Carol’s 7 Tips for Choosing Healthy Pet Treats

April 17, 2014

healthy dog treatsChoosing healthy dog treats can be a daunting task.  Regular readers of this blog know by now what should and should not be in any food our dogs eat, but treats are a little different.  We aren’t searching for a complete, nutritious meal when we purchase a bag of treats, but some care is still necessary to be certain a product is healthy.

My own criteria for choosing a really good treat for my dogs include several important points:

  1. The treat must contain at least 1 high-quality meat.  By that, I mean a named meat source such as lamb or chicken.   Such rendered items as meat meal or chicken by-product meal are not acceptable.
  2. All ingredients must be sourced in the United States or New Zealand for lamb.  While I recognize that perfectly healthy pet food may originate in other countries, I prefer to stick with countries that I know value the ingredients they allow in pet food.
  3. For my dogs, the treat must be grain-free.  I know there are some good dog treats available that do include healthy grains. However, one of my dogs is on a totally grain-free diet, so I expect the treats I buy to fit his need.  Treats that are grain-free use fruits and/or vegetables as alternatives.
  4. It should not contain any artificial preservatives, flavors or colors.  It goes without saying that a decent dog treat won’t include chemicals.
  5. No sugar or added salt or soy. I have purchased treats containing honey or molasses, but sugar contributes to high blood sugar; salt is not necessary in a dog’s diet; dog’s don’t digest soy products well.  7.
  6. Should use only natural fat sources of high-quality.  Named meat fats are the only kind of meat fat sources I will feed to my dogs.  I prefer to see healthy alternatives, such as flax seed oil or olive oil.
  7.  Must not contain glycerin of any kind.  Glycerin can be found in semi-moist foods and treats.  It is a sugar alcohol compound and common sense says it could raise blood glucose, leading to diabetes.  One source of glycerin comes from the jatropha seed.  According to, the FDA recently began notifying “regulated industries that products using glycerin derived from jatropha seeds may be toxic to humans and animals.”  Packages of treats do not tell you the source of any glycerin used.

When I shop for pet treats, I check the ingredients list on the package for the 8 criteria listed above.  If the treat doesn’t fit my rather strict expectations, I won’t buy it.  Because of my work in reviewing pet foods and treats for this blog, companies often send me samples of their products.  If they ask first, I tell them my criteria and that if their products don’t fit my requirements, please don’t send me their treats or food.  I will never feed something to my dogs, if it doesn’t live up to what I consider suitable for them to eat and such a product won’t receive a good review on this website.



Leave a Comment

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

ian bouchard April 28, 2014 at 6:38 pm

It is worth noting that suggesting a food based on its FDA and/or AAFCO certification or approval is bad advice. Neither agency certifies primary diet foods for companion pets.

One may look no further than the AAFCO website wherein they offer a fairly clear disclaimer:

“AAFCO does not regulate, test, approve or certify pet foods in any way.”

In fact, if any foods suggest that they are approved or certified it should raise concern that they are misleading consumers.


Carol North April 28, 2014 at 6:44 pm

Thanks for your comment, Ian. I never recommend a food based on that certification, but without further research, the AAFCO certification provides some measure of information. There are some very good pet foods on the market that don’t have that mark on the package and I should have made that clear in the article. Choosing a dog or cat food requires gathering a lot of information and then making the best informed decision possible for one’s pet.


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