From the deadly chicken jerky coming out of China to your everyday rawhide – identifying safe treats for your dog can be a matter of life and death. Most chews look innocent enough, but the truth is these chews are not only unhealthy for our dogs, they can be downright dangerous! But with some careful research and helpful tips, you can prevent treat time from becoming a terror.
Find the Source
The biggest step you can take for your dog’s treat safety is knowing the country of origin of the treats and chews you’re feeding.
As an educated pet parent, you’re already aware of the recalls and FDA investigations resulting from the Chinese chicken jerky treats, but there are other dangers to avoid when considering your dog’s treats and chews.
Chicken breast is more readily available and less expensive in China because human consumption focuses on dark meat, rather than white meat. However, the chicken sourced from China, as well as Chinese processing, use techniques and additives, like certain antibiotics, that are not allowed in the United States for safety reasons. The end result is a questionable treat that presents a risk not worth taking.
For not only your dog’s chicken jerky treats, but also his sweet potato chews, make the safer choice and only buy products sourced from the USA. They’re overseen by the FDA and must follow strict guidelines to ensure safety for your pet.
Beef and lamb chews can be sourced from several different areas.
USA chews will always be overseen by the FDA, which will mean a safe, high quality product.
Numerous chews also come from Australia and New Zealand, both countries with strict oversight, pristine environments, and high quality products. Beef chews from South America are also very safe, healthy options for your dog. High quality South American beef is a way of life for many ranchers and they are very careful to produce grass-fed, free range, 100% safe products.
Ingredient Dos and Don’ts
When it comes to ingredients in your pet’s treats and chews, a simple rule of thumb is less is more. Single ingredient treats are not only great because they’re a healthy option for your pets, but you can easily determine what’s in them, and more importantly, what’s not. If a product is made with 100% chicken, 100% sweet potato, or 100% beef, you know exactly what your dog will be eating.
Artificial colors, preservatives and flavors are also very common in pet treats. Keep your eyes peeled for any ingredients that don’t look familiar or that you can’t pronounce.
Gently dehydrated treats are easily made without these ingredients, so shop around and find options without artificial, harmful chemicals.
Finally, make sure you read the ingredient panel. A lot of companies will make healthy claims on the front of the bag, but the truth is discovered on the back. Read the ingredient panel carefully and make sure you know everything that’s in the treat.
Back to Nature
Natural ingredients are always going to be better for your dog: they’re easier to digest, they’re in line with a high quality, healthy diet, and they’re less processed than conventional treats. But with so many treats claiming to be natural, finding the truly healthy options can be difficult. There are some simple tips to help.
Look for how the product is marketed. When companies claim that their products are “100% Real,” they are grasping at straws. “Real” is not a substantiated claim and makes no difference in what’s actually in your dog’s treat. This also applies to treats that make big, bold claims on the front of the packaging. When you want to find out what a product is made with, you look at the ingredient panel, not the front of the bag.
Truly natural products can be easily identified by looking for certain phrases, like single ingredient, grass-fed, and free range. But even more important is looking at the ingredient panel: if there’s only one ingredient, then you know what your dog is eating.
It’s also helpful to keep processing in mind. If the chew or treat is bright white or some unnatural color, then it has more than likely gone through a toxic bleaching and dyeing process. If, for example, the sweet potato looks like a sweet potato, then you know that it has simply been dehydrated, which not only maintains nutritional content, but keeps dangerous chemicals out of the process.
Along with knowing what you’re giving your dog, it’s equally important to know how you give it to your dog. Although natural treats like bully sticks and sweet potato chews are 100% digestible, they can still present choking hazards and get lodged in your dog’s throat. Preventing this can be a fairly simple task.
Always be present when giving your dog a chew. You don’t have to be nose to nose, but make sure you’re in the same area as your dog and stop in occasionally to make sure everything is going smoothly. This not only gives you peace of mind that your dog is safe, but it also helps reinforce the bond between you and your dog.
Know your dog’s chewing habits. If he likes to swallow large pieces of treats, take the chew away from him when it gets down to the final bit. This will remove the choking hazard, but still give your dog a satisfying chewing experience.
When it comes to bully sticks, make sure you size your treat to your dog accordingly. Smaller dogs can do well with any size bully stick, but the 4 inch ones will last a while and are
satisfying. For larger dogs, make sure you’re getting a 12 inch or 18 inch bully stick to prevent choking and offer them a longer chewing experience.