How to Choose Top-Quality Dog Treats for Your Dog
How identify the hallmarks of top-quality dog treats – and potentially harmful ones, too.
There are nearly as many types of dog treats on the market as treats for humans: sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy, meaty, fruity, fatty, savory, and so on. Despite the variety, top-quality dog treats should share the following two traits: They should pose zero risk of killing your dog. And they should be appealing to dogs by virtue of the quality of their food ingredients – not as a result of chemistry experiments with 20 or 30 different food by-products and a host of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.
Domestic Sources, Domestic Manufacture
As to that first trait: Currently, the only dog treats that have been implicated in dog deaths and dog illnesses have been either made in China, or made primarily with ingredients that were imported from China (see news article here). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and many other parties are searching for an explanation – an agent that could cause the illnesses that have been reported in thousands of dogs who were fed treats containing ingredients from China. We think it’s only prudent, then, to avoid buying any product that is either made in China or contains ingredients from China, until the specific causative agent is identified and can be avoided. In our opinion, there simply is no point in risking the life of your canine family member for a cheap treat.
As to the second trait of a good dog treat: What is a quality food ingredient? In our opinion, foods that you feed your canine family member should contain only ingredients that are:
-Unadulterated, unprocessed or lightly processed, wholesome foods that are . . .
. . . procured from local, traceable, reputable, inspected/audited sources
These latter two criteria eliminate almost every commercial dog treat you will find in chain grocery stores or big-box megastores. That’s one of the reasons we strongly recommend that you shop for treats in independent pet supply stores with educated staffers – stores that refuse to carry low-quality products. Just as in the human food industry, the titans of the pet food industry (who make the products found in grocery and big-box stores) put a lot of “junk” into their junk foods.
And while a very occasional Cheeto or Pop-Tart (or Snausage or Pup-Peroni) is unlikely to cause immediate harm, no one can say they could actually be good for you (or your dog). Whereas a handful of dried organic fruit or fresh oatmeal-raisin cookies are the kind of snacks that are delicious and contain nutritional benefits for you; and dried meat treats or fresh oatmeal-chicken cookies can genuinely nourish your dog.
As always, you have to scrutinize those ingredients lists – and be discriminating! Remember that your dog depends on you to make healthy choices for him. Don’t be the “pet parent” who gives his kid the canine equivalent of sodas and Fritos every day. If you want a fit, long-lived canine companion, then everything you feed him should support his health, not undermine it. There’s no reason that treats can’t be good for your dog – in moderation, of course. (If you find yourself cutting back on your dog’s nutritionally “complete and balanced” food in order to maintain his healthy weight, rather than cutting back his daily ration of nutritionally incomplete, unbalanced treats, your dog could end up fat and nutritionally deficient.)
Unsure that you can identify healthy ingredients? See the chart on the facing page for tips. If you’re still in doubt after that, consider making your dog’s treats yourself! We’ve included directions and recipes in the accompanying article "How to Make Your Own Top-Quality Dog Treats!". “Bone” appetit!