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Christmas Dog Treat Naughty List

Every holiday season there are many exciting looking treats and chews marketed to include our dog we love so much in our holiday celebrations. The candy cane shapes and the red and green colours scream Christmas and we can't help but buy those cheap stockings from Walmart, the Dollar Store and Canadian Tire type stores, full of goodies for our dogs in hopes of giving them some holiday joy. However, the majority of these cheap treats are "gifts" that are actually wrapped up veterinary bills and health damage.

I could type a never ending list of products and brands I would not trust for my own dogs to eat but for now we will start with my top 2 of my Naughty List:

👿Rawhide Chews (of any brand) and Milk Bone Products 👿

Since they are so popular at Christmas time, rawhide is up first!

It's hard to look back on this photo and see myself happily giving my bull mastiff, Jersey, a rawhide chew on Christmas morning. Truth is, just like my fashion choices pictured here, I simply didn't know any better and neither did my parents! Being young, I was easily sucked in to asking them to buy the eye-catching Christmas-themed dog chews because, who doesn't want to share the holidays with our furry family members as well? 🎄

The sad fact is that we were (unintentionally) playing with my dog's life and were only getting by on LUCK that Jersey wasn't sick or needing vet care after many of the rawhides she probably ate over her years (I can probably guarantee she at least had the sh*ts after this though 😂).

Rawhide chews are one of the biggest sellers during the holidays and pose serious health risks to your dogs. There is NO such thing as a safe and digestible raw hide product.

They are held together with glues, treated with harsh chemical dyes and even bleached to appeal to the buyer (your dog certainly doesn't care about green and red, this is completely to appeal to humans!)

Chemicals aren’t the only reason rawhide is bad for dogs. Rawhide chews are very indigestible and can often lead to choking, or blockages in the digestive tract.

If your dog swallows large pieces of rawhide, they can get stuck in the esophagus or lower in the digestive tract. It’s quite common for dogs to need emergency abdominal surgery to remove them and because these pieces are so indigestible, they can sit in the stomach for months without breaking down or passing through the digestive tract. Spending $2k on an emergency surgery for your dog during the holidays makes those $10 colourful Christmas chews look a lot less cute and isn't worth the risk!

Rawhide products claim (and many people believe) that they help clean and strengthen teeth. Unfortunately rawhide chews start out hard, but as they chew and get wet, they get softer and develop into a chewy, indigestible consistency that is gummy, soggy and disgusting. It’s absolutely not doing anything to help your dog’s teeth but it’s still definitely a big choking and intestinal obstruction risk!

This Christmas look for safer chew alternatives such as natural bully sticks, recreational raw bones, stuffed kongs, puzzle toys and snuffle mats to give your woofer this season 🎅

PSA - Bully Sticks and Rawhide are NOT the same thing! To give it to you straight, bully sticks come from bull penises, often called or labelled as "pizzles". They are 100% beef tendon, all-natural and are digestible plus contain nutritional value. Like anything there is always a choking risk but these are not the same danger I am talking about as with the rawhide. Supervise your dog with any type of chew and take away the bully stick when it becomes so small your dog can swallow it (see specific toy made to fix this issue here!)

Don't be judgemental right off the bat if you see someone purchasing a rawhide chew - they also may just not know any better and MANY owners (especially the elderly that care for their dogs and have bought these for years) don't have access to all the social media information available today such as this article. Kindly let them know about other alternatives and share some knowledge for the holidays! ❤️🎄


Second up on my Naughty List are


There are tons of options when buying treats for dogs, as the market for pet products has exploded in recent years. The old classic brand, Milk Bone, is still one of the most recognized name in dog treats and also the most commonly found treat on grocery store shelves all over the world!

Quick and easy side tip, if it's sold at a human grocery store or similar type shop (generally a human supply store that also just has a random pet product aisle) it is more than likely not a high quality dog product. People can fight me all they want on this but that's another topic for another day!

It's not that dogs don't love the treats, they usually absolutely do...but from a nutrition standpoint, are Milk Bones good or beneficial for our dogs? I want to bring awareness to the different concerns I have found with Milk Bone products that may bring hesitation next time you reach for one to give your dog.

I have posted the ingredient list for a few of the most popular MilkBone Treats available currently from their direct website, and a local popular franchise pet store in my town.

I am going to list the ones that bring the most concern to me as a dog nutrition professional. I am not saying every ingredient they use is unhealthy (but honestly the majority are just not good or beneficial for our dogs) but in this post are we going to highlight the ones I have the biggest issue with. Click to enlarge each photo if needed.

*These highlighted ingredients are not in every single product, but as you can see in the photos below as well as through easily found online information you can see most of them are included in some capacity. Please also keep in mind that in some places they do not list each item and hide things. For example, on their direct website they have removed the specific dyes such as "Red 40" or "Blue 1" and only have "Added Color" on the lable but that does not mean anything except that pet lables are sneaky!

Meat and Bone Meals

  • Includes all tissues, exclusive of blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents that are cooked (rendered) and does not state what type of animal it is from so likely multiple. After cooking, the dried solids are added as "meal" to pet food.

Poultry By-Product Meal (source of chicken flavor)

  • Clean non-rendered "parts", other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, blood, bone, fatty tissue and stomachs and intestines. This is a cheap way for pet food companies to keep the protein levels "high" (although not high quality) while keeping food production costs low.

Animal Digest

  • Material from various unspecified mammals which results from chemical breakdown of clean meat tissues or by-products ("parts" other than meat). This is often used to give a meat "flavor" to pet foods that don't contain any real meat.

Glandular Meal (source of liver flavor)

  • A non-specific meal that can be made from any gland or combination of glands from any unspecified animal and can change every time a product is made.

Bacon Fat and Vegetable Oils

  • Both are horrible ingredients and put your dog at risk of consuming rancid/processed fats which directly causes inflammation and can trigger pancreatitis. Vegetable oils are difficult for dogs to utilize and increase inflammation, especially if adequate omega 3s are not added for balance.

Sodium Metabisulfite (used as a preservative)

  • Sodium Metabisulfite is actually a vitamin. It’s the man-made version of an essential nutrient commonly known as vitamin K. Like all vitamins, menadione is an antioxidant that’s sometimes used as a preservative in dog food and dog treats.

  • Menadione as only a precursor to the vitamin’s more natural versions. Studies (mostly on humans) make a number of unsettling claims that menadione can "promote allergic reactions, weaken the immune system, cause toxic reactions in liver cells and induce hemolytic anemia (red blood cell toxicity)." Menadione manufacturers warn its human buyers that menadione is “toxic to kidneys, lungs, liver, mucous membranes. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organ damage.”

BHA and/or BHT (used as a preservative)

  • In recent years, there was concern over the addition of butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) in Milk Bones and the potential correlation between it and cancer in dogs. This concern was brought about in a report by the National Institutes of Health in 1991 that concluded that they what are who might have potential carcinogenic effects.

  • Used as a preservative, BHA and BHT allow the Milk Bone dog treats to have an extended shelf life. The Milk Bone recipe has utilized BHA since 1995 with no adverse reactions, according to the company.

  • So what does this mean? Basically, the Milk Bone company themselves as well as many vendors they are sold at like vet clinics will defend themselves feeding these treats that since the FDA states that BHA/BHT are "likely" safe in "trace amounts" they have no issue giving these to their dogs, patients, etc. BUT that absolutely does not discredit the fact that there has been a link noted between these

Titanium Dioxide

  • A chemical used to enhance the brilliance of colors and provides whitening. It is approved for use in the US and Canada; however, it has recently been banned by the European Union.

Iron Oxide

  • Commonly used to impart a reddish color to food. But again, it’s unnecessary and dangerous: A recent study published states that Iron Oxide should be considered as an irritant to skin and eyes and causes lung inflammation if inhaled.

Caramel Color

  • Caramel coloring has been known to cause reactions in humans and pets. Also called 4-methylimidazole, this is a proven known animal and human carcinogen, so it is important to avoid this ingredient entirely. Around 2011, Coke and Pepsi both had to either make changes to their forumlas in some areas to remove this ingredient or add a carcinogenic warning on the lables due to the results of cancer studies in humans.

Synthetic Dyes including Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1 and Blue 2

  • The dangers of consuming these are wide spread in children, adults and animals and you can read about them all more in depth here.

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviews the risks of artificial food coloring ingredients. Over the years, it has banned dozens of synthetic dyes due to their toxicity or side effects.

The artificial food coloring agents that pet companies use today are approved by the FDA and follow the FDA’s guidelines outlining their use. As Dogs Naturally Magazine reports....

“The FDA currently certifies nine synthetic dyes. The most commonly used ones are FD&C Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6. They are all derived from petroleum. Manufacturers like their bright tones and stability in products. They are also cheaper than natural alternatives.
The FDA justifies the approval of these compounds by pointing out that there aren’t studies conclusively proving these dyes are bad for dogs, specifically. However, there are studies linking these synthetic dyes to health issues in both humans and rodents.
It’s not unreasonable to be concerned that our faithful dogs may suffer from the same effects as other mammals. Keep in mind that the exact same compounds are banned in many countries across Europe under the mindset of “better safe than sorry.”

There are multiple studies that strongly suggest these artificial colorings aren’t good for consumption. The synthetic compounds known as Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 are the most concerning...

Numerous studies show that Red #40 and Yellow #5 and #6 causes hypersensitivity and cell damage in small mammals (namely rodents). Hypersensitivity occurs when the immune system "overreacts" to a potential allergen. As a result, food-induced hypersensitivity has similarities to food allergies.

  • Red #40 (also called Allura Red) is FDA-approved for use in food and cosmetics. Studies indicate that this dye, along with Yellow #5 and #6, can cause hyperactivity in children and adolescents. Animal studies found that exposure to high doses of Red #40 resulted in changes in brain chemistry, as well as learning and memory.

  • Several independent studies found trace amounts of known carcinogens in dyes Red #40 and Yellow #5 and #6. (The FDA allows trace amounts of these contaminants as long as they're within a certain percentage of the total volume.)

  • Another synthetic dye, Blue 2, has raised warning flags as well for its link to brain tumors in rats during testing. All of these food coloring agents are widely in use in dog food and treats.

Although they are completely legal, the bottom line is: why feed your dog something that could be extremely bad for them, when you have the option of dog food and treats that don’t include any artificial ingredients at all?

Rosemary Extract

*NOT a "bad" ingredient like the ones above but I like to tell all dog owners this fact as it somehow is not widely known and is important!

  • A powerful antioxidant which is able to slow down the oxidisation process that turns fats rancid. As an antioxidant, rosemary oil may also help to reduce the risk of cancer.

  • Although this is fine for most dogs, it is often suggested that it should not be given to epileptic dogs as it may increase the incidence or severity of seizures. There is only anecdotal evidence of this but generally myself and other dog wellness professionals recommend avoiding rosemary extract in your dog's food and treats (check your labels!) if your dog prone to seizures or has a diagnosed seizure disorder just to be extra safe.


Let me be the first to he honest here. As a dog owner that's learned a lot of lessons and a mom of a picky human toddler, I absolutely have and will continue to give "unhealthy" or easy and convenient treats from time to time and I do not stress over every single lable and sugar content of what they all eat each time they get something.

However, I will certainly not offer my loved ones a treat that has shown potential, no matter how small, to damage their health.

At the end of the day, it's completely a personal choice what you give and don't give to your dog and I'm just here to put the information out there for you to make your own choices for yourself 😊

I wish you all a very happy holiday with your family including all the pets! 💜

I will be accepting NEW clients in the early New Year 2024! I am awaiting my office being finished in the next few weeks and will make an official announcement post and reach out to those that have emailed to be on my wait list as soon as I have an opening date. I will be operating out of Roving K9 Kare in downtown Kamloops, BC for in-person and virtual consultations. Email to be added here!

Happy Wags!

🐾 Chayse and crew

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