Unsweet Treats for your Furry Valentine

So, you’ve resolved to feed your pet healthy meals, but just as snacks can undo your diet, poor treat choices can mess up your dog or cat’s nutritional program. A few simple suggestions can keep your furry friend happy and on the right lifestyle track! Pets love praise. Sometimes a treat is not needed. A hug or kind word of encouragement is greatly appreciated! Pets love exercise! Taking your dog for a good run, throwing the ball, squeaky toys and glitter balls for kitties with your interaction is a “treat” for pets with cabin fever or battling a weight issue. Healthy “human” food can make perfect treats. Your little carnivore may love a piece of cooked chicken or liver or a nibble of canned salmon, tuna, or sardines. Many dogs will enjoy a baby carrot, green bean, slice of pepper, piece of banana, chunk of apple or floret of broccoli. Starchy foods are not a good choice for you or your pet, so avoid the pasta, chips, crackers, cookies and breads! Also, avoid cooked fats, and greasy cheeses as these could cause a pancreatic episode in your pet. Remember, chocolate, grapes, raisins and onions have been found to be toxic to pets.

Be aware that commercial treats are packaged, shaped and colored to appeal to you, not your pet. So try to purchase treats for the health and taste benefit to your pet, not the” curb” appeal! Packaging and shaping can drive up price and artificial colors can be toxic. Read ingredient labels. Don’t be mislead by deceptive wording or delicious pictures on the front of the bag. The ingredient panel on the back or side of the package tells the most, although food manufacturer terminology can disguise the truth about quality in some cases.

Any treat that is a hard “biscuit” or “cookie” will contain a significant amount of starch. The sources of this are not only providing empty calories with no nutritional value, but may even be detrimental as allergens or inflammatory or “dampening” from the oriental medical perspective. Therefore avoid treats which list wheat, corn starch, sugar, and various flours, especially if your pet has inflammatory skin or gastrointestinal disorders or is overweight. Treat lines are commonly lesser quality than diet lines and you will often see by-products and unhealthy preservatives listed. Unfortunately many treat ingredients still contain artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin. These are potential carcinogens(cancer-causing agents). The word meat equates to any mammal. It is preferable that the specific meat be cited, such as chicken or beef.

GMO(genetically modified origin) foods and gluten can wreak havoc in canine and feline bodies just as they can in humans. Two more reasons to avoid wheat and soy products. Soy is GMO unless it is labeled that it is not. Manufacturers are not required to label foods as GMO. Remember, organic wheat still contains gluten. Gluten is a protein that can stimulate intestinal inflammation and possibly autoimmune disorders. Quinoa is gluten free and is being utilized to produce some delicious, crunchy dog treats.

Ask yourself, if given a choice, what might be a cat’s favorite treat? A mouse perhaps! And for a dog, perhaps a rabbit or bison bone. Do these natural delicacies contain added sugar or salt? Of course not! So, why do manufacturers add sugar and salt? It is tasty and addicting! Some treats are so salty that a pet’s water consumption may increase to the point that he or she has urinary accidents in the house. If salt is on the label, it should not be near the beginning. Ingredients are always listed in order of weight. And, yes, dogs and cats do develop diabetes which is often cured or better managed when sugary snacks are eliminated. A turkey jerky or venison stick should not have added flour. Why would this be added? It is a filler. This helps to lower the cost, but also decreases the health benefit. And, if you don’t read the ingredient list, you won’t even know that it is in the product.

Consider natural, freeze-dried meats, organs and veggies as treats. The lyophilization process has revolutionized the healthy, convenient pet treat world! Many raw diet manufacturers remove the water from their products and then market small pieces in cute packages as treats. Dogs and cats love these. (They even eat them in veterinary examination rooms, where nervous pets never accept treats from doctors!) You can purchase freeze-dried organs, such as hearts, sweet potatoes, fish and safe, crunchy chicken necks. The variety is endless!

So, would you feed a treat to your pet which contains the following ingredients? Ground wheat, corn gluten meal, wheat flour, ground yellow corn, water, sugar, glycerin, meat, hydrogenated starch hydrolysate,soybean meal, bacon fat preserved with BHA, salt, sorbic acid (a preservative), artificial smoke flavor, calcium propionate (a preservative), glyceryl monostearate, phosphoric acid, choline chloride, added color (red 40, blue 1, yellow 5, yellow 6).

Thousands of dogs eat this treat every day. It is one of the top sellers in the country. Incidentally, the front of the bag says bacon flavor. Where’s the bacon?


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