Are dog treats okay to feed to my dog, and what should I look for?

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Question: Are dog treats okay to feed to my dog, and what should I look for?

Graham, a widower, and his little terrier Pip retired to town after a life on the land to be closer to his daughter and grandchildren. With the move to town Graham was introduced to the joys of shopping in a well-stocked specialty pet store and discovered a wonderful array of delectable treats for Pip. After many years in the bush, the treat selection was a gourmet delight for Pip and a never-ending source of amusement for Graham.

Graham was a traditional bushman, who for over 70 years had enjoyed a cooked breakfast, and after that many years wasn’t about to change his daily routine. Every morning Graham whipped up bacon and eggs, and shared the bacon with Pip. Both looked forward to this daily ritual with delight. Graham also purchased a range of treats from the pet store; pig’s ears, trotters, roo jerky, dried liver and other pieces of dried animal parts although he did draw the line at Bully Sticks!

After a few months of this new lifestyle, Pip developed a rash on his back leg. It progressively grew until most of the leg was inflamed and Pip was spending the best part of his day licking and scratching. It was only after fitting a cone to poor Pip and seeing him suffer the ignominy of being called “bucket head”, and seeking some advice did Graham learn, much to his surprise, that an over-abundance of treats could cause such a problem for Pip.

What happened was the morning’s bacon, plus the snack at morning tea-time, the tit-bit at lunchtime and the evening play snack soon amounted to such a proportion that Pip’s treats became the largest part of his nutrient intake. And it didn’t take much either, because Pip only weighed 7kg and his full daily ration was a mere 75g of premium dry food. Quite quickly, Pip’s daily intake of dried animal parts and bacon averaged 38g; not much to look at in Graham’s eyes, but enough to disrupt Pip’s gut microbiome.

The response in Pip of course was a decline in gut microbial diversity which in turn triggered an inappropriate immune system response, the consequences of which manifested as the rash and inflammation of his hind leg. It came as quite a surprise to Graham the innocuous bundle of treats could have such a profound effect on Pip, and he was understandably contrite at what could be seen as neglect of his beloved mate.

But all was not lost. Pip went on to a 6 month course of probiotics together with a rationalisation of his daily rewards program plus a review of his diet, and slowly but surely the inflammation subsided and the skin on his leg lost its scaly redness as his gut microbial diversity improved. Pip’s treats now make up a maximum of 10% of his daily nutritional intake on very special occasions, with a usual allowance of only 5% per day.

Graham is all the wiser now and acutely aware of what an over-abundance of the wrong foods can do. Of course, Pip is not so happy…. he views the reduction in delectables as an afront to his daily enjoyment and simply can’t grasp the concept that too much junk food is bad for him!


About the author… Bill Wiadrowski is a consulting nutritionist who has worked in the field of performance animal nutrition for over 50 years. His latest development is the LifeWise range of next generation foods that are rapidly gaining acclaim for their ability to repair common gut and skin sensitivities issues in domestic canines.


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