Dog & Cat Treats: Buyer Beware

We love our pets.  And seeing them dance in excitement when the treat bag comes out of the cabinet puts a smile on our face.  But what exactly are we giving them?

These are some of the ingredients in Whisker Lickin’s Salmon Soft & Delicious Cat Treats:

Corn Gluten Meal:  A by-product of corn processing that is an inexpensive source of protein.  Corn has been linked to allergies and is a source of aflatoxin, a toxic mold.

Hydrogenated Corn Syrup:  A sweetener with no nutritional benefit that can cause weight gain, diabetes, tooth decay, and hyperactivity.

Tetra Sodium Pyrophosphate:  A chemical emulsifier added to increase palatability with the potential to cause moderate diarrhea and nausea.

Red 40, Yellow 5:  Dyes serve no purpose other than to make the product more appealing to the buyer.  Red 40 is a possible carcinogen and has been linked to allergies.  Yellow 5, also known as Tartrazine, is listed as a possible food carcinogen on PubMed.

Ethoxyquin:  A European Food Safety Authority assessment concluded, “As a result of the manufacturing process, an impurity remains in this feed additive, p-phenetidine, which is a possible mutagen. Mutagens are substances causing mutations in the genetic material of both animals and humans.”

Researching product labels and realizing many treats have unsavory ingredients often makes us reach for single ingredient treats.  We feel safe with “real chicken” or “duck jerky.”  But from 2007 to 2015 the FDA received reports of jerky treats causing illness in more than 6,200 dogs, 26 cats and three people. 1,140 of the dogs died.  Most cases involved products imported from China.  Antimicrobial and antiviral residues were detected but the exact cause of illness has not been identified.  You can read the entire FDA report here.

So, what are we to do?  My suggestion is to look for USDA inspected meat in jerky treats, read and research ingredient labels carefully, and purchase from trustworthy companies that have not had product recalls.

A pet food and treat company I have had good experience with is Sojourner Farms.  In 2010 I made the decision to discontinue selling all products containing ingredients from China at my Berryville Health Food Store.  Sojourner Farms was the only company I contacted that was completely transparent and told me that some of the vegetables in Sojo’s Grain Free were from China.  The owner of the company listened to my concerns and we had a very polite discussion.  This was refreshing in light of the double-talk and half-truths I had become accustomed to from other companies. About a year after removing that product I received a personal email from Sojo’s advising they were no longer sourcing any ingredients from China.  My dogs were happy that Sojo’s Grain Free came back on their menu.

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