What dog can resist a tasty treat? As a dog owner, you likely have a supply of snacks your dog loves. They serve as excellent motivation and can be an invaluable tool to reward pups as they learn training commands. But are you sure that your dog's treats are safe and healthy?
Many people are familiar with large-scale recall events that involve dog foods. But treats can be just as harmful. They might not be diet staples, but treats with problematic and downright dangerous ingredients can cause both short-term and long-term harm to your canine companion.
Countless options are on the market today, and prices can vary dramatically. Some feature alluring promotional materials, while others claim to be "organic" and "healthy."
While there are plenty of great options, there are just as many bad products. The last thing you want is to pick one of the worst treat brands and deal with the consequences later. No dog owner wants to take a trip to the emergency vet.
Want to know what treats you should avoid? We have you covered.
The Worst Dog Treats of 2023: Brands You Should Avoid
The market is flooded with treats of varying quality. However, the following brands have a sordid reputation among the dog community for their lackluster ingredients, potentially dangerous additives, and recall history.
Here are some dog treat brands it's best to avoid in 2023.
1. Canine Carry Outs Beef Flavored Dog Treats
You've likely seen these treats before. They're cheap and readily available at most stores. While you might think that chicken being the first ingredient is a good thing, that's where the treat's benefits stop.
Carry Outs use BHA, a cancer-causing agent, as a preservative. Furthermore, the treat's second ingredient is corn syrup. Corn is difficult to digest, contains far too much sugar, and increases the risk of obesity and diabetes. On top of all that, this treat uses artificial dyes and flavors.
2. Pedigree Dentastix
Dentastix used to be the go-to for many dog owners. However, many stories have come up about how these treats make canines sick. They contain very little in terms of nutritional value. It's mostly flour, a ton of artificial additives, and preservatives. There are much better options on the market that provide the same dental benefits without the risks.
3. Milk Bone Biscuits
Milk Bone biscuits are a classic dog treat that's been around for over 100 years. However, the recipe has remained virtually unchanged despite more knowledge about canine nutrition. These biscuits contain wheat, a common dog food filler. It has no nutritional benefit and can be difficult to digest.
The biscuits also contain color additives linked to many health issues.
4. Pup-Peroni Dog Treats
Pup-Peroni treats have a great primary protein. It uses beef as the main ingredient. However, that beef is heavily treated with potentially toxic BHA preservatives. It's also covered in sugar, salt, and artificial colorants. Pair that with the use of meat byproducts, and this treat is a no-go.
5. Purina Beggin' Strips
You've likely seen the cute advertisements for Beggin' Strips. But you may be surprised to learn that bacon is not even among the top five ingredients. The first thing listed is ground wheat, a cheap filler. These strips also contain too much sugar and use BHA as a preservative. Of course, the signature color is also a product of artificial colorants.
6. Pedigree Marrobone Dog Treats
Dentastix arent' the only thing to avoid in Pedigree's product lineup. The Marrobone treats are just as bad. You won't see bone marrow until you get to the number seven spot on the ingredient list.
The first thing is wheat flour. Like other cheap treats, this product uses BHA preservatives, artificial colors, and other ingredients that don't provide much nutritional value.
7. Beneful Baked Delights
Beneful Baked Delights come in various flavors, but they all use ingredients that could be challenging for your dog to digest.
While this product uses healthier mixed tocopherols for preservatives, it still contains problematic ingredients like wheat, ground corn, brewer's rice, and other difficult-to-digest elements.
8. Healthy Centres Salmon Dog Treats
Don't let the packaging fool you. Healthy Centres implies that this product is healthy, but it's anything but. It doesn't even contain any real salmon. Instead, it has hydrolyzed poultry protein, which could be anything. Furthermore, it contains wheat flour, canola, corn starch, and synthetic colorants. All of those ingredients are not great for your dog.
9. Pup Corn Dog Treats
Pup Corn treats look like fun little snacks. They mimic real popcorn and come in a bevy of flavors. But like real popcorn, Pup Corn is mostly made of corn. Many dogs have trouble digesting corn. It's also a common allergen. Pair that with the use of artificial colors and flavors, and it's not worth giving to your dog.
10. Smartbone Rawhide-Free Chicken Mini Dog Chews
Smartbone chews look like a good alternative to rawhides. Unfortunately, the ingredients say otherwise. There are artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Furthermore, these treats have maltodextrin, an ingredient known to throw off the gut microbiome. It also has fattening carbs that could cause weight gain.
11. Harringtons Low Fat Dog Treats
Harringtons markets this product well, touting it as a low-fat treat. But the reality is that it only contains turkey meal. Meat meals aren't inherently bad, but this formula also includes potatoes.
As a result, there's not much in terms of nutritional value. Plus, it contains sodium selenite, an additive that may be toxic and cause damage to male reproductive organs.
12. Wagg Tasty Bones
It says it's "Healthy from nose to tail." However, the Wagg dog treats contain wheat as the first ingredient. Additionally, the "chicken" is actually poultry meal and liver digest. There's no way to know what's in poultry meal, indicating that this is an inferior and potentially dangerous treat.
13. Gravy Train Dog Treats
Gravy Train treats look like miniature steaks, but the cute design doesn't make up for the lackluster formula. The primary ingredient sources are wheat flour, soy flour, and ground corn.
Corn, wheat, and soy are some of the worst dog food fillers. Gravy Train manages to make them worse by covering the treat in corn syrup, using artificial colorants, and adding BHA as a preservative.
14. Ol' Roy Basted Biscuits
The Basted Biscuits from Ol' Roy may have a lot of flavors, but that's it. Wheat is the first ingredient, followed by a meat and bone meal. The meal is a questionable byproduct from no identifiable animal. That's a red flag. To make matters worse, it contains artificial colorant hard-to-digest ingredients like rice starch and wheat bran.
15. Alpo Variety Snaps
The Alpo Variety Snaps are high in wheat flour. Dogs break down the flour as glucose, increasing the risk of obesity and diabetes. The snacks also contain several artificial color additives. There's also chicken byproduct meal, a questionable protein source, and way too much sugar.
Bonus: Raw Hides
Rawhides are a treat you should avoid regardless of brand. You see them all the time, and many dog owners give them as a treat to pass the time. However, they can be dangerous.
It's not that rawhides contain toxic ingredients. The problem is that they pose a choking hazard.
Pieces of rawhide will break up, and there's always a risk that it will go down the wrong way. Choking is more common than most realize.
Furthermore, rawhide is difficult to digest. It takes longer than normal food and can create blockages in the gastrointestinal tract. Resolving those issues sometimes requires surgical intervention. Do you and your dog a favor: Avoid rawhides!
What Makes a Dog Treat "Bad?"
Human understanding of canine dietary requirements has come a long way in recent decades. But you must remember that treats aren't meant to supply your dog with a balanced diet.
Ideally, they should only make up about 10 percent of your dog's caloric intake. They're supposed to be side snacks, not full meals.
Because of that classification, treats don't come under the same intense scrutiny as commercial dog foods. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which sets standards about dog food, has no guidelines about treats. That means that manufacturers are free to create whatever snack formula they want.
Unfortunately, they can use unhealthy and potentially dangerous ingredients without much regulation. Furthermore, manufacturing processes aren't as strict. As you can imagine, it leads to many issues. Some products even get recalled.
Some recent dog treat recalls include:
- Lennox Pig Ears - Possible salmonella contamination
- Flock Party Duck Treats - Possible salmonella contamination
- Milo's Kitchen Dog Treats - Trace amounts of unapproved antibiotics
- PSP Pig Ears - Possible salmonella contamination
- Red Barn Dog Chews - Possible salmonella contamination
- Primal Pet Foods Frozen Patties - Possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination
See the list from the FDA for all recalled dog treats in the past 5 years
What are the Worst Dog Food Ingredients?
In most cases, dog treats get a bad reputation for unhealthy ingredients. Here are some you need to avoid.
Cheap fillers like corn, wheat, and soy are pretty common in dog treats. You're most likely to find them in inexpensive biscuits. They're meant to give your dog a boost of flavor and that "full" feeling. However, fillers don't provide any nutritional substance. Plus, they can cause digestive issues.
Good commercial dog foods steer clear of meat byproducts, but you'll find them in many treats. Byproducts are mystery ingredients that can come from any animal body. That includes organs, roadkill, and even sick animals. Because you don't know where that meat comes from, it always poses a risk.
BHA and BHT
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are common preservatives in both human and canine foods. While investigations into how BHA and BHT affect dogs are scarce, they're known carcinogens for humans. There are far better natural alternatives to BHA and BHT that won't increase the risk of cancer in your furry friend.
Propylene glycol is another common preservative that can also change texture or flavor. It may cause central nervous damage in dogs. Propylene glycol is a derivative of Ethylene glycol, AKA antifreeze.
Ethoxyquin is a preservative that is generally safe for humans. But in dogs, it's linked to cancer, liver damage, and immune system compromise. The amount used in dog treats is small, but regularly consuming those treats can lead to long-term problems.
Synthetic Dyes, Flavors, and Fragrances
There are many toxic ingredients used in synthetic additives. They have no place in dog food or dog treats. Colors and scents don't matter to dogs, and the improved flavor is achievable through high-quality ingredients.
With the potential risks of cancer and organ toxicity, it's best to avoid treats with synthetic additives.
The Bottom Line
You should apply the same scrutiny you apply to dog food to tasty treats. These small snacks can be just as harmful to your pooch, and the lack of detailed regulation makes it more difficult to avoid inadvertently providing something dangerous to your dog.
Avoid the brands listed above and stick to healthier, premium alternatives.