in the product. The low-moisture treats may be dried, freeze-dried, or dehydrated.

In general, the fewer ingredients used in these products, the better.

TREAT TRAITS OF A GOOD MEATY DOG TREAT 

Meaty products should contain as much animal protein as possible! The animal product should be first on the list of ingredients and there should be few (or even no) other ingredients. The source of any animal protein or fat must be named, whether it’s a muscle tissue (in which case it will appear as chicken, beef, buffalo, etc.) or an organ (in which case it should specify which species it came from, i.e., chicken heart, beef liver, lamb lung, etc.).

Products that are certified by reliable third parties as containing organic, grass-fed, humanely raised / humanely slaughtered, domestic meat animals or sustainably sourced fish trump other animal protein sources. Nice example: The Honest Kitchen’s Beams (dried fish skins).

Preservatives, if used, should be natural, such as mixed tocopherols. The package should contain either a “best by” date and/or a date of manufacture.

TREAT TRAITS OF MEATY DOG TREATS TO AVOID

No animal by-products or unnamed animal sources (i.e., meat and bone meal, chicken by-products, “animal fat”).

Treats should contain no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

Artificial humectants (i.e., propylene glycol) should be avoided.

Imported meats should be avoided. No ingredients from China; treats manufactured in China are also to be avoided (see pages 4-5 for rationale). Example: Canyon Creek Chicken Tenders.

COOKIE OR BISCUIT-STYLE DOG TREATS

In general, cookie- or biscuit-style treats are made with grain or another carbohydrate and baked. That said, this is a wide category of treats, and there are many grain-free products on the market.

Some biscuits use animal products (such as muscle meat, organ meat, fat, dairy products) as the principle palatant (ingredient used to appeal to dogs), but others use sweeteners or salt.

This style of product generally has the same range of moisture content found in dry dog foods – about 10 to 12 percent. “Chewy” treats may contain as much as 30 percent moisture.

In general, the fewer number of least-processed ingredients used in these products, the better.

TREAT TRAITS OF A GOOD COOKIE-STYLE DOG TREAT

The source of any animal protein or fat must be named.

All grain, fruit, or vegetable ingredients should be whole or lightly processed.

Certified organic ingredients and local, sustainably farmed ingredients trump ingredients for which no claims are made.

“Chewy,”  high-moisture cookies should contain natural humectants, such as maple syrup, honey, or vegetable glycerin. Nice example: Cloud Star’s
Soft & Chewy Buddy Biscuits.

Only natural preservatives
should be used.

A “best by” date and/or date of manufacture should be on the package.

TREAT TRAITS OF A COOKIE-STYLE DOG TREAT TO AVOID

No animal by-products or unnamed animal sources (i.e., meat and bone meal, chicken by-products, “animal fat”).

Low-quality grain by-products should also be avoided; if the label does not simply say the name of a grain or grain flour, it’s a by-product.

Avoid treats containing propylene glycol, an artificial humectant. 

Treats should contain no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Example: Beggin’  Strips (which contain all three).

Imported ingredients should be avoided. No ingredients from China; treats manufactured in China are also to be avoided (see pages 4-5 for rationale).

MISCELLANEOUS DOG TREATS

Dried fruit or vegetable chews? Frozen “ice cream” style treats?

TREAT TRAITS OF A GOOD DOG TREAT

These should contain only one or two ingredients, which are whole or lightly processed. These should contain only a few, readily identifiable ingredients. Nice example: Nature’s Variety’s Sweet Spots.

TREAT TRAITS TO AVOID

Imported ingredients should be avoided. No ingredients from China; treats manufactured in China are also to be avoided (see our article on treats recall for rationale). A long ingredient list including many artificial ingredients. Example: Purina’s Frosty Paws 

Comments (2)

Is Cesar softies dog treats any good. i know you frown on their caned food. Also what an you tell me about Pet Pride jerky dog treats.

Posted by: nichael w | December 23, 2013 1:37 PM    Report this comment

If your dog has food allergies, also watch for "natural flavors." If your dog is very sensitive, or if you give a good quantity of a particular treat, there might be enough of his/her allergen in the "natural flavors" to set off an allergy attack.

Posted by: Jessica K | September 19, 2012 10:42 AM    Report this comment

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