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Give a dog a bone or treat?

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Before we get started, it should be noted that the petfood treats market was estimated to be valued at US$70 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach US$96.7 billion by 2028. The increased acquisition of pets, particularly in developing nations, is one of the primary drivers behind the global petfood treats market’s growth.

This is especially of interest in the dog food sector, as treats are given to our canine friends as supplementary addition of course to a healthy main balanced meal. As I reported in my column previously, we need to be very concerned about obesity in dogs and the presentation of treats can be a mixed blessing. That said, if used wisely and correctly, treats can give dogs much pleasure and be rewarded for good behaviour.

Indeed, the temperament of our canine friends can be positively affected through the occasional treat, which is also good for forging companionship with the owner and building trust. There is a huge array of products on the market now varying in composition and texture in a vast variety of flavours and colours.

Modern extrusion systems that feature regularly in our magazine have enabled the production of dry biscuit and stick type products that are the major types of snacks and treats in the retail and pet stores. However, we see shifts where there is much scope for the inclusion of animal derived materials from the rendering industries such as offal, tripe and marrow and other by-products that add important nutritional value.

In recent times huge advances have been made in this industry for processed animal proteins PAPs to provide cleaner, safer, and more effective products. For example, hydrolysed proteins from liver, heart and other organs provide functional properties and are becoming ever popular.

Fish such as salmon and tuna are often found as flavouring ingredients as well as chicken, duck, lamb and rabbit derived protein meals. The human food revolution is now being reflected in our foods for dogs.

We are seeing trends in more exotic ingredients being incorporated into treats with an array of novel ingredients such as marine algae, insect meal proteins and bacterial or single cell proteins (SCPs). These are becoming more cost effective as the biotechnological industries explore new avenues and scale up production.

Some products rely on the use of carrier ingredients such as corn, wheat and rice as the base and animal-based products as major components in stabilised mixed moist foods. Furthermore, some dog treats and snacks and blends can be grain and vegetable free and are given as appetisers to dogs with health issues such as dogs with old age-related ailments such as arthritis, inflammatory disorders, diabetes, obesity, various allergies, and gastrointestinal problems.

In higher value snacks for dogs, we may see the inclusion of prebiotic and probiotic additives that can steer the animal in the right direction with respect to promoting immune health via a better-balanced gut microbiota.

It is important that highly available sugars are avoided, and careful dietary balance is taking prime consideration in such formulations. Treats are secondary or tertiary to the main formulated diets for puppies, the younger dog progressing to old age.

Of course, vast sums of investment are directed to the canine nutrition market. The treat sector is rich with competition for new products and many claims of their advantages to dog welfare and happiness.

Article contributed by Professor Simon Davies, Nutrition Editor, International Petfood magazine.

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