8 dog treat ingredients to avoid!

8 dog treat ingredients to avoid!


“But it’s a TREAT, it’s not supposed to be healthy”.

I hear this kind of statement a lot. Yes, dog treats are a special reward given less freely then food but your dog’s treats shouldn’t be creating chronic health problems. Unfortunately, there are many dog treats that contain unhealthy preservatives, fillers and synthetic colourings, which negatively impact your pet’s health. It’s not worth it. A treat can be delicious and tasty and not risk your dog’s health.


I don’t suggest removing treats from your pet’s diet but I do recommend you become more conscious of the treats you do purchase by reading product labels. To make this easier for you I’ve compiled a list of risky ingredients to watch out for, what health problems they could create and other names they are disguised as. In holistic medicine we often enforce the “crowding in” method when attempting to eat better, and change diets. If your dog has become addicted to these unhealthy treats start by adding the healthy treats in (you will also need to adjust caloric intake from food while doing this) and then eventually you’ll be able to decrease the amount of unhealthy treats in your dogs diet.



Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene are closely related chemical preservatives found in dog treats and foods. The National Toxicology Program of the Department of Health and Human Services warns that BHA is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent). [i]




Blue 2 – Animal studies have showed significant increases in brain cancers and other abnormal cell development with blue #2.[ii]


Caramel Colour – can be sugar based but also prepared by ammonia process, which has been associated with blood toxicity in lab rats.

Red 3 – Also called erythrosine, red 3 was recognized in 1990 by the FDA as a thyroid carcinogen (cancer causing agent) in animals. [iii]


Red 40 – Also called allura red, red 40 comes from petroleum distillates or coal tars and is the most commonly used dye. According to the Centre for Science and Public Health red 40 is known to cause allergy like reaction and hyperactivity in children. [iv]


Yellow 5- Also called tartrazine, the Center for Science and Public Health also explains that yellow 5 is known to cause allergy like reactions and hyperactivity in children.[v]



Ethoxyquin is a chemical preservative that is not always listed on the labels of dog treats that contain it. An example would be if fishmeal were sold to the manufacture with ethoxyquin already contained in it. In this case the manufacturer is not required to include it on the label. Never be afraid to contact the treat company directly.


There have been numerous cases come forward where dogs have reproductive conditions, cancer, and itchy skin problems directly correlated to ethoxyquin ingestion.[vi]



Manganous oxide is a compound produced on large scales for use as fertilizer and food additives.[vii]



Propylene glycol or sometimes know as PG, is the third product in a chemical process that begins with propene (byproduct of fossil fuel), then converted to propylene oxide (considered probable carcinogen) and then finally through a hydrolyzation process propylene glycol is created.[viii] It is most often used in antifreeze but is also found in cosmetics and some food products.


There is little research, but from what has been done the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has rated it a 3 on the health concern scale explaining that it presents a moderately low health concern. But it correctly designated propylene glycol as a concern for the creation of allergy and immune related conditions. [ix]




Sodium metabisulfite is a preservative used as a disinfectant, and a bleaching agent in the paper and pulp industry. Ingestion of pure sodium metabisulfite may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, circulatory disturbance and central nervous system depression. [x]




Sodium nitrate is a preservative and colour fixative added to dog treats and food to help retain colour and can cause cancer, arthritis, immune system conditions and has even been linked to death.[xi]



Sodium tripolyphosphate, also known as E451 or STPP, is a suspected neurotoxin, as well as a registered pesticide[xii] and known air contaminant in the state of California. [xiii]  Unfortunately STPP is not only found in many dog treats but in dog foods. Companies use it as a preservative and to maintain moisture in foods.



[vii] Arno H. Reidies "Manganese Compounds" Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology 2007; Wiley-VCH, Weinheim.

[xiii] http://www.thefishsite.com/fishnews/16714/warnings-of-sodium-tripolyphosphate-in-fish/



Rickilee Walls is the chief medical herbalist for TGIPT, and co-founder of  companionherbals.com, a herbal supplement company for dogs and cats. A passionate educator, Rickilee enjoys teaching pet parents about herbal medicine and how to make their own herbal remedies for their pet. She is an advocate for the environment discouraging the use of endangered plant species and encouraging sustainable practices.



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