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Know What is in Your Dog’s Treats

Do dog treats need to be nutritious? By definition, they don’t.

Dog treats are basically the equivalent of human “treats” like candy, cake, and ice cream. Therefore, they may be tasty but may be empty calories that contain very little to no nutritional value. 

But this doesn’t mean that treats can’t be of nutritional value or supply helpful supplements while being a yummy treat. The challenging part is how to figure out whether a treat has nutritional value. 

All dog treat packaging provide a guaranteed analysis on their labels, but this can be confusing. Treat packaging also displays the percentage of protein, fat, fiber, and moisture in the products, along with the full list of ingredients.

Comparing the ingredient list to the guaranteed analysis and the product’s advertised properties can help you understand the value of what you are feeding your pup. 

For example, a product may claim to use real chicken and be high in protein, but the ingredient list may show chicken not being the first ingredient, and the product may contain less than 10 percent protein. This is not uncommon. This type of treat may look like pressed chicken jerky, but instead it is highly processed chicken by-products along with fillers and ingredients that sound more like chemicals than whole foods. 

The highest-nutrient treats have minimal whole ingredients that you recognize. They provide high bioavailability, which means that the essential amino acids in the proteins are readily digestible and easily absorbed and utilized by your dog’s body. Some signs that you aren’t feeding your dog treats with high bioavailability are ones that produce stomach distress, very soft stools, allergies, and weight gain in your pooch.

Real whole ingredients that are as not highly processed are the best options for your dog and are what dogs love. Highly processed treats with little to no natural nutritional value are purposely made to be exciting for dogs — just like junk food is for humans. 

So just because your picky eater seems to only like these types of treats, more often than not, dogs gravitate to real foods. Dogs definitely respond to these scientifically created exciting experiences, but dogs can respond just as enthusiastically to real, fresh products. And fresh might be one of the best contributions to pump up their interest.

Although treats enhanced with artificial flavors and smells have been proven to be desirable to dogs, real, fresh, natural, simple ingredients will attract most dogs when given the choice.

So if your dog is going to be just as excited to get a treat made of high bioavilability ingredients to one of fillers and man-made ingredients and scents, why not chose the high bioavailability options? 

Other key items to look for on packaging is that the product is made in the USA, it contains ingredients that you know are real foods and that there aren’t any fillers, sugar, salt or weird seeming scientific sounding words added.

Nicole Matos is the owner of Wizzos Pup Treats in San Francisco, which makes high-protein dog treats in three flavors, chicken chips, chicken-blueberry chips, and chicken breast jerky. Learn more at

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