You already understand the importance of feeding your dog quality food, but what about treats? Unfortunately, feeding your dog poor-quality treats could negate many of the benefits of nutritious food. Luckily, plenty of healthy treat options are available — the key is knowing what to look for.
What Are Organic Dog Treats?
In the context of both human and pet food, the term "organic" is thrown around quite a bit — and it's not always used correctly. In fact, there are many myths and misconceptions floating around out there about the true definition of "organic" when it comes to dog biscuits and treats.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) defines organic pet food as "organic animal feed [that] meets production and handling requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP)." This essentially means that specific regulations for organic pet food have not yet been established (though the USDA claims it's in the process of developing some) — and that, in the meantime, pet food must meet the same criteria as human food to be considered organic.
Currently, the USDA requires that human organic food must not:
- Use genetically modified seeds.
- Use prohibited fertilizers or pesticides.
- Use antibiotics or hormones.
For a dog treat to be 100% USDA organic, it must meet all of these requirements (and then some). This makes it very challenging for many dog treats to be considered fully organic. Instead, many healthier dog treats are made with organic ingredients, but may not be 100% organic.
Alternatives to 100% Organic Treats
If you're searching for an organic treat option, you likely care about the overall quality and healthfulness of the dog treat you're selecting. In addition to looking for organic ingredients, there are other important attributes to consider when selecting the perfect treat for your patient pup.
Dog treats labeled as "human grade" have been made in such a way that the finished product is edible and safe to consume by humans and pets. When a dog treat is human grade, it has been processed, manufactured, inspected, and packed in accordance with the same regulations as human food.
Non-GMO pet treats refer to those that do not contain any ingredients that have been genetically modified in a laboratory. Because there is very little scientific information on the long-term health consequences of consuming genetically modified food (for both animals and humans), many dog owners prefer to buy non-GMO dog treats for their own peace of mind.
When shopping for dog treats, look closely at the ingredient labels for genuine ingredients — not fillers and additives that provide minimal nutritional value to your dog. Ideally, you'll want to see ingredients that will nourish your dog's body, such as:
- Organic apple
- Organic blueberries
- Organic snap peas
- Organic celery
- Organic sweet potato
- Organic banana
- Organic kale
- Peanut butter
Fillers in pet food refer to ingredients with little to no nutritional value for your pet. Usually, these are ingredients that a high-quality alternative could replace. Some common examples of fillers in dog treats include corn, soy, rice, and wheat. You can provide your pup with more biologically appropriate nutrition when you opt for a dog treat that contains no (or minimal) fillers.
Thoughtful Sourcing Methods
You might not have thought much about where the ingredients in your dog's food and treats come from. However, conscientious sourcing and thoughtful production methods have become more important than ever when it comes to protecting the environment. When shopping for all-natural dog treats, look for companies labeled as Certified B Corporations. These are businesses that meet high standards for accountability and transparency.
When a pet food is GAP Certified, this means that it meets or exceeds the quality standards set forth by the Global Animal Partnership, a non-profit organization that develops comprehensive animal welfare standards across the world. GAP-certified pet treats contain ingredients from animals raised without antibiotics or added hormones and fed a vegetarian diet with no animal by-products. When you purchase GAP-certified dog treats, you can support important animal welfare causes across the globe.
MSC Certified Fish Treats
When buying dog treats that contain fish, it's also a good idea to look for MSC certification. This means that the treat has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to contain fish caught using environmentally sustainable fishing practices. Purchasing MSC-Certified fish treats is a great way for dog owners to do their part in reducing overfishing.
Ingredients To Avoid in Dog Treats
Just as there are things to look for when you shop for healthy dog treats, there are also some things you'll want to avoid for your pet's health and wellness.
Artificial preservatives extend the shelf life of many dog treats. Unfortunately, they can also be harmful to your pet's health. Some common preservatives used in dog treats include butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), ethoxyquin, and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA). BHA, a synthetic antioxidant used as a preservative in dog foods, is even considered a human carcinogen.
Rather than opting for a dog treat with artificial preservatives, consider looking for one with natural preservatives. These treats won't have as long of a shelf life, but you can feel a lot better feeding them to your dog.
Artificial colors and dyes are often used in dog treats to give them bolder or brighter coloring. In reality, dogs don't perceive color the same way humans do — so they don't really care about the color of their treats as much as they do the smell and taste. Likewise, there hasn't been thorough research on the effects of artificial dyes (such as Red No. 40 and Blue No. 2) in dogs. In humans, however, the consumption of dyes has been linked to behavioral issues, hyperactivity, and even asthma. With this in mind, pet owners may want to avoid artificial dyes in their dog's food and treats.
If you choose a dog treat containing colorants, look for ones with natural dyes that come from beetroot, pumpkin, green veggies, and berries.
When shopping for dog treats, it's also a good idea to check for sweeteners in the list of ingredients. Too much sugar in a dog's diet can be detrimental to health and wellness, causing weight gain, diabetes, and even dental problems. Likewise, artificial sweeteners (such as sorbitol and xylitol) can even be poisonous to dogs. It's best to avoid these sweeteners (and limit your dog's consumption of natural sweeteners, such as corn syrup) whenever possible.
7 Healthy Dog Treats To Give Your Pup
Whether your dog is into crunchy treats, jerky treats, soft chews, or bully sticks, The Honest Kitchen offers a wide selection of nutritious, limited-ingredient treats free of artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, and preservatives. Here are seven of our most popular options!
1) Chicken Bone Broth Bites With Carrots - $10.99 USD
Dogs love the flavor of real chicken bone broth, carrots, pumpkin, and parsley in this savory dog cookie formula. Our Chicken Bone Broth Bites are baked in small batches and packed with protein to treat even the pickiest pups.
2) Parmesan Pecks: Beef & Blueberry - $10.99 USD
Dogs of all life stages love Beef & Blueberry Parmesan Pecks, which are small enough for easy portion control and great for training purposes. These are loaded with real parmesan cheese and ranch-raised beef to tempt your pup without compromising nutrition.
3) Beef Jerky Harvest Bars - $12.99 USD
Looking for a tender and tasty treat for your dog? These human grade Beef Jerky Harvest Bars are gently roasted in small batches to retain nutrition while creating a soft and hearty texture. Your dog will love the taste of ranch-raised beef, oats, carrots, and crisp apples in this nutritious formula.
4) Ocean Chews: Crispy Cod Fish Skins Beams - $12.99 USD
For dogs craving fish, these Ocean Chews are a great choice. These naturally gluten-free and grain-free treats are a great alternative to jerky and are made of one simple, human grade ingredient: dehydrated codfish skins.
5) Beef & Salmon Meaty Littles - $12.99 USD
If your dog prefers a chewy and tender treat, our Beef & Salmon Meaty Littles deliver the taste your pup craves. With ranch-raised beef, chickpeas, and salmon as the main ingredients, you can feel good about supporting your pet's strength and brain health with each treat.
6) Peanut Butter & Honey Goat's Milk N' Cookies - $10.99 USD
Dogs drool over the taste of slow-baked Peanut Butter & Honey Goat's Milk N' Cookies, which are full of probiotics to promote digestive health. In addition to goat's milk and honey, these biscuits are loaded with barley, rolled oats, organic coconut oil, and peanuts to deliver a punch of flavor in each bite.
7) Gourmet Chicken Liver & Cheddar Chips - $12.99 USD
With nearly 40% protein content, these human grade dog treats offer a savory taste dogs love in a nutritionally dense package. Chicken, chicken liver, real cheddar cheese, chicken bone broth, celery juice, and sea salt give the Gourmet Chicken Liver & Cheddar Chips the delicious flavor your dog will look forward to time and time again.
How Often Should I Give My Dog a Treat?
Even once you've found the perfect treat for your dog, it's important to avoid doling them out too often. As a general rule, dog treats shouldn’t constitute more than 10% of your dog's daily caloric intake. So, if your dog's recommended daily caloric intake is 1,200, you should limit treat consumption to no more than 120 calories per day. Of course, your dog's ideal caloric intake will vary greatly based on factors like breed, age, and activity level — so if you're ever in doubt, it's best to reach out to your vet.
Different dog treats will have different caloric content. Training treats, for example, tend to be lower in calories so that they can be used as a reward more frequently. Other treats will be higher in calories and thus should be given on a more limited basis. Giving your dog treats too often can result in unwanted weight gain and long-term consequences like diabetes and heart disease.
Lift Your Dog's Spirits With Healthy Dog Treats From The Honest Kitchen
You put a lot of thought into choosing the right food for your pup, so make sure you're not undoing all that work with a poor-quality treat. Healthy, human grade treats from The Honest Kitchen are a great way to support your pup's health and wellness while still allowing for a little indulgence. Shop our selection of dog treats today to find your dog's next favorite snack!
*Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.