Scary Truths About Your Dog’s Food

We love our dogs. According to the 2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 67% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 84.9 millions homes. 63.4 million of that number alone, were dogs! While it was once considered okay to give our furry companions any dog treat available, goodies are much more complicated now. With reports of dangerous additives, banned antibiotics, mold, and more risks, commercial dog treats aren’t always a safe bet. While not all dog treats have the potential to be bad for your dog, homemade versions are an easy, effective, and healthy way to reward and love your pooch.

Dangerous Dog Food

In early 2007, many pet owners complained that their dogs were suffering kidney failure after eating treats made with ingredients imported from China. By March of that year, veterinary treatments for kidney problems in dogs had increased 141 percent. After weeks of consumer complaints, a number of companies recalled suspect products. When those products were tested, reports showed that ingredients made in China had been adulterated with melamine and other contaminants. These additives artificially inflated the protein content of ingredients such as wheat and corn gluten, rice protein, wheat flour, and other fillers. More than 5,300 products were affected, many of which were sold by popular pet food companies.

Hundreds of dogs died and thousands were sickened after consuming contaminated treats and food.
— US Food and Drug Administration

A few years later, 14 people in nine states were sickened after handling dog food contaminated by salmonella. The problem was traced back to the same plant where the toxic mold aflatoxin had contaminated dog food a few years earlier.  And in 2013, several major manufacturers recalled treats after finding that their products contained trace amounts of antibiotics banned in the U.S.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to warn dog owners about pet treats with ingredients imported from China. As of last year, the agency has received 5,000 reports of illnesses linked to jerky pet treats, including more than 1,000 canine deaths.  Most complaints are related to chicken, including treats, tenders, and strips. There have also been complaints about products such as duck jerky, sweet potato jerky, and treats with meats wrapped around sweet potatoes or dry fruit.

In response to mounting pressure from customers, some major pet stores recently removed jerky and rawhide treats made in China from their shelves, although these products are widely available in other stores. The FDA cautions, “Pet owners should be aware that manufacturers do not need to list the country of origin for each ingredient used in their products.” This means that a label emblazoned with “Made in the USA” doesn't guarantee that all ingredients are sourced here.

Read more about Melamine Pet Food Recall of 2007

Homemade treats, in contrast, provide dogs with a safe, healthy alternative. Don’t have time to make your own? Purchase our handcrafted, human grade, organic minimal ingredient treats.

Allergies and Intolerances


Many people prefer to avoid ingredients that aren't a natural or necessary part of any dog's diet. Some animals are intolerant of or allergic to ingredients such as soy and corn. The most common dog allergy is beef. Other top offenders are dairy, wheat, chicken, lamb, pork, fish, and eggs. Dogs can develop intolerance and allergies at any time and often have problems with more than one ingredient.

For these and other reasons, it's important to pay attention to your dog's reaction to any new food or treat you introduce. Up o eight weeks after a change in diet, take heed if your dog suffers from recurrent skin or ear infections, an increase in licking or itching, or a gastrointestinal problem; these symptoms may be related to a new food or treat. To avoid the development of food allergies, some vets encourage a varied diet plus probiotics in puppyhood.

The best treats are those that help your animal companion stay healthy and energetic. Remember that the content of this article does not constitute veterinary or dietary advice. Always check with your veterinarian about your dog’s specific dietary needs.

If you already know what irritates your fur children, a custom made to order treat might be just what the doctor orders! Contact me for specific dietary requests.

People Food That’s Toxic to Dogs

Many foods deemed safe for humans (or uncooked food products that your dog may snatch off the counter) are toxic to dogs or contain toxic elements, including seeds and pits. Even if you don’t intentionally give these items to your pet as a treat, your dog may get into the trash and eat coffee grounds or snatch cherry pits from a bowl – both of which can be toxic in large quantities. My Chloe has become quite the ninja, learning how to silently steal items from the counter, or most recently opening the cabinets and pantry. (cue child locks) Be aware of the following items.

  • Alcohol: Can impair coordination and breathing; consumption may result in coma or death.

  • Apple Seeds: Release a cyanide compound when digested. It would take a lot of apple seeds to affect a dog, but it is best to avoid them.

  • Apricot Pits: Source of the toxin cyanide.

  • Avocados: Contain persin, which is somewhat toxic; may cause vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or pancreatitis.

  • Bread Dough and Pizza Dough, Raw: Unbaked yeast dough can expand in a dog's stomach, causing bloating. Symptoms include drooling, retching, distended belly, increased heart rate, and, in rare instances, death caused by gastrointestinal rupture.

  • Caffeine Large amounts of caffeine can result in a fast pulse, hyperactivity, increased blood pressure, tremors, seizures, and even death. Seek veterinary help right away if your dog has consumed coffee grounds.

  • Cherry Pits: Source of the toxin cyanide.

  • Chocolate: Contains caffeine, but the real problem comes from the poison methylxanthine. Symptoms may not show up for hours. Ingestion can cause hyperactivity, vomiting, elevated pulse, tremors, fever, pancreatitis, seizures, and, in rare cases, death.

  • Cooked Bones: Can splinter when chewed or can be swallowed in too-large pieces. This can cause choking, internal bleeding, or digestive blockages that could result in serious illness or death.

  • Corn on the Cob: Dogs can easily chew and swallow the cob itself. Bits of cob can cause digestive blockages, a serious condition indicated by vomiting and diarrhea. If unresolved, a total blockage is fatal.

  • Fish, Raw: Raw salmon and trout are toxic if they harbor the bacteria Neorickettsia helminthoeca, which can be fatal to dogs if untreated. Symptoms generally appear 5 to 7 days after consumption and include fever, vomiting, yellow diarrhea, and discharge from the nose. Cooked fish of all kinds is fine.

  • Grapes and Raisins: Contain a toxin that can cause liver damage, kidney failure, and sometimes death. Symptoms can occur from as little as one cup.

  • Liver, in Excess: Contains high levels of vitamin A. Too much liver can lead to excessive bone growth of the spine and joints, weight loss, and disinterest in eating.

  • Macadamia Nuts and Macadamia Butters: Can cause fever, rapid heartbeat, tremors, distress, and weakness.

  • Onions and Chives: Contain sulfoxides and disulfides, both of which can cause anemia and damage red blood cells. A large quantity of food containing onions can cause hemolytic anemia. Symptoms include weakness, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, and darkened urine.

  • Pits and Seeds: Including peach and plum pits and persimmon seeds. These are a source of the toxin cyanide.

  • Processed Foods: Likely to contain ingredients dangerous to dogs. Chips often contain onion powder and excess salt; diet foods often contain Xylitol; cookies or granola bars contain raisins or chocolate; and pizza contains onions.

  • Xylitol: Commonly found in chewing gum, breath mints, and sugar-free foods. Even small quantities of Xylitol can lead to insulin overproduction, kidney failure, and death.

Homemade Treats, Safe for Your Dog

When you make dog treats from scratch, you can select the healthiest ingredients possible. But remember, homemade treats do not have preservatives to keep them shelf-stable like commercial treats. For maximum freshness, keep all homemade dog treats in the refrigerator or freezer and remove just what you need for the day.


Things to Remember!

  • People Food Is Good For Dogs

    • Despite what you’ve heard from friends, vets and pet food manufacturers, wholesome ”people food” is good for dogs. People food is only bad for dog food makers.

    • The same fresh, nutritious foods people eat can offer your dog the nutrition he needs and save you a mountain of vet bills. It just takes a little education to learn the small differences between human and canine nutritional needs. (Hint: no onions, grapes or raisins. Rinse off rich spices and sauces. Go easy on carbs and avoid wheat and corn. See graphic above)

  • The Quality Of Processed Commercial Foods Is Suspect

    • Dog food may legally contain “4-D” meat: meat from dead, dying, diseased and disabled animals.

    • Add a little road kill, mill floor sweepings labeled as grain, and corn contaminated with high levels of pesticide (yes, really) and you have a recipe for ill health. The cheaper the food, the cheaper the ingredients, the worse the nutrition. YIKES! Read the labels! Would you eat it? If the answer is no, you might want to question what you are feeding your pets.

  • Feeding The Same Food Day After Day Limits Nutrition

    • Imagine eating corn, rancid fat and chicken wings (without meat) every meal of your life, with the same mix of cheap vitamins and minerals added…

    • Nutritionists urge people to eat a variety of foods, both for improved nutrition and also to prevent allergies. Dogs need variety, too.

    • But variety can cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs, right?

    • In the short run, yes. Nutritionally-deprived animals have sick guts. In fact, intestinal upset when switching foods is a sign your dog needs more variety. Once good nutrition has healed a dog’s digestive system, the dog can eat different foods every meal — just as people do. Just switch foods gradually over several weeks while your dog’s gut heals. Another reason a variety of whole food treats can help introduce variety of nutrients to your dog.

  • Some Common Foods Can Be Hazardous To Canine Health

    • Cooked bones and rawhide chews can cause major health problems requiring emergency surgery. Several years ago our dog Penny bit off a large knuckle from a grocery store sold, bone. This bone was made for dogs, and I was less informed like most at the time. It was traumatic to say the least and after emergency stomach surgery and thousands of dollars, Penny’s stomach has never been the same.

    • Wheat-based treats can bring on allergies. Onions, grapes, raisins, chocolate, the artificial sweetener Xylitol and other common foods can be toxic for dogs and must be avoided. (see allergy graphic above)

  • Corn Kills

    • Most kibble is loaded with corn, a cheap filler. Unfortunately, the corn isn’t the luscious kind you and I eat.

    • It’s feed corn (like cattle eat), or cheap feed corn remnants. Even corn meal dust counts as corn. The corn may even have been condemned for human consumption, since there is no upper level of pesticide contamination for pet foods and treats.

    • If that weren’t bad enough, corn (which gives us both high fructose corn syrup and corn oil) is fattening. Any wonder so many dogs are obese and suffer from diabetes?

    • Improving your dog’s diet can add years to your dog’s life and save you a fortune. It doesn’t require a lot of work or expense. It just requires a little knowledge and the desire to give your dog the healthy body he or she deserves.

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