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Dog Health & Wellness

Blog Posts for Dog People

12 Red-Flag, Controversial, & Questionable Ingredients Found in Many Store-Bought Dog Treats

Updated: Feb 23, 2023

(that I’ll never feed my dog!)

Have you ever read the ingredient label of your store-bought dog treats?
(If not, please do it now, or at least after reading this!)
There are many dangerous ingredients such as preservatives, undefined by-products, and cheap fillers commonly used in many popular store-bought dog treats that are causing serious health concerns to many dogs. It's important to understand what’s really inside your dog’s favorite treats because some of these ingredients are hiding a deadly secret. You may have heard rumors about specific dog products or brands, so here is the information you need to know before treating your dog.

These concerning ingredients can be harmful to your dog's health when consumed, and unfortunately, you may not even be aware that you're feeding these dangerous ingredients to your dog daily, or even multiple times a day. Once I became aware of this, I decided to start my own dog treat business so that my dogs, and every other dog, could have a more nutritious snacking option. I decided to stop feeding many commercial dog treats to my fur babies a few years ago and now regularly bake homemade snacks for them and carefully read the labels of any store bought treats very closely.

Why Dogs Are at Greater Risk:

“Unlike humans, who VARY their diets with each meal, dogs are typically fed the same food continuously. Day after day. For a lifetime. And it’s that cumulative exposure to a risky chemical (like BHA) that tends to magnify its effect on an animal’s body. And what worries us.”

The Questionable & Controversial Ingredients to Avoid

In Store-Bought, Commercial Dog Treats:

Without naming specific brands or products, here is a beneficial list of the red-flag ingredients commonly found in many popular dog food products:

Artificial Preservatives (there are many names for these unhealthy additives, and basically if they are hard to pronounce, stay away!) & Cheap Fillers:

  1. Butylated-Hydroxyanisole (BHA) This is a synthetic preservative used to extend shelf life by preventing fats and oils from spoiling, “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program have both linked BHA to cancer. The preservative consistently produces tumors in laboratory animals.”

  2. Butylated-Hydroxytoluene (BHT)This chemical is used to extend the shelf life of a fat in a food product found in certain dog foods to prevent fats and oils from prematurely spoiling. The World Health Organization has named both BHA and BHT as suspicious cancer-causing compounds.

  3. Ethoxyquin This is used as a preservative to prevent food from becoming rancid. It’s also used for making synthetic rubber which makes it even more controversial. It’s been banned from use in human foods because it’s believed to cause cancer, however, it’s still found in dog food products (even if it’s not on the label!)

  4. Propylene GlycolA synthetic substance used to reduce moisture and prevent bacterial growth. "The FDA has banned Propylene Glycol in cat treats because it can cause Heinz body anemia in felines, a serious blood disease. The FDA says Propylene Glycol is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAD) for canines." While it is labeled okay for dogs to eat, this controversial ingredient is still considered toxic to dogs at certain levels. And, if you own a cat, be extra careful that your cat does not get into any dog food that contains Propylene Glycol!

  5. Tertiary Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) Studies have found that prolonged exposure can lead to cancer.

  6. Artificial Colors/FlavorsLinked to some serious health conditions, such as cancer, hyperactivity, etc. Adding food coloring is appealing only to the dog owner. Do you think your dog cares what it looks like? (unfortunately, and disappointingly, dogs cannot see color anyway!)

  7. Corn syrup and sugar Just like it does to humans, these ingredients can lead to weight gain, diabetes, tooth decay, hyperactivity, and behavioral problems. There is no need to add these ingredients to dog treats.

  8. Corn & Corn Gluten MealA cheap filler and known allergen.

  9. Meat By-Product Includes the “leftovers” from an animal’s carcass once the meat is removed, such as eyes, hooves, feet, beaks, feathers, and hair. One of the main concerns is the nutritional discrepancy and that you never know exactly what your pup is truly eating.

  10. Meat Meal It's a vague and unidentifiable description of an unknown source and quality of meat.

  11. SoyTypically used for dogs with allergies, it is also used as a cheap protein source that allows manufacturers to save costs on meat ingredients. Ironically, most US-grown soybeans are genetically modified (GMO). Soy is estrogenic and known to harm a dog’s endocrine system.

  12. Flavor enhancersalso known as rendered fat, sugars, salt, flavors, monosodium glutamate (MSG). "While MSG by law doesn't have to appear on pet food ingredient labels, you can often find it in these ambiguous ingredients: hydrolyzed protein, protein isolate, texturized protein, natural flavours (like chicken flavour), autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extracts, soy extracts or concentrate, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, monopotassium glutamate, glutamate or glutamic acid, disodium inosinate or guanylate."

“So, any potentially toxic substance present in a food — even if only in trace amounts — and fed every meal, every day, year after year — is a different matter. It’s that cumulative exposure that tends to keep us up at night.”

Examples of popular dog brand treat labels. Check what is in your pantry

before feeding it to your furbaby!

Keep in mind:

  • Dogs are omnivores and will eat almost anything (unless they're picky eaters!) so it's up to us to help keep them as safe & healthy as possible.

  • If you can’t read, pronounce, or understand the ingredients, it’s probably best to avoid serving it to your dog. Ask yourself, "Would I want to consume this?"

  • As always, for the best advice on the right food for your pet, it’s always a good idea to consult your veterinarian.


Alternatives to commercial, store bought dog treats:

  • Dough ReMia's Doggie Dough makes it very easy to treat your dog even better with high quality, premium ingredients without the hassle of from scratch baking such as shopping for ingredients, mixing, messy bowls, etc. Simply shape & bake! Check out our FAQ page for more information

  • Treat your pup with crunchy vegetables from your refrigerator or freezer such as chopped carrots, sliced apples or frozen green beans

  • Get the Dog Treat Low Down to understand the important things to look for when treating your dog


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