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The Dirty Dozen: 12 Pet Treats to Avoid

DSC_2800If you were making your own dog treats, using the freshest and most wholesome, healthy ingredients, would you ever consider dumping sugar into the mix?

Of course not. So why, then, do a number of the most popular dog treats on the market contain high amounts of sugar? Because dogs love it.

According to a press release from Dr. Ernie Ward, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) and author of “Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs Are Getting Fatter – A Vet’s Plan to Save Their Lives” (2010 HCI),

…the problem is linked to money – lots of it. With US pet treat sales estimated to be nearly $2 billion in 2010, the treat bowl has turned golden. “Sugar is incredibly attractive to dogs. If a dog gobbles a treat quickly, an owner is more likely to give another – and another.  This adds up to more sales – and profits. In the race for pet treat profits, our pets’ health is being bankrupted.”

With 45% of American dogs and 58% of cats considered overweight, an estimated 89 million pets are at high risk for developing conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and more.

In addition to obesity, sugary treats lead to behavioral problems as well.

“Numerous studies in rats demonstrate that overfeeding sugar can create symptoms similar to drug addiction. A dog’s daily sweet treat may be contributing to overeating and other undesirable behaviors. This is why I call today’s high-sugar treats ‘kibble crack.’”

Still, pet treat manufacturers blame pet owners. They are, after all, the ones that purchase and feed the sugary treats.

So, Dr. Ward listed what he calls “The Dirty Dozen,” the 12 most popular sugary dog treats that should be avoided. Pet parents should be aware of what they’re feeding their pets, understand ingredient labels, and to avoid treats that masquerade as healthy and nutritious while silently contributing to the obesity epidemic.

His goal is to help pet parents to be more aware of what they’re feeding their pets. “Pet owners definitely have a feeding disorder when it comes to their pets. Ultimately it’s up to each owner to control how much they feed their pets. What I want to bring attention to is what ingredients are in pet treats – and why. Pet owners must begin to question why there is sugar in a treat that claims to help teeth,” he said.

Dr. Ward’s Dirty Dozen – Popular Sugary Pet Treats

Pet Treat Added Sugar
Canine CarryOuts Chew-lotta Dextrose first ingredient
Snausages SnawSomes! Beef and Chicken Flavor Sugars 3 of first 4 ingredients
Pedigree Jumbone Mini Snack Food for Small Dogs Sugars 2 of 3 first ingredient
Petrodex Dental Treats for Cats Dextrose second ingredient
Pedigree Jumbone Sugar third ingredient
Milk Bone Essentials Plus Oral Care Sugar third ingredient
Pup-Peroni Lean Beef Recipe Sugar third ingredient
Science Diet Simple Essentials Treats Training Adult Treats with Real Beef Sugar third ingredient
Cesar Softies Dog Treats Sugar third ingredient
Milk-Bone Chewy Chicken Drumsticks Sugar third ingredient
Meow Mix Moist Cat Treats Corn syrup fourth ingredient
Pedigree Marrobone Sugar third ingredient

Other common sugar-containing treats according to Dr. Ernie Ward:

  • Pedigree Jumbone – Sugar third ingredient
  • Beneful Snackin’ Slices – Sugar fourth ingredient
  • Pit’r Pat Fresh Breath Mint Flavored Cat Treats – Maltodextrin first ingredient
  • Three Dog Bakery Lick ‘n Crunch – Dextrose third ingredient
  • Beneful Snackin Slices – Sugar fourth ingredient
  • Busy Chewnola – Maltodextrin second ingredient
  • Exclusively Dog Vanilla Flavor Sandwich Creme Dog Cookies – Sugars first two ingredients
  • Canine Carryouts Dog Treats – Corn syrup second ingredient

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45 Responses to The Dirty Dozen: 12 Pet Treats to Avoid
  1. hypoallergenic dog treats
    July 2, 2014 | 2:42 pm

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    June 3, 2014 | 5:22 am

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  3. żółć
    May 28, 2014 | 7:57 am

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  4. Robin (Independent Handler #209)
    May 26, 2014 | 5:31 pm

    Check out For Tails Only – their treats are fresh baked in the USA with simple, straightforward ingredient lists. Ingredients are all-natural, and often organic! Plus, a percentage of the company’s profits are donated to rescues every month.

  5. Jim
    May 26, 2014 | 5:09 pm

    The best treats are ZiwiPeak all natural meat treats. Air dried and no salt or sugar. Nothing artificial!! Comes in Lamb,Beef and Venison.

  6. Margaret
    May 26, 2014 | 4:44 pm

    Good to get information on bad snacks. Now can anyone come up with a list of healthy snacks to purchase? I was shocked to hear about Milkbone. Over the years they have been one of the main snacks plus carrots and romaine.

  7. Mark
    May 26, 2014 | 3:33 pm

    Guys try All natural all meat dog treats treats from Little L’s they have a website they call them Krak’ems I buy these all time because they are so healthy for my little one and best yet made in USA – New York

  8. Pam
    May 26, 2014 | 3:00 pm

    None of my treats have sugar. Just wholesome natural goodness.

    • Sandra Slack
      May 26, 2014 | 3:25 pm

      I make my own, that way I know exactly what is in them,and there’s not sugar, only healthy good ingredients. They depend on us to keep them healthy.

  9. Cathy
    May 26, 2014 | 2:55 pm

    Should anyone be surprised? Same thing is has been happening with human food for a long time. High fructose corn syrup is a sugar and can be found in almost everything humans consume. I mean really, do we need sugar in microwave scrambled eggs? No. Our pets don’t either.

  10. Cyndi
    May 26, 2014 | 2:31 pm

    I give my dogs carrots as treats, they love them

    • Connie
      July 21, 2014 | 9:42 am

      So do I !! I have 6 dogs all ages, all sizes & when I day treat they know it’s a carrot! They love them!! They are so much cheaper than bought dog treats!!

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  12. […] By Brandy Arnold […]

  13. Jess
    April 21, 2014 | 12:10 am

    Human grade USA made treats. No additives. Try them out for yourself as well, they taste great!

  14. Jacky Rosen
    March 28, 2014 | 11:51 am

    When they’re on sale (most holidays)I buy sweet potatoes in mass and slice with a mandoline then dry them (on racks on the radiators) to keep in zip-lock bags as treets for my guinae pig. I found my dogs like them too! This makes for an inexpensive, healthy treat. They also eat them raw without dehydrating.

  15. Sheri Syverson
    March 24, 2014 | 12:40 pm

    Check out Dog Treat Kitchen. She has wonderful recipes for home-made dog treats. My Airedales love them. Healthy and affordable.

  16. Betsey Freyberger
    March 3, 2014 | 11:29 pm

    I buy all my treats from Bears Bone Bakery. He has a Facebook page. They are all prepared here in Evansville, IN. They are great and my dogs love them!

  17. Kathy Takayama
    January 13, 2014 | 4:18 am

    I have chosen to feed all of my dogs fresh veggies by steaming them. I include this in their morning meal and feed them as snacks during the day. Broccoli, Carrots, Cucumbers, Romaine Lettuce, Green Beans, Beets, Sweet Potato, Peas. As a real treat they get some cooked oats with unsweetened pure pumpkin and some plain yogurt which they absolutely LOVE. Also watching the brand of dog food that they eat making every effort to give keep them as healthy as possible. Definitely worth the time knowing that I don’t have to worry about the quality of their food and treats.

  18. Sandra Heptinstall
    January 11, 2014 | 9:34 pm

    Thanks for the tips on making my dog snacks healthy.

  19. Victoria Jones
    January 11, 2014 | 11:03 am

    Alpo Variety Snaps may not have sugar but they have food dye (Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1)Wheat Flour, Wheat Gluten, Soy Flour, Chicken By-Product Meal Animal Digest which is “animal by-products are what’s left of a slaughtered animal after the edible parts have been removed. They include the waste2 of meat processing not intended for human consumption.”(DogFood Advisor)
    The DogFood Advisor site gives lots of info when it comes to deciphering dogfood label.
    I haven`t tried dehydrating yet but I do buy a small bag of Origen freeze-dried dog treats (they have different varieties)to keep on hand or else I have sample bags of Origen kibble that I use as treats.

  20. Marsha Young
    January 10, 2014 | 6:23 pm

    My Min Pin died from Diabetes after I fed him Milk Bones! Broke my Heart after having him for 9.5 yrs! Vet said he was too advanced and treatment wouldnt helpso I had to put him down! Lease dont feed Your Dogs Purina Milk Bones!

    • Shelley MacSween
      May 26, 2014 | 3:02 pm

      What is wrong with the milk bones?I use the minis and break them in two as a treat.They say 5 calories per treat so that’s 2.5 calories per snack for him.

      • Denise
        July 22, 2014 | 11:56 am

        It’s more than just the calories. Did you read the article at all? Many of these companies use sugar in their treats. Sugar…which is just as bad for dogs as it is for humans, possibly worse. Do you brush your dog’s teeth after feeding a treat? If not, the sugar is decaying your dog’s teeth just as it would if you ate a piece of candy, even a small one. And why would you want to feed a treat to your pet that includes unhealthy ingredients? Why would you support a company that uses cheap unhealthy ingredients? They do this to make more money and they don’t have your pets health in mind. It’s the same with dog food. So many people see “Purina” and think “Oh, they have been in the pet food business for years so their food must be great.” In actuality, many of their foods use corn as the first ingredient (which is, in and of itself a sugar…think corn syrup. It’s also not terribly digestible, even in humans, which is why you see kernels in your own poop when you eat corn on the cob. To make matters worse, they process the corn, which makes it equivalent to eating a corn chip. THAT is the first ingredient in many low end dog foods…Purina Dog Chow, Beneful, IAMS, etc. Corn is a cheap filler, and should not be the first ingredient. Even the “meat” in these foods is crap…the feathers, etc….parts that aren’t the nutritious parts. ) Really, you should research out what goes into what you are putting into your dog. You will be shocked.

  21. Jessica MacIntyre
    January 10, 2014 | 6:16 pm

    These treats are so dangerous!! Unfortunately.there’s more then sugar to worry about. Our local business Fur Baby Bark-ery has only organic.ingredients and all of our treats are corn, soy, wheat, dairy, and grain free!! It worries me so many dog and cat owners don’t know what they are really feeding their pets. You can find us at

  22. G. Brown
    January 10, 2014 | 3:34 pm

    I make our pup’s treats as well…chicken strips, 200-225 degrees for 2-2 1/2 hours in the oven. Freeze batches, thaw 2-3 strips at a time. I break mine up for small treats for our Shichon.

    • Rita
      January 11, 2014 | 11:11 pm

      How long can the chicken jerky be kept in freezer? I don’t want to make too much and end up with freezer burned snacks!

  23. S. Kloss
    January 10, 2014 | 1:00 pm

    Just checked mine. Alpo Variety Snaps have no sugar. Yea!

  24. Bectinced
    December 15, 2013 | 5:55 pm

    my best friend’s ex-wife makes $82 an hour on the computer. She has been out of a job for ten months but last month her income was $19744 just working on the computer for a few hours. see page—Rush64.COM

    • Karine
      January 10, 2014 | 2:36 pm

      Please stop advertising your business here …

  25. James Yockey
    December 12, 2013 | 12:29 pm

    I bought a food dehydrator (very reasonable, around $30), buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale, slice thinly and place in the dehydrator. Hours later I have natural and healthy dog treats without any added preservatives or chemicals. More over, without the worry of what is in them. You can substitute with Turkey, duck, or any other including veggies like sweet potatoes. It is not as time consuming as you might think and the peace of mind is more than worth it, not to mention the savings.

    • Stephanie
      December 12, 2013 | 12:46 pm

      Plus you can make delicious treats for yourself, too! Dehydrated strawberries are amazing. :)

    • Teri Lombardi
      December 12, 2013 | 9:57 pm

      What a great idea! Thank you for sharing. Now I know what I want for Xmas LOL.

      • Deborah Ethridge
        January 10, 2014 | 5:02 pm

        You can also do this in your oven at a very low tempurature. Makes them for me dogs all the time.

    • KF
      December 13, 2013 | 12:13 am

      Now all you have to worry about is the GMOs in the chicken. It’s always something. I dry sweet potatoes in the oven. My dog let’s me know about it if I forget to give them to him at exactly 11:00 a.m. every day!!

    • Jess D
      December 16, 2013 | 11:45 am

      Do you cook the chicken, duck, turkey, etc. before you dehydrate them? or does the dehydrator “cook” them as it dehydrates?

      • Sandi
        January 10, 2014 | 12:26 pm

        Don’t cook the food before you dehydrate. I’ve made chicken jerky for my pack for years.

    • joi
      January 10, 2014 | 1:57 pm

      how long do you dehydrate?

      • Madeline
        January 10, 2014 | 3:31 pm

        Length of time to dehydrate depends on a lot of factors. If I completely load up my dehydrator it takes 6-12 hours to dehydrate ~3 pounds of chicken breast (pre-cooked weight). The thickness of the chicken, ambient humidity, etc all affect the length of time. We just let it go until the pieces are dried out. We dry longer for dog jerky than human jerky since we want them as a chewable treat for our dog.

    • Karine
      January 10, 2014 | 2:35 pm

      I too gave up purchasing dog treats .. My main reason is that most of them come from China.
      I too make my own … Matter a fact – I will puchase a food dehydrator . I have 3 dogs :) Thank you so much for your feedback ..
      Karine A.
      Tucson AZ.

    • Terry
      January 11, 2014 | 1:10 pm

      Great to know. A friend is letting my try his dehydrator. Any tips?

    • Cathy
      May 26, 2014 | 3:00 pm

      A friend and I just bought a dehydrator. We will be making chicken treats for our 4 dogs! Please note: most deydrator trays will go into a dishwasher. If you use your dehydrator with meat, especially chicken, be sure it is washed well to prevent Ecoli transfer to other foods.

  26. Amy B
    December 12, 2013 | 11:54 am

    Good to know. I was mainly reading the location where the snacks were made before; now I’ll be more careful to actually read the ingredient list in the store before buying. My dogs do like the Chewlottas, but I don’t buy them often. I should just start making my own treats again so I know exactly what’s in them.

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