Natural Dog Treats

The Benefits of Natural Dog Treats

The UK pet food market, including natural dog treats, is worth an estimated £3.3bn, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association’s (PFMA) 2022 market data
 A large portion of this is ultra-processed pet food and pet treats.

As human beings we understand the effects of processed food on ourselves and on our children.  We try our best as responsible adults to limit this, to mitigate the impact of empty calories in most cases we compensate with exercise.

We are fully aware that as humans, diet plays a massive part in not only our physical health and longevity, but also our mental health and overall feeling of wellbeing… “Healthy Body, Healthy Mind”

There are many scientific reports showing the links between ultra-processed foods and the health of children.  A study from June 2022 found that “children ages 3-5 who consumed more ultra-processed foods had poorer locomotive skills than children who consumed less of these foods.  It also showed lower cardiovascular fitness in 12-15-year olds who consumed more ultra-processed foods” (source sciencedaily.com).

Yet when it comes to our precious pets, as a nation we are sorely missing the mark.

It stands to reason that these issues can be translated to our four-legged friends.  Almost all of the pet foods and treats we buy from multi-national supermarkets and commercial brands, have been Ultra-processed and are full to the brim with added flavours, colourings and preservatives.

So, what is Ultra-processed food?

When food is processed, it is changed from its natural state by adding things like salt, oils, sugars, preservatives and other substances.  Some simple examples of this are canned fruit, fish and vegetables as well as freshly made bread.  These foods have been altered but not in a way that may be detrimental to health.

However some commercial foods go even further, they go through multiple processes including (but not limited to) excessive heating, moulding, extrusion, and milling.  A lot more ingredients are added and the food itself is artificially manipulated to last longer, taste sweeter, sound crisper.

Beef Skin Chews

Ok, why should I feed my pet natural treats?

If we are talking about pet treats, the best example would be natural dog treats, as these make a large bulk of pet treats sold around the world.  Although this can also translate to other animals, including cats, ferrets, birds etc.

Dogs became domesticated from their wolf cousins between 27,000 and 40,000 years ago and would have eaten what their hunter gatherer humans had in surplus.  It wasn’t until 1860 when the businessman James Spratt introduced the first commercially made dog treat from wheat meal, vegetables, beetroot and beef blood.

Even back then, there was a major problem with this dog treat.  From a study by the National Research Council of the National Academy of ScienceNutrient Requirements of dogs and Cats: 2006 Edition canines digest food differently to humans.  They have a smaller need for vegetables or fruit in their diet as they do not have a high physiological requirement for carbohydrates.  The bulk source of fruit or vegetables for a wolf or dog in the wild would be what was left in the digestive system of any prey or carrion they would eat.

However due to the convenience and shelf life of this treat, the market for it grew exponentially, bringing us to where we are today.

What are the benefits of natural dog treats?

  • Hypoallergenic – Natural dog treats do not contain wheat, corn or soy, which are common triggers of dog allergies.  Natural dog treats are a much safer choice if you have ever experienced skin problems or other allergies, being a lot gentler on the stomach and reducing inflammation.  They also help to promote a shinier healthier coat.

  • Low Fat – Natural dog treats contain far less fat than commercial dog treats, which equates to far fewer calories.  This means that you can carry on feeding treats to your dog while at the same time helping them lose weight if they are a bit heavy in the haunches.  Dog treats with a higher fat content can also be harder to digest and lead to hardening stools, making it harder for your pooch to poop.  Natural dog treats with fur, (for example Rabbit ears with fur, or rabbit skins with fur) may also help as a natural de-wormer, helping to flush the intestines clean.

  • Dental Health – Natural dog treats can act as a natural tooth brush.  The abrasive and tough texture will help harden your dogs’ gums and also help with scraping away tartar and left-over food residue.

  • Mental Wellbeing – Dogs love to chew, plain and simple… Natural dog treats are great for this! The act of chewing itself releases feel good hormones that help to relax and calm your dog.   A 2021 study from the National Library of Medicine also illustrates how better nutrition can aid in cognitive function and brain aging in dogs.

  • Physical Wellbeing – “You are what you eat”, and so is your pet partner.  Having a nutrient rich and well-balanced diet is crucial for overall health and longevity.  A healthier pet can also mean less visits to the vet and more pennies in your pocket.

Summary

Ultra-processed food is currently the main stay of treats and snack for both humans and pets alike, leading in a large part to both the physical and mental health decline of the both populations in this modern age.  Convenience, cost and shelf life have been the main driving force behind this rapid expansion and acceptance.  It will take awareness through re-education to turn this trend around.  The large growth of small entrepreneurial businesses who cater for this market is slowly making inroads in the sector and hopefully, ultimately making commercial big business follow the trend.  

Natural Dog Treats are a cost effective, healthy and more environmentally friendly alternative, offering a plethora of health and emotional benefits for not only your pet, but also for the pet parent.

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