What ingredients should you look for and avoid?
As a vet, I often ask my clients about treats, but only recently I realized that treats can be a serious problem when it comes to your dog’s health.
Since the introduction of HairQ test for minerals and heavy metals, I have seen many dogs with increased levels of mercury and strontium. I mentioned it before that it appears that dogs on a fish heavy diet can suffer from elevated mercury levels. See an example below of a recent test of a dog on fish based diet with no vitamin and mineral supplements added.
The most common symptoms I am seeing are digestive problems, allergies, liver disease, kidney disease, pancreatitis and seizures in these dogs. In another recent newsletter, I cautioned about elevated strontium levels in dogs from eating small fish, such as sardines and smelt.
Because there is no known source of strontium other than radioactive fallout, I suggest not feeding any small fish or any other fish with the exception of wild salmon and salmon oil, which appears to be fine when purchased from reliable sources. Remember that fished canned in the US or Canada may come from fish brokers in Japan.
At this time, we are still looking for an ideal certified, but non-government laboratory to help us analyze samples that we have received from our clients. The reason why I say non-government is that there have been some opinions that governments are not always keen to disclose information when it comes to food safety and especially radiation.
What you can do for now is to run a HairQ test as a reliable way of determining what your dog's levels are and also do a regular cleanse if you have been feeding fish-based products, processed food and treats of unknown origin.
Strontium competes with calcium and that is why supplementing your dog’s with a natural mineral supplement is essential.
12 steps to safer treats for your dog
Based on what I know about people and dogs, giving a treat is an extension of love. I completely get that, however, with global food sourcing, many treats are often not the best from the health point of view and other can be seriously unsafe.
For example, sardines canned in North America may come from a Japanese distributor.
That is why I put together 12 steps to safer treats for your dog
1. Avoid fish-based treats (with the exception of locally sourced/made salmon treats). I have repeatedly seen elevated mercury and strontium levels in dogs that are on fish based diet.
2. Reduce or stop feeding liver treats as they have overall higher concentration of toxins. Over feeding liver treats can also cause vitamin A overdose.
3. Milk based treats are not optimal for dogs as most dogs are lactose intolerant. Milk products often compromise the digestive system and cause overall immune system depletion.
4. Avoid grain and rice in treats as dogs do not have a good ability to digest these and are often gluten intolerant. Grain is also one of the causes of pancreas inflammation. Rice is often high in arsenic because it is usually grown in polluted waters of third world countries.
5. Cured meats such as ham, sausages and jerky contain nitrates and other preservatives, which should be avoided.
6. Avoid dehydrated duck, chicken and turkey breasts as they are often infused in glycerin and chemical preservatives. Some sources report an increased incidence of liver and kidney disease in dogs on such treats.
7. Avoid any treats made in China and third world countries because they usually have no quality controls when it comes to pet foods.
8. Carrots are one of the least digestible foods when it comes to canine digestive tract. They may be fine with some dogs but it is always better to reduce the amount given or stop them if your dog has a tendency to diarrhea.
9. The best you can do with treats is to make them yourself from chunks of meat – dehydrated, baked or cooked and frozen.
10. Bully sticks, rawhide and other bulk products that sit in store bins are likely preserved with chemicals. Remember that manufacturers do not need to claim preservatives on labels and often do not.
11. Do not give treats too frequently as your dog’s digestive tract needs a rest; fasting periods are needed in the canine species. Your dog will love you anyway.
12. Buy local, buy organic, non-processed treats such as chunks of dehydrated meats or baked grain free products. When you go around stores and places that give dog treats, carry your own to avoid junk.
If you are wondering what your dog’s mineral and heavy metals are, HairQ test will give you a good idea where your dogs levels are at. This is especially important if you have a suspicion that something could be wrong with your dog’s food, treats or supplements.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM