All Natural Dog Treat Ingredients
The Facts

Do you have an all natural dog treat – are you sure? Having been in the people food industry and now the pet treats industry for many years – we have been around labels and label claims for quite some time. We have watched the evolution of “natural” claims on products that in all honestly should not be bearing the claim. So how do you know if you have an all natural dog treat or a product that is all natural? This is a great question – one that even the FDA has struggled with. Because of the daunting nature of defining “all natural” – FDA took the position that it would not formally define it. Pet treats fall under the FDA label guidelines – so without a formal legally binding definition of “all natural” or “natural” and no formal label review of pet treat labels – folks are making all kinds of wild claims about products that are not accurate.

We even came across a website that supplies ingredients for dog treat bakers that had this to say about natural:

“The FDA has no definition for "natural." When we call a product natural, it means that it has no man-made chemicals in it. You can actually pronounce everything on the ingredient list and you will be able to recognize what it is. This is a great choice for people who want to offer what is found in nature.”

While part of the above statement is true in that there is no formal definition for “natural”, it is not entirely accurate. Being able to pronounce an ingredient does not make it natural.

It may surprise you, but in reality – it is the bake at home bakers that are the worst offenders. Many folks equate “homemade” with “natural”. This is a wrong assumption. Homemade simply means – homemade. And because your dog treat is baked at home does not mean that you have an all natural dog treat. The ingredients that you use determine whether you can label your treat as an all natural dog treat. Follow this link to read more about properly labeling your all natural dog treat (if it is in fact all natural.)

In the void of a legal definition regarding “natural”, we find that the Whole Foods Unacceptable Ingredients list is a good rule of thumb. If Whole Foods doesn’t think it should be in food products – then you can bet that you shouldn’t call your product natural if it contains one of these ingredients:

• acesulfame-K (acesulfame potassium)

• acetylated esters of mono- and diglycerides

• ammonium chloride

• artificial colors

• artificial flavors

• aspartame

• azodicarbonamide

• benzoates in food

• benzoyl peroxide

• BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole)

• BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)

• bleached flour

• bromated flour

• brominated vegetable oil (BVO)

• calcium bromate

• calcium disodium EDTA

• calcium peroxide

• calcium propionate

• calcium saccharin

• calcium sorbate

• calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate

• caprocaprylobehenin

• certified colors

• cyclamates

• cysteine (l-cysteine), as an additive for bread products

• DATEM (Diacetyl tartaric and fatty acid esters of mono and diglycerides)

• dimethylpolysiloxane

• dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (DSS)

• disodium calcium EDTA

• disodium dihydrogen EDTA

• disodium guanylate

• disodium inosinate


• ethyl vanillin

• ethylene oxide

• ethyoxyquin

• FD & C colors

• foie gras

• GMP (disodium guanylate)

• hexa-, hepta- and octa-esters of sucrose

• hydrogenated fats

• IMP (disodium inosinate)

• irradiated foods

• lactylated esters of mono- and diglycerides

• lead soldered cans

• methyl silicon

• methylparaben

• microparticularized whey protein derived fat substitute

• monosodium glutamate (MSG)

• natamyacin

• nitrates/nitrites

• partially hydrogenated oil

• polydextrose

• potassium benzoate

• potassium bisulfite

• potassium bromate

• potassium metabisulfite

• potassium sorbate

• propionates

• propyl gallate

• propylparaben

• saccharin

• sodium aluminum phosphate

• sodium aluminum sulfate

• sodium benzoate

• sodium bisulfite

• sodium diacetate

• sodium glutamate

• sodium nitrate/nitrite

• sodium propionate

• sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate

• sodium sulfite

• solvent extracted oils, as standalone single-ingredient oils (except grapeseed oil).

• sorbic acid

• sucralose

• sucroglycerides

• sucrose polyester

• sulfites (sulfur dioxide)

• TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone)

• tetrasodium EDTA

• vanillin

Now, you may be thinking – what in the world is all of that. And in reality many of you won’t have to worry about most of those ingredients. So to help you navigate the list, we have called out some that you may actually come across and might impact you and your products (we’ve grouped them by category to help you). In general, if one of the following ingredients is found in your recipe, or in an ingredient that you are using then you should probably rethink calling your treat an "all natural dog treat".

Flavors and Colors:

o artificial colors

o artificial flavors

o FD & C colors

o vanillin

o disodium guanylate

o disodium inosinate

o monosodium glutamate (MSG)


o hydrogenated fats

o partially hydrogenated oil

Sweetners / Fat Replacers:

o aspartame

o sucralose

o sucroglycerides

o sucrose polyester

o propionates

Flours / Baking Ingredients (baking powder) etc.

o bleached flour

o bromated flour

o cysteine (l-cysteine), as an additive for bread products

o sodium aluminum phosphate

o sodium aluminum sulfate


o Benzoates (sodium, potassium, calcium)

o BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole)

o BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)

o calcium peroxide

o calcium propionate


o potassium benzoate

o sorbic acid

o potassium sorbate

It is safe to say that if your product contains any of the above ingredients, then you should not call it an all natural dog treat. The one that stands out most to us is the hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Yogurt and carob chips contain hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats. Please note that these ingredients should not be considered natural.

Here is an example of a product that you might use in your all natural dog treat that is claiming to be natural (from the same website that equated being able to pronounce the ingredients with natural status of an ingredient)… read the ingredients and with your new information from above decide:

Cream Cheese Frosting Mix (Natural):
Ingredients: Cream Cheese, Sodium Caseinate, Disodium Phosphate, Natural Flavors and BHA.

Is this product an all natural product? We would say no. It contains BHA – a preservative. So by using this ingredient, your dog treat would no longer be natural.

We hope this is helpful in your dog treat baking adventure. As always, don't hesitate to E-mail us if you have any questions!