Dogs seem to eat everything. Just like raccoons jumping into your trash, it looks like your dog is ready to chow down on anything you give them with extreme enthusiasm. So when you give your dog treats, you have every reason to think anything will do. When you go to the store, they have bones, jerky, and ordinary bags of dog treats. So why would you spend the extra money on healthy dog treats anyway? Your dog couldn't be happier with the other goodies after all. And you may have even needed to fight your dog to stop it from eating the garbage. So are there any benefits to healthy treats?
Not all treats are created equal. For some treats, it doesn't matter if they contain healthy proteins or a supplement. They are going to be bad for your dog regardless because they have harmful preservatives!
Preservatives generally get a pretty bad wrap. In commercials or media in general, we hear a lot about how certain foods don't have preservatives in them. But preservatives just mean additives that preserve things. Some are made from acids and fruits, and they are perfectly healthy items that keep our foods from rotting in the pantry or fridge. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta-tocopherols are all examples of natural sources of Vitamin E. They are used as a natural preservative, and you will frequently see them mixed together. Hence why you see "Mixed Tocopherols" on some ingredients lists.
Some synthetic preservatives are okay for consumption too. Not all synthetic blends are made purely from a lab and are derived from natural sources. For example, potassium sorbate is made from the potassium salt in sorbic acid. It also has the lowest allergenic potential of all food preservatives.
But some aren't so healthy. For example, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), and ethoxyquin are synthetic preservatives that haven't exactly been banned but don't carry a great reputation. They are still around because there aren't any immediate signs of damage after eating. But the long-term effects of these preservatives are under question. Ethoxyquin received some scrutiny in the 90s for potentially causing cancer. The EU recently banned it for being a possible mutagen? BHA and BHT have also been under scrutiny for long-term adverse health effects in dogs.
Different Proteins Different Benefits
What about treats that do leave the good stuff in? And what is that good stuff?
It all depends on your dog and its breed. But some general tips can help you choose between treats and save you lots of time on research.
One of those general tips is to check for omega-3 in your dog's treats. This protein is the gift that keeps on giving. And not only is it good for your dog, but it's also good for you! It's most well-known for its presence in salmon, though you can find it in many other places. Salmon is just an easy source to obtain omega-3. If your treats don't say omega-3 but in the ingredients mention salmon, omega-3 is still present.
Omega-3 is believed to be an anti-inflammatory agent. Making salmon great for dogs with joint problems or even people with inflammation issues!
But it also makes up for imbalances in any diet. Our dogs and people tend to find omega-6 more readily available than omega-3. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 should be in the 4:1 and 1:1 range. Instead, we frequently eat 10:1 and 16:1 diets. The food we give our dogs often has the same imbalance because of what meats are readily available. So, salmon makes a tasty nutrition-balancing treat.
Chicken is another excellent protein for your dog. Dogs don't need many fats, and fat content might make some otherwise great treats into an unhealthy concoction for your dog. Chicken breast is perfect for your dog as it's the leanest meat in the chicken.
Nutritious Sweet Potatoes
A common misconception is that your dog is a pure carnivore. Your doggy can eat more than meat (but if you watched your dog's eating habits, that may have been obvious). And just like us, they can get lots of nutrients out of sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes do a lot for us. One man loved them so much that he promised to dedicate himself to eating them for two months just to prove they were very healthy.
Sweet Potatoes have vitamin C and B6, which help keep your doggy's nervous system (including its brain!) in tip-top shape. It even contains vitamin A which is the vitamin that makes everyone say carrots are good for your eyes. Vitamin A also helps with your dog's immune system!
So yes, treats do matter! Anything your dog eats can give it potential benefits or adverse health effects. And while your dog will like most things you give it, it will be even happier with all the extra energy from a good diet. Your dog probably won't be going vegan anytime soon, but it will feel better with some healthier lifestyle choices. Pamper your pet with some healthy treats this week and see what they think!