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Dog treats: Confusing labels and marketing tricks

A few months ago, we were contacted by a Dutch company to review their product. They are a company that offers a monthly subscription box  filled with treats and toys for dogs. They offered to send us a box for free in return for a review.

We thoroughly explained that Mojo is fed a meat based diet, and that we do not feed products that contain (high amounts of) plant material because Mojo’s stomach easily gets upset from eating them and because we prefer not to include much plant material in her diet.

The representative of the brand promised to keep our request in mind during the selection of the products for the box. Sadly, upon arrival, the box did not contain one single product that was okay for Mojo to consume.

We kindly declined to write a review, as in no way did the products meet our wishes, nor do we want to feed any of it to Mojo.

 

Mojo looking up

 

Don’t be fooled by the lovely packaging

Their website clearly states that owners can indicate allergies and that the company is willing to work around any issues a dog may have.

The box that arrived at our home even had “no plant material” scribbled on the outside. They thus certainly received the memo.

We do believe that the company had the best intentions to comply to our wishes, but that their employees are just not well informed and trained enough to actually do so.

Experiencing this made us wonder how often people’s wishes aren’t met.

 

Three bags of dog treats with treacherous packaging

 

Hence, today we would like to show the packaging of some of the products that were sent to us. It namely isn’t just this company that we took as an example, but we also experience similar things in our day to day live when talking to other people we meet at work or wherever.

We hope this blog post will help you choose the best treats to put under the tree for your pooch this Christmas! And if you want to make your own Christmas dog treats that are indeed healthy and appropriate for dogs, we have a simple recipe for you to follow!

 

‘Healthy’

One of the terms often seen on dog treat packaging is healthy. This term is often used if a product includes added vitamins and minerals that are necessary for a healthy life.

Just because an item of food contains a specific nutrient, this does not simply turn it into a healthy food item.

If you were to buy potato fries with added vitamin D, it would still be a bag of salty, greasy and unhealthy potato fries… with added vitamin D.

 

powder against itches for dogs

 

A perfect example of a product that we would consider very unhealthy is this bag of supplement powder.

The front of this bag is clear, with bold letters and few words. It states that it helps reduce itching, that it provides nutrients for healthy skin, and promotes solid stools.

It even labels that it’s a natural and ethical product that is recommended by vets.

Sounds great, right?!

 

Key ingredients of the anti-itching powder

 

Filler ingredients

Turning the bag around, we quickly see that the bag is cluttered with information.

A few terms are still written in bold letters, repeating that the key ingredients focus on an improvement in skin, digestion, immunity and overall health. These ingredients are even listed below the terms.

When reading the actual ingredient list however, we see that these key ingredients are actually at the end of the list. These ‘healthy’ ingredients are thus hardly present within the product and it mainly consists of some filler ingredients to give the substance some body.

The first five ingredients are namely cooked corn meal, corn gluten meal, oatmeal, chicory pulp, and brewers yeast.

 

Ingredient list of dog treats

 

Opposing effects

The key ingredients are not as key as they were made out to be.

To make matters even worse, these fillers actually have the opposite effect on dogs compared to the healthy ingredients. They are a common cause for itches in dogs, as well as loosening dogs’ faeces.

Plant material high in starch have high levels of carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are converted into sugar in the dog’s stomach, and form a great source of energy for yeast cells.

Due to the high amount of corn, feeding this product can actually cause a yeast infection in your dog’s ears or on its toes!

We think it is especially disturbing that this product is not a treat that might be fed every once in awhile. It is a supplement powder meant to be fed on a daily basis.

Thus although the package does include ingredients that help against itches and such, it will actually have the opposite effect on many dogs. If the company created a supplement that solely contains the key ingredients, it would’ve been great.

However, in the current consumer market, selling pills would not be as attractive. People are mainly willing to buy a product that looks appetizing.

We would prefer to see a meat-based product with added vitamins, for dogs that do require such a supplement.


Other misleading terms

Although the word healthy directly indicates a positive influence a product may have on an individual, there are other terms that could indirectly influence the way you perceive an item.

These terms include natural, organic, grain-free, and more.

An important thing to remember is that something being natural and organic does not equal to it being healthy. An ingredient that is not appropriate for a species to eat does not become appropriate and healthy if it is sourced differently.

It is great for dogs to eat a grain-free diet, but this does not mean that treats without grain don’t contain other ingredients that are high in carbohydrates.

The grains are replaced by different cheap ingredient such as corn. This enables an increase in sales because it offers the opportunity to write ‘grain-free’ in big bold letters on the front of the packaging.

 

 

The flavour of the month

Another term that might mislead dog owners is ‘flavour’.

One of the bags of treats we received only included a small amount of chicken protein, yet the product was listed as ‘salmon flavour’.

When a product name includes the word flavour, oftentimes it solely includes artificial flavourings, not the actual ingredient.

Here, you can see how these salmon flavour treats contain no salmon whatsoever.

 

 

With 100%

When we first opened the subscription box, there was one bag of chews that seemed alright. The chews looked to be pure meat, and at a quick glance we read ‘100% venison’.

After further inspection the actual line written in bold on the front of this bag of treats was ‘made with 100% natural venison meat’.

Although the treats did contain 80% venison meat, they also contained pea protein, starch, and salt.

It might look obvious to some of you, the sentence written on this bag does not indicate that the treats solely contain meat. But others that don’t read properly might not have realized this.

Salt is not healthy for dogs to consume, and the company doesn’t indicate the amount of salt these treats contain.

 

dog treat package stating 100% venison

 

Read carefully!

The next time that you’re in a pet store buying treats for your dog, remember to read more than the bold terms. Properly read through the list of ingredients, and keep in mind that dogs are facultative carnivores.

Try to find a treat that is made of one single ingredient, and that does not look like it’s been highly processed. Dehydrated pieces of meat are a great option compared to treats with numerous ingredients that involve extreme processing.

Most importantly: don’t be fooled by lovely looking packages with all sorts of claims in bright bold letters on the front.

If you can, try to make your own treats for your dogs this Christmas! We have a lovely simple recipe for single ingredient treats that you can make using a dehydrator or just your oven!

 

Mojo waiting for her christmas treat

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