What Are the Dangers of Commercial Dog Treats? 

As a dog owner, I love to watch my dog dance and do tricks for a treat. He has those big brown puppy eyes and several methods of begging for his treats. If I get out a treat and stand still, he’ll bark, spin in circles, lay down and roll over, raise a paw to give a high-five, stare me down with the biggest eyes you’ve ever seen, or jump up and dance around. Anything to get that treat!

As a dog owner, I’d hate to give my dog a treat that made him sick. No dog owner wants to do that. Unfortunately, it happens. Vets see sick dogs due to tainted pet treats every year.

What could go wrong with a dog treat?


Chinese Jerky Treats Take A Hit

In March 2018 two dogs became violently ill after consuming a jerky treat. One dog died. The owner believes the jerky treat was tainted and caused her dog’s death.

Oklahoma News shared the story of 4-year-old Zoe the Yorkie. Her owner, Becky Hunter, explained what happened.

“She ate the treat at 10 o’clock. At 2 o’clock, she got up with diarrhea. As soon as the doctor saw her, he told me it wasn’t good,” Hunter said.

Hunter’s second dog, Toby, recovered from his illness, but Zoe didn’t.

During the interview, pet nutritionist Kristy Scott shared some knowledge that might spare further dogs from becoming sick.

“You have to flip it over and look on the little bitty print at the bottom sometimes,” Scott warned.”

The treats Zoe and Toby shared were Golden Rewards Chicken Jerky from a local Walmart store. What Hunter may not have realized was that the “little bitty print at the bottom” read: Product of China. 

Scott and others say there have been problems before with treats manufactured in China. The big pet food scare in 2007 was due to pet foods produced in China that contained added melamine to boost testable protein levels. Thousands of dogs got sick and died, and the record hasn’t been clean ever since.

Jerky treats from China have taken a few hard hits in the last few years, causing numerous reported pet illnesses like in the case of Zoe and Toby.


“Know the Radura”

Susan Thixton, a pet food consumer advocate, works hard to keep pet owners up to date on the safety and quality of commercial pet foods so pet owners can avoid tragedies like the story of Zoe the Yorkie.

Her article “Know the Radura” shares insightful information from Dr. Michael W. Fox explaining how this flower-like symbol should be a warning to pet owners.

If you find the Radura on a bag of treats, what does it mean? It means the treats are irradiated.

The goal of irradiation is to break down bacteria and insects hiding in meat and grain ingredients to make the pet treat sterile.

“Essentially food irradiation creates “mummified” food, killing off bacteria that cause “spoilage” (natural putrefaction) to prolong shelf-life primarily for financial rather than health reasons.  Endotoxins, which can cause illness and death, are produced by some bacteria prior to irradiation, remain in the various animal parts recycled into pet foods and are not destroyed by irradiation.”

This irradiation causes the production of endotoxins, a poison more dangerous than the original bacteria.

“When bacteria such as Salmonella or E. coli are killed through heat or other ‘kill steps’, they release a toxin (endotoxins). Endotoxins cannot be destroyed through heat or acid or any ‘kill step’ recommended by FDA.”

These endotoxins cause inflammation, obesity, and diabetes. They can interact with other substances such as vitamin A, copper, and iron (standard parts of any balanced diet or dog treat) to cause liver damage. Toxic consumption of endotoxins causes Endotoxemia and fatal infection throughout the body.

The Climax of Pet Treat Safety

The ultimate problem with the safety and quality of pet treats is the standards they don’t meet. Pet treats are typically “feed grade” which may contain ingredients deemed inedible or condemned by the USDA. Feed grade products may contain undesirable ingredients and preservatives and will not be manufactured under continuous USDA inspection.



To learn more about the difference between feed grade and “food” check out our article: Are You Feeding Your Dog Feed or Food?

How to Choose a Safe Dog Treat

Choose ‘Made in the USA.’ In the case of Becky Hunter and her dogs Zoe and Toby, pet owners were advised to choose treats and foods sourced and manufactured in the USA and to avoid foods from China. This is good advice for all pet owners.

Avoid the Radura. Avoiding pet foods and treats that have been irradiated reduces the load of endotoxins in the products.

Choose Human GradeFinding treats made with Human Grade ingredients means they will have had a better inspection, better testing and higher quality manufacturing processes and therefore less risk of toxins.

Use Real Food For Treats. Check out our Healthy Additions series, and our post on Super Easy Low Carb Dog Treats to find ideas for healthy dog treats that you can snack on too!


For Satisfied Dogs!

– Cassy Kay



dogs, dog food, dog treats, satisfied, healthy, low calorie, eggs, green beans, berries, cheese, healthy additions


Oklahoma News. “Family Blames Dog Treats for Yorkies Death” March 22, 2018. http://kfor.com/2018/03/22/family-blames-dog-treats-for-yorkies-death/

Thixton, Susan. “Know the Radura” truthaboutpetfood.com. April 4, 2018. Web. Accessed April 7, 2018. http://truthaboutpetfood.com/know-the-radura/ 

Thixton, Susan. “The Elephant in the Pet Food: Endotoxins” truthaboutpetfood.com. Spet. 30, 2015. Web. Accessed April 7, 2018. http://truthaboutpetfood.com/the-elephant-in-the-pet-food-endotoxins/


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