What A Treat! The Do’s And Don’ts Of Pet Treats
By Monica Reyes
Pet owners who feed a bones and raw food diet (BARF) to their dogs and cats understand just how important nutrition is to the overall health and well-being of their pets. These savvy pet parents read ingredients labels before deciding upon the best diet for their companion animal.
In talking with our clients who are strict when it comes to the food they feed their pets, one thing that many unknowingly overlook are the treats they reward their pets with. So today I thought I would touch on the do’s and don’ts of pet treats to help highlight the importance of good nutrition - from bowl to hand.
Many pet owners use treats on a daily basis. Treats are put to good use when dog owners are training, rewarding or simply giving their dog a midday snack.
Here is a list of a few good reasons to use treats:
- Potty Training
- Tricks and Games
A high value treat is not only tasty for your dog but it can be a great way to motivate your dog to work very hard for that yummy snack!
What Is A "High Value" Treat?
Dog trainers recognize the hierarchy of pet treats and the different responses that dogs offer when given various forms of treats. High value treats are foods that cause dogs to drop what they’re doing and focus on you in order to get their reward. High value treats include cheese, meat, and freeze-dried or dehydrated treats. These would be the equivalent of offering a child a chocolate cookie or lollipop - they’ll stop what they’re doing and come right over!
High value treats are ideal for training because they keep your dog interested during training. They also will not harm their health when fed appropriately.
Low value treats - on the other hand - are foods that dog likes but can tire easily from. These include dog biscuits, jerky, crackers and kibble. Low value treats may be hard to chew for your dog and can cause distractions during training.
They are usually cheaper than high value treats so pet parents often rely on these for day-to-day rewards and snacks.
Proper Dog Nutrition And Treats
Although there are many treats that your dog may go crazy for, they may not be as tasty and valuable in nutrients as you may think. Many store-bought pet treats out there are the equivalent of a candy bar or junk food to your pet. Standard treats are jam-packed with artificial ingredients and preservatives. You may even be surprised to know that some treats even contain sugar, corn, high levels of carbohydrates and chemicals. Imagine what the long-term effect of a so-called “yummy snack” for your dog would be if you fed these types of treats to your pet every day!
Instead of choosing low-quality treats for your beloved pooch, opt for those with very little ingredients and that contain natural ingredients. Do the pet food label check: if you can read and understand the ingredient list then you’re a step in the right direction. Choose treats that don’t contain any sugars, grains, preservatives, or artificial flavors or dyes. Baked, dehydrated and freeze-dried treats are best if you can’t go totally raw.
Your dog may absolutely LOVE the treats that you pick up from your nearby pet store, but are they harming your dog? You may not think that a junk food treat will do your dog any harm but they will definitely add up over time. Just looking at the labels of many popular commercial pet treats is alarming. Some of these treats are not even manufactured in the US.
Since 2007, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received reports of hundreds of animals falling ill and even dying after ingesting tainted jerky treats manufactured in China. Many pet owners whose pets got sick were unaware that the treats they were feeding their pets were made in China because the company headquarters for these brands was in the United States. Worse still, because the FDA could not pinpoint the cause of the problem (or the companies directly involved) the treats were not forcefully recalled...so they remained on store shelves for unsuspecting pet parents to continue to purchase and feed to their pets. If you're uncertain of the ingredient source or country of origin of your pet treats, call the company and ask. You might be surprised by what you discover.
Other pet treats contain poor quality ingredients such as meat by-products and meals. Just like every other food item you may purchase, look at the dog treat labels to ensure that they are healthy for your dog.
Offer Your Dog A Better, Healthier, (Yummier) Treat Option
It is easy to say that we should reward our furry friends with a tasty treat when they do good, but how many can really say that they are providing healthy foods and nutrient-rich treats to their pets? Well luckily there are ways that a dog or cat can get excited about learning a new trick or be rewarded for being so well-behaved.
The BARF team has done a lot of research on the current treat options on the market and, in keeping in line with our philosophy of biologically appropriate raw food for dogs, we have only endorsed one pet treat and that is the freeze-dried liver treats by Etta Says! These single-ingredient treats are freeze-dried raw livers and come in chicken, beef, and lamb flavors. They are as close to raw as you can get and compliment the natural healthy dog food you're feeding your pet. Best of all, these are considered high value treats by hundreds of trainers, breeders, pet parents and of course our very own dogs and cats. Etta Says! liver treats are ideal because not only will your dog (or cat) find them delightful, but they also provide good nutrition and a much healthier option for your companion animal.
Monica Reyes is a Raw Pet Food Specialist for BARF World Inc. She is a full-time student and working mom to a young toddler, a terrier mix named Mookie and a tabby cat named Phillip. Monica enjoys healthy home cooking and spending quality time with her family. For more articles like these and to learn more about the benefits of raw food for your pets, sign up for The Intelligent Pet monthly e-zine at www.barfworld.com.