One of the many joys of pet ownership is being able to spoil your pet with treats every now and again. Of course, we also care deeply about our pets and would never want to give them anything that could potentially harm their health. So how do we know if their treats are actually healthy?

Identifying Dangerous Ingredients

Just as you check the ingredient lists of the foods you eat, you should check the ingredient lists of your pet’s treats. Ingredients are listed by weight order, so the first few ingredients on the list should definitely be high-quality–as fresh, pure and minimally processed as possible. You should recognize every ingredient on the label and know exactly where it came from–chicken fat obviously comes from chickens, whereas animal fat is of indeterminate origin. You also want to look for whole food ingredients, as they are less processed and contain more nutrients than by-products. For example, wheat is better than wheat flour, and wheat flour is better than wheat bran. Natural sweetening through applesauce, molasses or honey is better than artificial sweeteners, but no sweetening is the best choice.

Some food and treat brands make a big deal out of promoting that their products are “hypoallergenic” in order to attract positive attention. However, before you automatically assume that these treats are the best option for your pet, consider the fact that such a claim is incredibly misleading. Hypoallergenic implies that it contains fewer allergens, but any food ingredient can be an allergen to some pet somewhere, while it may cause absolutely no reaction in many other pets. If your pet is sensitive to corn, you don’t need to find treats that say “hypoallergenic,” you need to find treats that don’t have corn as an ingredient.

There are some ingredients you want to avoid altogether in pet treats, including:

  • Artificial preservatives like BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, potassium sorbate, sodium nitrate, and calcium propionate.
  • Artificial colors–especially since your pet definitely won’t care what color their treat is.
  • Chemical humectants like propylene glycol.
  • Any long, complicated ingredient names that you don’t recognize–they could be chemicals.

When you have found the pet treat that is best for your pet, remember to give it out sparingly so as not to ruin your pet’s diet. You can even break larger treats into smaller pieces so that both you and your pet feel that more is being given, without ruining their appetite.