By Bonny King-Taylor, the doggy lama, pet coach
Have you ever noticed how much the dog treat aisle at the pet or grocery store looks a whole lot like the cereal aisle?
Sadly, given the ingredients in the most popular treats, the two products are much too similar.
My buddy, Bob the dog’s person, once reacted with shock when I told him that Beneful food and treats are basically Froot Loops for dogs. He said, “But there are vegetables on the bag!”
Honestly, it might be healthier for a dog to eat the bag.
Current food theory suggests that for both people and pets, ‘the fewer ingredients, the better.’ Let’s see how this applies by comparing a couple of popular dog treats:
Purina Beggin’ Strips vs. Red Barn Choppers
The Beggin’ Strips, (made in China) contain virtually nothing of nutritional value to your dog. In fact, most of the ingredients are not readily metabolized and some are even considered carcinogenic. The grains are going to end up on the sidewalk, if you know what I mean, and the processed sugars can end up in fatty deposits.
On the other hand, Red Barn products are made in the USA and generally contain one protein-based ingredient. In this case dehydrated beef lung.
Before you fall for the argument that quality ingredients cost too much, let’s do the math.
Believe it or not, these two products cost almost exactly the same! The Choppers cost only two cents more per ounce. Pet nutritionists and commentators like Rodney Habib, will tell you that the money you put in your pet’s bowl now will be money you save in the vet’s office later!
If you’d have even more maintain control over what your dog eats, you can easily make nutritious and cost effective treats at home.
With a simple dehydrator, you can create natural, healthy chew treats for pennies with sweet potatoes, apples, carrots and pretty much any dense vegetable that can be dried.
This is a much, much better option than rawhide. Generic beef rawhide is good for chewing, but is not healthy. It becomes a moisture-based bacteria farm, poses a choking hazard and the hide itself is highly chemically processed.
Keep in mind that cat nutrition requires much more protein density than for canines. You can find some great suggestions for homemade cat food and treats at the Feline Nutrition Foundation.
Frozen fruits and veggies like Costco’s “Normandy” variety also offer low cost treat options…especially during these hot summer months. Many dogs love ice cubes, but frozen vegetables offer the same coolness, but with an added nutritional bonus.
We will talk more about the value of healthy treats for training in another post, but for now, keep in mind that while your dog does not need to eat as well as you do, the higher quality ingredients you feed, healthier your pet will be.