Let's pick apart the ingredients in a popular dental treat - Denta Stix.
As always do your own research and form your own opinion, but there are many options when it comes to a healthier chew!
"How can you know if your dog’s runny poo’s or itchy paws are related to their daily dental sticks when you don’t know what’s in them in the first place? Instead, most of the big-name brands like Mars (Pedigree) can only guarantee up to 4% meat in their dental sticks (4). This type of behaviour from companies that call themselves nutritionists would not be acceptable for your children, and we don’t think this is acceptable for our pets either"
The link between Smoke Flavour and cancer in pets
This flavouring is made from spraying smoke fire with water, and turning this into a liquid (5,6). What’s frightening for pet owners are the links between this ingredient and cancer risk. Of the further testing on Smoke Flavorings by the EFSA in 2011, 73% were given “safety concerns” (7,8,9). In particular for the flavouring named AM01, “genotoxicity could not be ruled out” (7,8) by the scientific study panel. By definition, genotoxic is “a substance known to cause mutations which can result in cancer” (10).
Mars, the confectionery company who also in charge of Pedigree Oral Care do rule out the exclusion of the mutagenic additive AM01 in their Dentastix ingredients list (see below), yet they recommend that we feed this to our family pets every day. Furthermore, Smoke Flavour does not give any nutritional value to a product (7). Why do we need to use additives known to cause pain and suffering in what are meant to be ‘treats’ for our family pets?
Iron Oxide is a known skin irritant
Iron Oxide is a known skin and eye irritant that causes lung inflammation (11). This red food colouring is very cleverly hidden on Dentastix labels as a ‘mineral supplement’. In addition to Smoke Flavor, there are now recent concerns about the genotoxicity (cancer) risk posed by Iron Oxide (12). Dentastix makers at Pedigree state ingredients are “included for a specific purpose and provide a benefit to the dog”(13). However, there are contradictory studies that show Iron Oxide has no nutritional benefit in a dog’s digestive system (12).
‘Natural Poultry Flavor’ = no real meat
Natural Poultry Flavor is made from animal digest that has not yet undergone decomposition or rotting. The ‘digest’ is chemically treated with heat, acids and enzymes to produce the final concentrated flavour found in Dentastix. When you read between the lines on your current pet food labels, you may find that the end product does not contain any real or fresh meat at all. This clever trick used by big pet food manufacturers means that only a small amount of ‘chicken digest’ is needed to make a ‘chicken flavoured dog treat’ (14). As a ‘complementary’ product for your dog, pet food manufacturers do not have to ensure that Dental Chews contain any minimum percentage of real meat.
STPP use in dog treats and detergents
Sodium Tripolyphopshate (STPP) or E451 as it is more commonly known is the ingredient in Dentastix that carries out all of the teeth cleaning action. However, it is well known as an offender in the ‘hidden ingredients’ tactics used by big food companies. STPP is used in dog food products as an artificial preservative, known chemically to help thicken mixtures (15). In studies on dogs, E451 caused a decrease in iron content in the bone, liver and spleen plus emesis (vomiting) .
STPP can also be found in household detergents, water softeners and tanning agents (17).
Potassium Sorbate used as preservative
E202 Potassium Sorbate’s primary function in the pet food world is as a preservative, its chemical name is more commonly known as E202. It works to reduce the growth of bacteria but is also a damaging skin, eye and respiratory tract irritant in dogs (18). Studies have shown that this E-number causes irreversible damage to blood cells, has a negative effect on immunity and has genotoxic (cancer-causing) characteristics (19,20) in humans alone. "
source - Pooch & Mutt UK
Great alternatives can be single ingredient chews like Bully Sticks, Frozen (Raw) Chicken Necks, Chicken / Duck Feet, Whimzees, Raw Bones and Safe Dental Toys.