Everyone has different considerations when choosing a dog treat for their dog. Should you focus on the flavor? Caloric content? Texture? Ingredients? Choosing the right one starts by reading the label, not by the brand name.
Treats have different regulations than dog food
The first thing you need to know about dog treats is that there are different regulations around treats. Since dog treats are intended to be given occasionally and comprise less than 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake, they are exempt from needing to include an AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement (remember: this is the statement that shows a food is complete and balanced). Dog snacks and treats still need to meet FDA and state regulations for labeling of pet foods. Biscuits are not exempt from including the adequacy statement, unless they are clearly labeled with the word “snack” or “treat” on the front. This makes it hard to choose the right treats. Regardless, some treats and biscuits are formulated to be nutritionally complete so if you tend to give your dog lots of treats, opt for one that meets AAFCO guidelines.
Additionally, chews, bones, toys, whether flavor-coated or unflavored, are exempt from registration and labeling, unless they claim their product is intended as animal food or provides nutritional value to the dog (e.g., high protein claims). This includes, hooves, ears, animal bones, ligaments, etc. Since they don’t have to be labeled, they don’t usually undergo a guarantee analysis and thus composition and caloric value are not included. These tend to be high-calorie items so use them sparingly.
Start by narrowing down the category you are looking for. This will make it easier for you to sort through the different brands and options that meet your needs.
High-quality protein sources (think: freeze dried raw treats or jerky)
Then, you guessed it, read the label.
Avoid treats that contain low quality ingredients, mainly meat by-products and fillers. These will show up as meat meal, corn, or wheat on a food label
Avoid artificial colors, sugar, artificial flavors, and preservatives
Human treats other than fruits and vegetables. Human snacks will have too much salt and sugar
Treats labeled as “complete and balanced”
Look for these desirable ingredients: whole meats or fish, fruits, and vegetables
Single ingredient treats. Freeze-dried raw meat treats are some of the healthiest around