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What does Natural Dog Treats even mean?

What do you think of when you see the word natural on your dog’s treats?

In reality, most natural dog treats contain very unnatural (and very unhealthy) ingredients. But don’t worry … there are ways to determine the truly natural treats from the imposters.

Why Natural Is Just Marketing

Pet food trends follow human trends. And that makes sense … you have access to the cash and credit card, not your dog! Pet food manufacturers know consumers are looking for healthier, less processed foods. They also know consumers will spend big to get them. So they find creative ways to put “natural” on the label … while adding the same harmful, low-quality ingredients you’ll find in the cheap treats.

So, what does Natural dog Treats mean? How do they get away with this?

What does Natural Dog Treats even mean to Pet Food Manufacturers?

If you make dog treats, and you want to put the word “natural” on the label, you have to meet definitions set by AAFCO. AAFCO is the Association of American Feed Control Officials.

This might sound like a good thing but there are two problems with AAFCO setting the standard:

  1. Most of the AAFCO board members work for large pet manufacturers.

  2. The definitions for “natural” are vague and complicated.

Don’t think these two points are unrelated!

Let’s take a closer look at the definitions. According to AAFCO, natural can be:

A feed or feed ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources

Is unprocessed or has been subject to:

  • physical processing

  • heat processing

  • rendering

  • purification

  • extraction

  • hydrolysis

  • enzymolysis

  • fermentation

Hasn’t been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process.

Doesn’t contain any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic … except in amounts as might occur in good manufacturing practices.

Did you get that last part?

This basically means pet food or treats can be rendered or extruded and still be called natural … as long as the manufacturer didn’t add synthetic ingredients … unless they had to.

Any pet food without synthetic preservatives like:

  • BHA (can cause cancer)

  • BHT (can cause liver, thyroid and kidney problems)

  • Ethoxyquin (liver, kidney, thyroid and reproductive dysfunction)

  • Artificial flavours or colours can be called natural

But that’s not exactly true …

Natural Dog Treats can contain these dangerous, man-made ingredients if the label says:

“Natural with added vitamins, minerals and trace nutrients.”

So the term natural doesn’t mean natural dog treat at all.

Natural Dog Treats: Perception Vs Reality

Research shows that people look for the word natural. They believe it’s healthier.

According to an Ipsos global survey, we believe natural means:

  • Unprocessed

  • Healthy

  • 100% from nature

  • No artificial ingredients

  • Organic

Do all natural dog treats hit the mark? Some do. Most don’t. In fact, most natural treats are downright harmful.

Between 2010 and 2012, a reported 2,674 dogs became sick as a result of eating chicken jerky treats. A reported 501 dogs died as a result of eating “natural” chicken treats.

The bottom line? You can’t rely on the word natural to determine the quality and safety of your dog’s treats. So how do you find areal, healthy natural treat for your dog?

Avoid These Ingredients - you won't find them in Real Natural Dog Treats anyway!

1. Corn, Wheat, Rice, Grains

These are cheap fillers that most dog treat manufacturers use. Too many carbs in your dog’s diet can cause dysbiosis which can become a major health issue. They also expose your dog to carcinogenic (cancer-causing) toxins called mycotoxins. This includes the most carcinogenic naturally occurring substance known to man, aflatoxin.

2. Corn Syrup

This cheap sweetener “enhances” the taste of your dog’s treats. The problems is, corn syrup, just like sugar, leads to serious issues like obesity and diabetes. If your dog’s treats are high-quality and healthy the treats don’t need to be sweetened. They’ll taste good on their own.

3. Soy

Soy is a plant protein that hits all the makers as a natural ingredient … … but it’s terrible for your dog. Soy is one of the top three genetically modified crops grown in the US. Unless it says organic, it likely contains harmful pesticides like glyphosate.

Glyphosate has been linked to:


endocrine disruption


birth defects

antibiotic resistance

hormone disruption

kidney disease

That’s why so many countries have banned it. It can also suppress the thyroid gland’s ability to produce T3 and T4. These are necessary for normal thyroid function and it’s a common allergen. Avoid ingredients such as: soybean meal, soy flour and soy protein.

4. Unidentified “Meat” Or “Animal” Anything

I’m talking about “meat meal” or “animal fat”. These words sound natural since they’re meat based, but what kind of meat? Which animal? These ingredients can come from just about anywhere …

  • leftovers not fit for human consumption

  • waste from the slaughterhouse

  • spoiled supermarket meats

  • diseased animals

5. Meals

Meals are made by “rendering,” which means the meat is cooked at a very high heat until the excess water is gone. This leaves you with a highly concentrated protein. That might sound good, but it isn’t. That high heat kills all the nutrition. The amino acids are denatured which makes the protein virtually non-bioavailable. Highly concentrated protein that your dog’s body can’t digest is useless.

Make sure to avoid animal meal, meat meal and meat and bone meal.

So what should I look for?

There are a million different options on the market if you choose to feed 'treats' . Choose wisely, look for the point of origin of the Ingredients AND the Manufacture. Always choose 100% Australian SOURCED and manufactured. Avoid anything with Ingredient listings that are a mile long and contain words you can not pronounce. Avoid fillers such as grains, meals, and peas and legumes (these provide Plant Based Proteins and falsely increase the Protein percentages on the Nutrition Analysis Panel) .

Avoid all Dog Treats like Rawhide

Avoid all Dog Treats with a list a mile long of unpronounceable chemicals

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