Analysis of Cesar’s Healthy Dog treat article 2014
Recently an article on “healthy dog treats” turned up as number one in Google Australia in January 2014. The reason why this is interesting is that it was written by a dog person I highly respect, Cesar Milan, and because it was an American dog site, not an Australian treat site.
Whilst I respect Cesar greatly for the skill he has in rehabilitating dogs, I think it will be instructive to you to review his advice on “healthy dog treats”.
At the beginning of this review I should mention that while I have had my credentials questioned by several ‘passionate’ dog lovers on forum sites, I am assessing this information not from a dog walker point of view (my day job) but from the years of analysis training I have had as an engineer.
Besides the courses teaching us physics, chemistry and mathematics at a level at least if not higher than standard sciences, my daily engineering work still used those core principles.
Besides that, in my desire to feed my dog the REAL WORLD optimum dog diet, I have researched more scientific and popular dog food articles than many trained ‘experts’. The four or so local vets that I discussed specific dietary advice with and the specific issues of a raw meat diet versus a grain or carb diet, admitted that their schooling was very light in the nutrition side of things.
From the articles I have written on this site you will see that I have gone into detail about the proteins, minerals and vitamins required by dogs and how meat is far superior to most other foods for dogs. This is true all except a few minerals and three vitamins, that I have accounted for in vitamin supplementation. Vitamin supplements for raw dog diets
Please note that I have high respect for vetenarians when it comes to treating my dog’s illnesses. It is just the level of their ongoing impartial nutrition studies and the financial requirement to sell popular brand dog food in their practices that seems to not always align with what many dog experts consider to be optimum dog foods, but more on that later.
That is why this site has so many original dog food analysis articles on it, with genuine nutriton data tables. If you don’t know what the best dog food is, how can you tell what the best dog treats are?
Analysis of the Healthy Dog treat article by Cesar
Cesar says ” positive reinforcement is to me as a behaviour modification technique… it might not always mean treats .. but they are one of the most popular tools for both dogs and owners.”
In his ‘Cesar’s rules’ book, Cesar was quite neutral for the need to use food as a reward. My personal feeling is that healthy treats should be used as a reward, as a food supplement AND as a training aid.
“One of the reasons treats work so well in training, is because a dog’s sense of smell is so unbelievable” see my Dog sense of smell article. He continues that you should “use treats to reinforce a calm, submissive state. Never use dog treats to reward an excited, over-stimulated state of mind.”
Yes, very good advice for most training situations, particularly when a dog is young and you are spending a lot of quality training specific time.
“When to give dog treats”
“In between meals is the ideal time to give treats. If you are using treats as a training tool, your treat won’t work as well right after your dog has had a full meal.”
Obviously a dog should be trained on an empty stomach however this statement assumes that treats are mainly used as a training tool. The flaw in this statement is that as mentioned previously, decent meat based treats have a far superior protein mix than most dog foods, and so they can be used as food supplementation as well. Particuarly for those using manufactured dog food that is low in quality meat.
Dried whole bones, shark cartilage and bully sticks are an ideal dog treat to supply calcium, glucosamine and animal fats to a dogs diet. They are especially important for natural cleaning of a dogs teeth as opposed to corporate branded compressed vegetable matter – the most unnatural dog treat on earth. The meat based harder chewing dog treats should be given to dogs every day.
“What ingredients to look for in a dog treat.”
This is really the most important question for a person who knows about dog nutrition.
Cesar suggests ” something your dog will like and something that’s appropriate to give a dog.”
Now it is true that besides some breeds such as Labrador, many dogs can have a very discriminating palate. Because when you adopt a dog, you become the food provider what you feed your dog is what they become used to. There are studies that confirm that if you limit the variety of food types your dog eats in the first year of its life, it may have difficulty in wanting to experiment with different foods later in life.
Hence the reason that most pellet/ kibble manufacturers try to get you to feed your puppy their pellet, exclusively for the first year of its life.
If a dog has never been fed raw meat or any food containing a majority meat base, then it may not automatically “like” meat treats, even though time and again, a meat/ raw meat diet has been proven to be beneficial to most dogs on the planet.
The “appropriate” word refers to the strength of the dog’s jaws, its age and other factors that might mean the dog needs either higher protein, lower fat or easy eating treats.
Another major point to consider about what people to consider dog treats to be is from suprmarket experience, many people consider dog treats to be like candy for a baby, only to be used in extreme moderation, and somehting that is potentially bad for you. A treat meaning a one off reward. This is true for non meat highly processed dog treats.
The issue for actually REAL healthy dog treat manufacturers who use meat as a base, is that these treats are often more healthy for a dog than their regular dog food. The only advantage manufactured “dog food” has, is that it is stuffed full of (often artificial) vitamins and minerals to meet aafco requirements.
A good dog treat will actually provide a lot of meat protein (that no grain or vegetables can match), as well as some vitamins & minerals. These premium treats, like Australia’s blackdog (that I sell on this site) then can be used as a food supplement, along with the regualar kibble meal, instead of being considerded just a ‘treat’ !
Cesar says: “Look at the ingredients list. If the ingredients include things you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce, it might not be the best treat for your dog.”
Ironically Cesar now sells a range of dog treats, which dovetails perfectly into his treat article.
The first product in his shop is “Dissolving Treat Strips” they have the following Ingredients: Sodium alginate, maltodextrin, glycerine, oat fiber, natural and artificial flavors, salt, FD&C Red #40, FD&C Blue #1″
Like dog food, the majority of experts who realise that dogs are carnivores (well at least 95% carnivore) will always recommend that meat makes up the majority of a meal or dog treat.
Do you notice ANY meat in Cesar’s first treat? The reason why meat is not in most dog food or dog treats is because it is expensive for manufacturers to buy. If a retailer sell 150g of dog treat that is made mainly out of meat for $7 a retailer might make a 50% profit. If they sell one made out of grains or any non meat product that profit is more likely to be 150% or more.
While I am sure that many of you recognise ALL of the ingredients in the ‘dissolving treat strips’ I didn’t. It turns out that the first ingredient in the treat is: Sodium Alginate (Algin). This is an extract of seaweed. It is used as a thickener, gelling agent and emulsifier in the food industry. This is definitely something that a dog in the wild would never have eaten, and yet it appears to be the major ingredient? Makes you wonder how much cheaper seaweed is than actual meat?
The second ingredient is Maltodextrin. This is usually a food additive. It can be moderately sweet or without flavorless. Wiki says ” It is commonly used for the production of sodas and candy. It can also be found as an ingredient in a variety of other processed foods.”
Healthy dog treat anyone?
“natural and artificial flavors” does the word artificial flavour ring alarm bells for anyone else?
The only other small pack dog treat sold is “CM Dog Treats” these are said to be “packed with vitamins and minerals, … made in the USA with real fruits and vegetables. …delicious flavors: Cranberry, Blueberry, and Pomegranate; Pea, Broccoli, and Spinach; and Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, and Carrot.”
Again this is ironic for a dog behaviour expert. It would appear that there is NO meat in any of these treats? When was the last time anyone saw a dog or wolf in the wild eat any vegetable or fruit regularly or as the main part of their diet? They dont because their digestion did not evolve to eat fruits and vegetables, they have a high acidic stomach and short intestinal track. They need to use the proteins found in meat for a multitude of tasks inside their bodies and these treats are as healthy to a dog as candy to a starving man. Only short term benefits.
In fact Cesar states his dog treat preference clearly when he says “Junior loves liver bites and Coco would do almost anything for beef tendons.” Notice how those are natural meat body parts, not ” things you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce.”
The news is not all bad, as the small range also includes a bone pack, and a healthy beef variety pack that includes 100% all natural products. This is to be applauded but you will also notice that these packs have a minimum order price of over $35.
A very good question Cesar.
Cesar says “Your veterinarian is a lot of things to your dog—doctor, dentist, pharmacist, and you can add nutritionist to that list. … Your vet can give you the best advice on what type of treats are best for your dog. If you don’t have access to a vet, try your local pet specialty store. I have found very knowledgeable sales help in local pet stores.”
In a perfect world this might be correct.
Just like some doctors have been persuaded by pharmaceutical companies to stock their specific products, you will find that most vets make a substantial part of their income from selling pet food and treats. The only way to maximise the return is to sell products that are cheap to buy in, and they are all grain or vegetable based.
This is one true test to test the validity of this statement.
If domestic cats are considered 100% carnivore by the scientific community, then why would a vet sell cat food that had anything but meat in it?
Why does any cat food sold in the world have anything but meat in it?
The answer is of course that the major pet food manufacturers make cat food with a lot of grain in it, because grain is cheap. But the fact that vets sell grain based cat food should make you consider if they are going to recommend the best dog treat for you.
And of course the answer is no, because you will usually find that the brand of the cat food, is the brand of the dog food, which is the brand of the dog treats. The store will also get a discount for buying all of the manufacturer range.
And even if this is not the case, you will rarely find a high percentage meat dog treat sold in most pet stores, because of the higher wholesale price to the store. They are there to run a business and that is what they are doing.
Healthy dog treats should not be rocket science. But just like the asbestos and smoking industries, it can take a long time for the people to find out what is good and bad for you or your dog.
Sticking a mobile phone emitting and receiving radio waves to your head is still considered safe in 2014. But much more objective research is being put into investigating that concept, than what food to feed your dog.
The point is that feeding cats and dogs grain or vegetable based food will not kill them in the short term. Sure it is a highly inadequate diet (that in dog food needs to have a mass of meat protein and vitamins and minerals added just to meet the aafco minimum requirements, but you see your dog isn’t going to last past 20 years.
The fact that dogs in the wild rarely live to old age is because of predators and illnesses like broken limbs, not usually from dietry related diseases.
Some people believe that a grain diet for cats and dogs might be the cause of many illnesses including cancers, but of course nothing conclusive has been proved in this industry either, so people keep feeding their pets food that they were never meant to eat in any large quantity. Grain is just a cheap bulking product to carry meat proteins and added minerals and vitamins.
I think Cesar Milan is a great dog rehabilitator, and I trust vets for all dog health matters, well everything except dog’s core nutrition.
The one concession I give to grain feeding dogs is that I actually give my dog, dry food or kibble most days too (10% usually). However that is only for a specific type of insoluble fibre (as you can read in the article). The reason for this is that dogs no longer eat the whole animal, so fur, hooves etc no longer get to serve as fibre and the intestine no longer gets the benefit of this ‘natural fibre’. If however you are one of the 97% of people who feed their dog manufactured dog food, you are already giving them 80% grain in their diet, and the last thing they need is more grain or vegetables.
Anyway, I thought you might be interested in an analysis of the article that ranked number one in the healthy dog treat category at the start of 2014 in Australia.
The range I sell will never have the exposure of the big budget brands, but I know what goes into them and I know that being meat based will always beat anything grain, vegetable or artificial, any day.
All the best in your pet’s health in 2014 and beyond!