Although dog treats are the fastest growing segment of the pet food industry, very little is known about their nutritional value and their impact on a dog’s diet, health, and wellness.
Currently, European regulation states that dog treats should be labeled as “complementary feed” and establishes rules for labeling to give consumers the necessary information. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines also state the daily treat intake should not be greater than 10% of a dog’s energy needs – known as maintenance energy requirement (MER).
However, recent research published in the Vet Record finds that most dog treats on the market contain a wide range of unidentified ingredients – including sugars – and often exceed the recommended daily energy allowance for treats.
For this study, researcher Giada Morelli of the University of Padua in Italy looked to compare the nutrient composition of different categories of treats and determine whether daily intake recommendations on their labeling were in accordance with WSAVA guidelines. Taking 32 popular dog treats found in pet shops and supermarkets, Morelli and colleagues analyzed the products for levels of minerals, starch, simple sugars, and the amino acid hydroxyproline.
The results showed that over three-quarters (76%) of treats contained between four and nine ingredients, and these ingredients were not precisely described on the label. Out of six categories of different treat types, only the instructions for dental sticks remained below 10% MER for every dog size. Biscuits were found to be the most calorically dense treat, while dental sticks were the least.
This study is the first to investigate and categorize dog treats to determine their nutrient profile. Although the authors note some study limitations, like the small number of treats that were analyzed in each category, they maintain that these findings suggest that treat labeling needs to include more information on the ingredients present. If these instructions are more closely followed, it could help prevent dogs from becoming overweight and at increased risk of conditions such as diabetes.