When is a dog treat not a treat & when is it better than dog food?
The two most unfortunate things in the dog treat industry in Australia is the claim by dog food associations that dog food is ‘whole and complete’ and that those same companies that produce substandard dog food, also produce sub-standard dog treats.
When is a dog treat not a treat?
Here is the unfortunate nature of the dog treat industry. Dog treats are either known as dog “treats” or dog “chews”. Dog treats conjure up an image of an occasional non-healthy product (like humans eating ice cream) that should be consumed in small amounts infrequently. A dog chew suggests the value is only in a long chewing time, not the actual quality of the nutrition, and when you buy supermarket dog treats often these things are the case.
For supermarket treats you often either get the lowest quality meat product, a high grain dog treat, or something like rawhide that is just for chewing, not nutrition. A dog treat should actually add to the nutrition of your dog, not subtract.
What a quality dog treat should provide
it should be high in quality animal material (meat, offal or bone).
If it is meat, it can replace up to 25% of your kibble without you having to do anything besides reduce the dog food by 25%. I replace up to 80% of the kibble equivalent with a raw animal product diet (meat, offal and bones in the right proportion), and just subsidise with sunflower oil (omega 6 source), salmon oil (omega 3 source) and a human vitamin tablet that I have checked in ingredients of so that it doesn’t overdose my dog in oil-based vitamins or any mineral.
The only reason it is 80% (animal product) rather than 100%, is that my dog has a soft chewing jaw (small bird dog) and struggles to eat sufficient animal-based fiber. I subsidize a raw meat diet with very high fiber dog pellets to give sufficient solidity to his stools and maintain his intestine health.
If you replace any percentage of your regular grain-based dog food, you can mostly replace gram for gram with a meat-based treat to maintain your dog’s weight. You may have to reduce kibble even further because the meat is bioavailable so more of it will be used by your dog, just keep an eye on their weight.
Even if you replace some of the kibbles with our meatball, meat stick or our crinkle range, you will be replacing kibble (typically 30 – 40% meat) with our treats at 80% meat. So this is still a very affordable way to replace/ subsidise your dog food with a higher meat-based source.
I provide our beef liver dog treats or roo liver to my dog daily as an important part of his healthy diet. This is the core offal inclusion that is packed with natural vitamins and minerals. Our lamb or beef cubes can also be used but they have a less intense nutrition base.
Bone wise we only sell large oven-dried bones (not small). For dogs that can break these bones open, they get quality calcium and phosphorus source (in the right ratio) as well as the marrow. But most small and medium-sized dogs can’t do this daily. That is why we recommend raw chicken necks or wings for most smaller dogs looking for a natural calcium source. Your butcher sells these not us. As long as you freeze and handle these products like you would your own food, they should not present a health issue.
As you will see on our site, the majority of our products are 100% meat-based treats. If you want to feed more of the same meat that you get in dog food, you will choose beef or chicken products. If you are after something lower in total fat (but high in quality fats) then you will choose the kangaroo and fish dog treats.
Many of these treats also provide dog teeth cleaning, gum health and dog ‘occupation’ – reducing boredom and satisfying the primal function of chewing.
Why dog food can be substandard, even grain-free varieties
Dog food is made at the lowest price possible and sold at the highest, and that is fine if you are talking about a used car, not food. Branding and marketing expense dictate the top price, not the type of ingredients included in your dog’s food.
The issue with dog food, in general, is that it is NOT “dog” food. Dog food SHOULD be the natural diet of a dog or wolf in the wild, that includes mostly animal products, as natural as possible and therefore bio-available. It should have minimum carbs. Carbs are a cheap ingredient used to give energy (Kj) and bulk, not appropriate protein for a carnivore based system. Protein and fats provide can just as easily provide the energy your dog needs, and more usefully. Carbs are another word for sugar and dogs simply don’t need added sugar to their diet.
Examples, where a portion of commercial carb-based dog food is lacking in nutrition, is in such areas as quality offal and bone. Quality offal costs money because humans consume it, so dog food regularly has offal (a high nutrition source for wild dogs) of low quality and in some cases diseased or from decaying animal stock. Dog’s also need calcium. Ideally from quality bones. Some dog foods use calcium from non-animal sources, which like non-animal protein is not bioavailable (cant be used efficiently by the dog).
Artificial vitamins and minerals (ie elements from chemical processes and not chelated minerals) are used in dog food to keep prices down. Yes, they appear to have a similar chemical makeup but if not from an animal cannot be fully utilised by a dog, so making their nutrition incomplete.
People have been sold on the idea of ‘grain-free’ as a high-quality alternative, but sweet potato is still a carb. Good for humans but containing no animal protein, so it is essentially another filler.
Remember whatever ingredients you supply to your dog that includes energy (kilojoules) are kilojoules that you could use from animal sources to make up for the deficit in commercial dog food. When adding any ‘food or treat’ to your dog’s diet, you have to reduce the same amount from your dog food to keep your dog from obesity. If you add more grain-based foods their protein gap widens because plant protein is nowhere near as bioavailable as a quality meat sourced protein.
While well over 90% of dog owners still provide mainly commercial (carb-based) dog food to a dog as its main nutrition source, many of the products are nothing like the natural or bioavailable meat sources that their digestive systems need. The carb driven industry is about low cost and high product price charged by monopoly companies. This is why its up to individual owners to do their own research and find animal-based products that are most suitable for their individual dog’s needs.
You can replace dog food with meat or offal for a nutrition boost, teeth cleaning or to occupy them when you are not at home. But if you making a large change in the diet we always recommend confirming your choice with your vet, and to at least observe how your dog eats a new treat at least the first few times.
When meat treats are so nutritionally dense and irresistible (in a natural way) some dogs can consume without chewing sufficiently – that is why matching a treat type to your dog’s chewing style is important.
Fortunately, as long as you don’t overfeed your dog (ie you reduce the equivalent in their pellets), there is no such thing as too much of a good thing. When it comes to meat-based dog treats – its actually the most natural and nutrition-rich food they can eat, besides raw meat and raw offal.
Our healthy dog treats are meant as a food replacement – not just as an occasional “treat”.