Preservatives Needed to Keep Dog Treats Fresh

by Betty Lewis
    Sometimes treats contain preservatives not noted on the label.

    Sometimes treats contain preservatives not noted on the label.

    Jupiterimages/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images

    It's nice to give your pooch a little treat to reward his good behavior. However, as with dog food, many commercially prepared treats rely on preservatives to keep them fresh. If there's any animal fat in Pal's treats, there should be something added to keep that fat from going rancid.

    Commercially prepared dog food and dog treats require preservatives to extend shelf-life and keep perishable ingredients from going bad. There's a variety of artificial preservatives to keep Pal's biscuits fresh, including ethoxyquin, butylated hydroxytoluene, known as BHT, and butylated hydroxyanisole, referred to as BHA. Though they're approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in pet food, there is growing concern about their safety in the long-term.

    More commercial pet food and treat manufacturers are moving away from artificial preservatives because of concerns about their safety. The FDA's safety tests are for negative effects of the compounds in a short amount of time, instead of on a daily, long-term basis, which is how most food and treats are served. According to Dog Food Advisor, ethoxyquin is suspected to be linked to certain types of canine liver and kidney cancer, giving dog owners pause about that and other artificial preservatives. As well, the fact that some preservatives are used in other toxic substances -- the preservative propylene glycol also is used for some types of antifreeze -- makes people wary of their use in dog food and treats.

    Natural preservatives are gaining in popularity for commercial dog food and treat manufacturers. Vitamin E, commonly referred to as mixed tocopherols, vitamin C, known as ascorbic acid, and plant extracts such as rosemary are all used to prevent rancidity in dog treats. If you choose natural preservatives as an alternative to artificial preservatives, keep in mind they have a shorter shelf life. If you buy Pal biscuits made with natural preservatives, make sure you don't keep them past the "best by" date on the label.

    If you want to avoid the problem of preservatives in Pal's treats, you can make him some delicious snacks yourself. Cesar's Way and Rodale News provide a variety of tasty bites you can cook up for your pup. Whether it's as simple as making him "ice cream" with peanut butter and yogurt, or baking him a batch of yummy pumpkin balls, you'll be able to control the quality of ingredients. Homemade treats can be frozen for safe-keeping, so you don't have to concern yourself with figuring out which preservatives, or how much, to add to his treats. If you're buying treats and want to avoid artificial preservatives, look for the natural preservatives on the label. Remember: Just because the label says it's an "all natural" treat doesn't mean it doesn't have artificial preservatives.

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    About the Author

    Betty Lewis is a writer and editor specializing in pet care, animals, careers and emergency management. She previously ran an animal shelter, where she also served as a kennel attendant and dog trainer. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism, an M.B.A. and a master's degree in professional studies.

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