A commenter from last week’s post indicated that it’s increasingly difficult to find treats that are safe for pets. I spent some time today looking over the selection of products at our hospital and at a local pet store chain. Some of the things I found were surprising. I’m going to bring up a few specific points and also provide a list of treats that I found that are not made in China and should be safe, quality treats for pets.
Before I dig in, I want to state something very clearly. I absolutely understand the happiness and good feelings that owners and pets get from the interaction of giving a food treat. We like to pamper our pets, and food is one of the things that people often identify as a pleasurable experience. The hard truth is that while pets may love a particular treat, it may not be a decision in the pet’s best interest. Excessive calories, nutritional issues, dental health, weight gain, and other intestinal problems can result from even the best of intentions. I’m not saying that we should never treat our pets with food. What I am saying is that it should be done with moderation, and with treats that are safe and healthy for pets.
Real Bones, Hooves, and other Body Parts
I DO NOT recommend that dogs be given real bone to chew on. Nor am I a big fan of the hard rawhide bones. I realize that bigger dogs can devour softer treats rapidly, but the fact is that these really hard chew treats are highly likely to damage teeth. I felt like I was back in freshmen veterinary anatomy lab as I stared at the shelf full of cow hooves, beef knuckle bones, food-stuffed leg bones, pig ears, lamb ears, and bully sticks. (In the interest of informing clients and consumers: bully sticks are made from a bull’s penis.) Any hard products can cause teeth to chip, break, fracture, or be otherwise damaged. Broken/damaged teeth are painful and can lead to serious consequences for a pet’s health. You’re far better off choosing something softer for your pet to chew on.
There are many softer bones and non-food chew toys out there. I favor Kong toys as a safe, interactive toy for dogs that can include food as a reward/treat.
Treats Made in the US and Canada
Pet Authority carries crunchy treats/biscuits from three companies. Zuke’s treats are made in the US from US-based ingredients. Zuke’s also makes jerky-type treats that are USA-made. The next brand we carry is Holistic Blend. Holistic Blend is based in Canada and uses Canadian, US, and New Zealand animal ingredients. The treats are crunchy and come in 4 flavors: Yogurt, Pumpkin Spice, Seafood, and Cinnamon. Both of these companies make treats for cats, too! Plato Pet Treats are made in the USA. We carry the Salmon and Duck flavors. Their website shows Sweet Potato and Chicken/Veggie treats, as well.
The pet supply store had quite a few different brands offering jerky-type and crunchy treats. Jones Natural Chews Co. has a number of jerky flavors that are all from US ingredients. Merrick Pet Foods also offers a variety of jerky-type treats made from US ingredients.
Remember to stay away from hooves, bones, hard rawhides, or other solid/hard body parts. Yes, your dog can probably chew them up, but the risk to teeth is high!
There are both devices and recipes out there for making your own treats for pets, too. Jerky treats, biscuits, and other dehydrated products are all great ideas. It’s safe to feed your pet apples, carrots, sweet potato, potato, and meats/fish. Potatoes of any kind should be cooked! I recommend staying away from onion and garlic when possible. Small amounts of garlic won’t hurt a dog, but it’s generally not necessary to give it. Green beans, bananas, celery, pears, lettuce, and cucumber are also OK for dogs. Do not feed grapes or raisins! They can be dangerously toxic to the kidneys.
I hope that this has helped you find some safe treat and toy options for your pet!