What’s Hiding in Your Dog’s Treats?

Dr. Donna and I recently had a most delightful participant in our Halo Healthy Weight Challenge. Lola was a chubby Pug (quite honestly I don’t think anyone has ever actually seen a slender Pug?!) whose Mom, Heather, was a champ at documenting every little thing Lola ate each day during the 3 month challenge, weighed her conscientiously every week, and had fantastic results, losing pounds, ounce by ounce, every week. A couple of times Heather got a little frustrated with Lola’s progress. When I sneaked a peek at her food diary I was astonished to see that even though Heather had increased Lola’s exercise and was carefully measuring her daily rations of Halo Spot’s Stew, she had not changed her habits in the treats she gave to Lola. And boy oh boy, those were some real doozies — popular treats with catchy names but with dreadful ingredients that make me “see red” — like Red Dye #40, an artificial colorant that is banned in human foods in Europe because of its link to cancer. And there were several other ingredients which are proven carcinogens- ingredients you would never let a child eat.

Heather had not stopped to study the ingredient panel except to notice that the calorie count for each treat was low — which is probably true of many people who care about the quality of their dog’s main meal but don’t fuss over what’s in a “few small treats” especially if their dog loves them. But a few treats will lead to many, depending on how vigilant you are so I thought that including those treats would be a challenge in maintaining Lola’s weight going forward, after she successfully completed the weight challenge. Equally importantly, it might adversely affect the Pug’s lifetime health going forward.

Some of the nasty ingredients in the well-known brands of treats Heather was buying might be in your own treats, too. Please check whether you are giving potentially health-threatening snacks to your dog without realizing it. My book The Dog Bible also has an entire section documenting pet food ingredients to avoid.

Here’s what Dr. Donna recommends as treats for our Halo Healthy Weight contestants (all about 30 calories): zucchini (raw or lightly steamed), 1 cup; green beans, 1 cup; baby carrots, 8; green peas ¼ cup; apple 1/3 cup; broccoli 1 cup; blueberries 1/3 cup; cantaloupe ½ cup.

Myself, I buy brown rice cakes and break each one into 10 or more small pieces and my dogs adore them – no bad ingredients, inexpensive, good fiber, few calories and lots of crunch. I intersperse those with Halo Liv-a-Littles various freeze-dried proteins, so the dogs never know what’s coming next, which makes it more rewarding for them.

And I always have the option to give a good “butt scratch” in lieu of any edible treats — love is its own kind of treat, isn’t it?!

—Tracie Hotchner
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