Out With the New, In With the Old … in Dog Treats
Carnivores in the wild chewed on bones for centuries. Why don't we give them what is natural for them?
If you have a dog, you probably know about the dog treat called "Greenies", manufactured by S&M Nu Tec of North Kansas City MO. It is the nation's top selling treat retailing over $315 million in sales last year. Cleverly shaped as a green toothbrush, it has been promoted as a healthy dental treat to reduce tartar, gingivitis, and chronic bad breath. The manufacturer claims that dogs love them and that when pet owners follow the feeding guidelines the treat is safe and digestible, when chewed properly before swallowed.
Recently, some disturbing reports about Greenies ® and similar chew treats have hit the news implying that they are potentially dangerous - that they can cause obstruction, which can be fatal (www.burtscause.com). I agree, and while I generally respect my clients' wishes at our boarding kennel, I won’t give Greenies or rawhides, or any other kind of junk treat. We provide a positively happy, healthful, and safe boarding experience for pets. We also provide information for their guardians - from natural diet to a wholistic approach to health.
What’s in these green treats? Are they healthy? Whether or not it is proven that Greenies are unsafe, ingredients do tell us something about their value (or lack of value):
Wheat gluten - a protein from wheat and a grain by-product. Gluten is in other grains too; it holds bread together and makes oatmeal gluey. Wheat gluten is sticky, and the treat parts can get stuck, with the gluten becoming cement-like. The main ingredient in Greenies is wheat gluten, so you can see why they may lodge between the esophagus and digestive tract, especially when not thoroughly chewed. Dogs get no nutritional value from grains, they lack the necessary enzymes to digest grains, yet the sugar that results from grain ingestion does have a negative effect on their health. Grains contribute to allergies, skin and joint problems, and digestive disorders.
Glycerine - a sweet-tasting, colorless, thick liquid additive, with no nutritional value; can leave an undesirable sticky coating on the teeth
Natural flavor - little nutritional value, if any
Powdered cellulose fiber - pulp from a fibrous plant. Fiber does have its value, but food is a better source of fiber, most useful if a whole food source when in its whole food form. Powdered cellulose fiber uses range from feed fillers to latex-based coatings and asphalt.
Monosodium phosphate, and monoglycerides - byproducts, no nutritional
value, added to prevent oil from separating
Magnesium stearate - white soft powder used as a lubricant and stabilizer, used to bind tablets together, also used in talcum powder, and as a drying agent in paint
Chlorophyll - a requirement for photosynthesis, but not necessarily for dogs
Some treats may also have artificial coloring added, preservatives, plastics or other inert ingredients - not a good thing.
So, what can the caring dog guardian give that IS beneficial in some
Instead of providing commercial treats, I personally feed a natural raw diet of primarily meat, vegetables, and some fruit and nuts, and offer a knuckle or femur bone for a treat, which satisfies the chewing instinct, keeps gums healthy, and removes tartar which contributes to bad breath. We must realize that bad breath can be a sign of more serious internal disorders, so an overall healthy diet is more important and more effective than treats at addressing bad breath. Carnivores in the wild, including dogs, chewed on bones for centuries, so why don't we give them what is natural for them? For more ideas, see www.whole-dog-journal.com.
As a treat, a real bone should be raw and large enough that it cannot be swallowed. For more information on incorporating bone into the diet, see "Give the Dog A Bone" and "Grow Your Pups with Bones", both by Ian Billinghurst.
Dogs are carnivores, and are primarily meat eaters, yet benefit from vegetables, nuts, and some fruit. One source for more information on this is "Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats: The Ultimate Diet" by Kymythy R. Schultze.
Obviously after having retailed over $300 million worth of Greenies, thousands of dogs may ingest these treats daily with no ill effects. But I believe the true number of obstruction incidents go unreported. Brendan McKiernan, DVM, of Wheat Ridge, CO, concerned with what he was hearing about obstructions, performed a study in his own practice from 1999-2004 and found that after bones and fish hooks, compressed vegetable chews - like Greenies - were the 3rd most common cause of obstructions.
You must weigh the benefits to the risks when choosing foods and treats for your dog. Educate yourself - not just skim the surface, but dig deeper into what your dog really needs, naturally, for a longer, healthier, happier life.
- Know how to read labels.
- Be aware of misleading manufacturer's advertising.
- Take responsibility, evaluate, and take action.
- Choose a holistic veterinarian. Many conventional treatments are counterproductive, and diagnoses ("educated guesses") can be unnecessarily limiting, discouraging, misdirecting, or otherwise unhelpful. A holistic approach presents different options that naturally work with the animal's own healing capabilities. Nutrition is the foundation of health, and therefore the foundation of the holistic approach.
It's never too late to make a change. When starting what is natural for your dog, watch the changes: reduced volume of stools due to efficient food utilization, shinier coat, no itching, brightness of eyes, seniors will even have more energy and a youthful attitude. The time we have with our best friends is all too short, but we can make it healthier and happier, by supporting their natural physical and emotional needs.
Rovin' Hollow Kennels, Inc.
For more information:
"Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats"
Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, PhD
Susan Hubble Pitcairn
"The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care"
"Healthy Diet, Healthy Dog: How to Prevent Illness and Maximize
A Dog's Health And Energy through Nutrition"
"Give the Dog A Bone" and "Grow Your Pups with Bones"