No thanks, corn syrup!

You know that yummy filling your dog loves licking out of that bone? It’s made primarily of corn syrup and sugar. And that rawhide that makes him jump for joy when you pull it out of its bin? Soaked in caustic chemicals and bleach.

We’ve always been careful with what goes into our dogs’ bodies in the form of food and treats, but now that we have an allergy dog, we’ve been even more hawkish. Chick isn’t especially sensitive, but like many dogs, he seems to suffer if he is fed wheat and corn — two ingredients we have now long avoided. Still, we try not to feed him the dog equivalent of “junk food.” We know how junk food makesย usย feel if we eat it with any regularity — why should it be any different for dogs?

Our boys both eat high-quality foods. Chick rotates through a selection of filler-free kibbles, and we’re now transitioning him to a grain-free diet since he is growing older (grains are known to cause inflammation in dogs, especially arthritic dogs). Doodlebug is fed a home-prepared raw diet for the time being, while we sort out his allergy issues — more on that in another post.

The other day at the pet store, we were shopping for toys and treats, and we stumbled upon the store’s collection of hollow sterile beef bones. We picked up one of the peanut butter filled ones, just for fun, and were horrified at the ingredient list:

Filling: Meat by-product, corn syrup, chicken meal, water, sugar, beef, peanut butter (peanuts, dextrose, corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oil, salt) poultry fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), glycerin, salt, agar, carmel color, natural flavor, potassium sorbate (a preservative), citric acid, monocalcium phosphate, titanium dioxide, choline chloride, added color (yellow #6), ferrous sulfate, DL-Alpha tocopherol acetate (source of vitamin E), Zinc oxide, sodium selenite, manganous oxide, riboflavin, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, cobalt proteinate , niacin, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, D-Biotin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), calcium iodate, thiamine mononitrate, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement.

Corn syrup as the second ingredient? Gross! Not to mention, what is “meat by-product” anyway? And don’t think I didn’t notice that the fifth ingredient is sugar, and the peanut butter has both corn syrup and trans fats in it. That’s nasty.

photo from

But dogs love to chew and lick, and we wouldn’t deprive our boys of the pleasure of gnawing on something challenging to extract some yummy snacks. In our house, we have a supply of kongs and hollow sterile bones — just like the one pictured above, only without the nasty goop inside. In a pinch, we have bought the filled bones and scooped out the filling before using it. We clean them with a bottle brush or in the dishwasher, and then stuff them with more wholesome treats — peanut butter, canned food, or in Dude’s case, ground raw duck and mashed sweet potatoes. Once the kong or bone is stuffed, we toss it in the dog section of our freezer. After a couple of hours, it’s ready!

Our boys love eating their meals and treats this way, especially as the weather heats up and a nice cool popsicle can help cool them off. When the weather hits the 80s, we can be found in the kitchen every few days filling all of our six kongs and four bones to create a stockpile in the freezer for whenever the boys need an activity or a treat.

49 responses

  1. That’s pretty nasty when you think about it. I am not comfortable feeding my dog anything I wouldn’t eat myself. And I definitely am grossed out by the thought of sampling that bone filler. Blech.

    I love the idea of buying bones and stuffing them with your own filling! We already regularly use the Kong and have lots of favourite recipes but I’ve never tried stuffing a bone. Very cool!

  2. Chicken by product is exactly what it sounds. Basically it is all the product leftover after the choice pieces of meat are harvested. Yes this can even include beaks, feet, and guts. The upside is they are stating the original protein source (chicken) some just say “fish or poultry” which leaves you wondering what the original source is.

    Hey speaking of feet, did you know that chicken feet are great sources of glucosimine (sp)? I have been wanting to find some for our pups for this reason but haven’t found a market. Anyway I never get any of those filled bones either for the same reason, I will get the marrow ones and refill them myself too, and our kong count is now up to 4! Whoot.


  3. I just recently became educated on what was in the supposedly healthy food I was feeding my dog. Talk about a guilt trip! That changed quickly! Snacks are tough. I now make my own chicken jerky and sweet potato treats for my girl. We also use canned pumpkin in the kongs. Not the pumpkin pie filling though, just the 100% pumpkin. My dog loves it and it’s good for her and she can have one every day, while I give her the peanut butter filled kongs (she’d sell her soul for peanut butter) once or twice a week.

  4. Thanks for sharing! It is so horrible the way the dog treats and food are, and so many people buy them for their dogs. We love the raw food diet we have our puppy on. Her coat looks gorgeous and she looks super healthy. We hope it helps her through her whole life span! Whole Pet is a great store for bones, we love the bully sticks that are all natural, free range. And our dog loves them!! They are about $30 for 15.

  5. In addition to all the chemincals, raw hide is also a choking hazard. I’ve heard a lot of stories of dogs choking on a piece that got stuck in their throat. We stopped giving our dogs rawhides several years ago because of it. I like those bones too, but Melanie can actually crack them and take chunks of out them (she’s a freak of nature with what she can tear through!) so we don’t really buy those either, haha. Kongs are the best! ๐Ÿ˜›

  6. What do you think of deer antlers for chewing, like this one?

    Our pup is an aggressive chewer and most bones (besides being filled with or covered in weird crap as you pointed out!) and toys just don’t hold up. We first tried an antler because he went to a doggy-friend’s house, helped himself to her antler, and really seemed to enjoy it. He loves having his own at home now and takes naps with it tucked under his chin. These things are supposed to last forever and so far, so good.

  7. It’s quite disturbing to read the ingredients lists of supposedly “healthy” food and treats. I found this website while looking for an alternative food for my cat after she developed some mild kidney damage (age plus years of “bad” food – if I knew then what I know now…) and again when I adopted the Pinkster (dog). I really like that it isn’t sponsored by any company and the simplicity of the definitions and descriptions.

    I also make most of my dogs treats – homemade is so much better for them and you know exactly what is going into the treats.

  8. Momma has never let me have a rawhide. And she stopped letting me have the goopy bones a long tme ago. Usually momma fills my bones (I tend to throw kongs) with peanut butter, yogurt, sweet taters and/or some canned healthy dog food and throws them in the freezer. Or she gets the meat bones at the grocery store and freezes them for me. YUM!

  9. We have yet to try those bones. It’s sort of ironic because I feed him whole pieces of chicken with the bone in (raw of course!) but the big bones sold in stores make me nervous that he’ll crack a tooth or something.

    We do frozen Kongs and yeah, we fill it with home stuff. Raw chicken, bits of broccoli, pieces of beef heart, stuff like that. I always put a smear of peanut butter on the top but as a family we eat the stuff that is just peanuts, so no sweeteners or oils added.

    I use grain free kibble for my training treats and for the occasional Kong Wobbler. I love the wobbler but it doesn’t work so well now that we feed him raw, lol!

    Oh, and second deer antler! My husband happened to have a big one in the shop so we just gave it to the puppy. He chewed on it for a few months but then lost interest. So the hubby cut it in half and now Max loves it all over again. For him, he wants to chew the insides I guess.

  10. When you give your dogs their kongs or bones do you separate them? I’d like to transition away from bowl feeding twice a day but worry about food fights. Any insights?

    • I have always separated dogs for feedings or puzzles because Chick can be a little guardy with his food. But now he and Doodlebug have a great balance and they can eat together — but always supervised. I will often hand each of them a stuffed bone or kong and they will trot happily out to the back yard to work on their puzzles. They park it a few feet apart and never have any trouble. I monitor carefully and pick up the empty puzzles as soon as they are done. I would never leave dogs alone with high-value food or even food receptacles (empty kongs or bones).

      We feed them in puzzles throughout the day, subtracting from their daily ration. It’s a good way to keep one dog occupied while you work with the other, or give the other some quality time. When I take Chick for a walk, Dude gets a kong. When it’s Dude’s turn for a walk, Chick gets a puzzle of some kind. Same goes for training time, snuggle time, etc. Dogs really benefit from individual relationships with their people and time apart, so the food puzzles are a good way to offer the “out” dog something fun to do while they’re separated.

      If we have food left over at the end of the day, we will feed it in a bowl to Dude (since he’s on raw), or in a gatorade bottle for Chick (since he’s on kibble).

  11. This was *terrific* information. Recently, a friend bought me a monster bag of Beneful, which is what she feeds her dog. I’ve been mixing it into the Nutro Ultra I’ve been feeding for three years–I frequently have another food to add, just for variety–and this past week, I’ve just been feeding the Beneful because they seem to like it so much. I’ve also been noticing my 9-year-old limping and having trouble controlling his hind legs on a smooth floor. I think we’re going back to the all-premium food for a bit to see if this reverses. Thanks for the tip.

    Other note: Anything from China? DO NOT FEED IT TO YOUR DOG. No matter what the ingredients say. They seem to keep lacing ingredients with melamine, which will kill your dog. It’s the stuff they make cheap furniture from.

    • Yeah, feeding Beneful to your dog is like eating Taco Bell for every meal. See how long you can go on that diet before you start feeling and acting awful!

      Check out just the first five ingredients for Beneful: Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols

      Nasty, right?

      Our vet and trainers recommend avoiding foods that contain wheat, corn, soy, eggs, and dyes — all of these can cause irritation and lead to behavioral / hormonal changes in a dog. And any cost savings associated with the lower-cost food is far outweighed in (1) how much more of it you have to feed; and (2) associated health issues that can devlop down the line!

  12. Great stuff! Thank you! We purchase organic beef bones (complete with meat bits and marrow) from our local food co-op. Our pups LOVE them! Now I need to work on getting my freezer set up so I can make more doggie treats.

  13. Great post! We just learned our Newfie, Sadie, has tons and tons of allergies so we are paying close attention to what she can eat. Seems like nothing! And the girl loves her food.. Anyway, I’ve heard different suggestions about what types of bones to feed your dog and am confused as to what’s safe. I’m so afraid of splintering and choking but I know she would love a filled bone. What do you look for?

    • Raw bones are generally safe — even poultry. If your dogs are going to try to eat the bone, then non-weightbearing, raw beef bones are fine (clavicles, knucklebones, ribs, etc. Sterile beef bones, which I believe are sterilized femurs, are fine for filling, but if your dog starts to crack pieces of the bone off, it’s time to toss it — weight-bearing bones are quite hard and there is a slight risk of breaking a tooth on ’em. You can get sterile bones at most pet stores, but if you only find the filled ones, get that nasty filling out before you put your own stuff in and give it to your dog!

  14. I know its horrible, I started to really pay attention to stuff when Fred my bloodhound got diagnosed with epilepsy and it was disgusting to see what was actually in things – the kong and treat ball became our friends ๐Ÿ™‚ It took awhile to get him to warm up to fruits but when he did he loved that – esp blueberries and greek yogurt lol.

  15. It’s so frustrating trying to find healthy food for your dogs that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. I read the ingredients on even the “organic” and “all natural” foods and they are STILL crappy. Hardly ever is Beef, Chicken, etc the first ingredient.

    • Are you a Costco member? They have one food that is very good- chicken, rice, and veg, with no gross fillers.

  16. You are seriously the best mommy ever. I used to make my own dog food when my girls were alive, because the store bought stuff was so awful, and my girls had kidney disease. I made dog treats too, from Rachael Ray recipe, believe it or not.! I think my dogs ate better than I did!

  17. Regarding the sterile bones that you get at pet stores: in addition to the chemicals, I read somewhere that some manufacturers boil the bones. Cooked bones are generally bad because of how they splinter. I don’t know if that’s accurate information, but I stopped buying my furball these bones and rawhides (he actually did nearly choke on a piece once) a long time ago.

    The only bones he gets now are recreational, ‘real’ raw bones. However, they’re a rare treat because I have a hard time finding a bone that he can’t crunch through in seconds and don’t upset his stomach.

  18. Great post – this is something I battle being a vet nurse. I can’t tell you how many people can’t even tell me the name brand of their dog’s food. People who feed real food – organic or cooked – are few and far between.

    I work in a 2 doctor practice, one I trust and one I don’t. The one who sees my dogs – really a great vet – agrees with the concept of raw feeding but worries about salmonella contamination. She said if the food could be guaranteed to not have been processed through a disgusting slaughterhouse, and was eaten fresh, that this would be a perfect way to feed. Obviously this isn’t so, but I still feed raw because I’ve seen it work.

    We recently started adding a bit of Science Diet J/D to the mix of what they get because with a 3rd dog, food costs were getting too high. (Generally raw chicken or turkey, bone-in, with organ meat, The Honest Kitchen Preference, salmon, and supplements like fish oil and Dasuquin for joint health). I hadn’t really thought about the grain/inflammation connection but now I’m thinking I have to eliminate the J/D altogether.

    It’s a hard line to take when even the professionals in the business are courted so heavily to advocate Science Diet and people are feeding crap from the store, blindly following what TV commercials and clever advertising touts. Although there’s research in what Science Diet does, they also have a heavy hand in vet schools and vets aren’t taught a ton about nutrition anyway. I think Science Diet sets a high standard for dog foods, but why not shoot higher than current dog food quality?

    I guess I need to go back to what I’m comfortable doing – whole, organic foods that my dogs not only love, but thrive with!

    Also – have you tried antlers as a treat?

  19. I love the Kong with some peanute butter in it for my pups. I also buy them ‘bully sticks’ which are supposed to be all natural. Sometimes I get them pig ears but they usually have no ingredients listed…have you heard anything bad about them??

  20. We LOVE giving raw bones! (Marrow bones?) we get them in the freezer of our local pet store. It takes a few days for them to hollow out the bone on their own, and once they do, we do the exact same thing— stuff t hem with yummies like you guys do! The marrow is super healthy for them! The afterwards we often shove have a banana and some pb in the bone and freeze for snack time! We do splurge on bully sticks sometimes and on a rare occasion (usually only when they are gifted) will give non-allergy dogs a raw hide… but we never go out of our way to purchase them.

  21. Yuck, rawhide (shudder). I woudln’t give those to our dogs if you paid me. It amazes me the things that people will feed their dogs without even reading the labels – even those who are so careful about what they put in their own bodies. I stand by my veggie Kongs!! ๐Ÿ™‚ I got some more great ideas for stuffin’ reading through comments, too. Thanks fellow readers!

  22. This post is just one more reason why I heart you guys! It’s funny that the very same people who visibly shudder when they hear that my dogs and cats eat a prey model raw diet are the ones buying treats and chewies chock full of things that make ME shudder … things exactly like the ones you described in your post!

  23. Love this post!! We have been using high-quality dog food for about 4 years and I directly attribute our dogs’ health to it. The cost has become harder to bear since Canidae added more grains to their main-level food and we had to switch (3 gassy dogs was too much!). Luckily, we found a great, holistic grain-free food (that’s made locally and distributed nationally!). We stick with peanut butter and canned dog food for kongs. I love the idea of hollow bones though!!

    I will confess – I ran out of treats on a walk with our Kylie and there was a line of dogs on our last leg. Kylie found a twizzler on the ground just before she spotted the dogs and I hate to admit, I snatched it up and used it as a reward for her calm behavior while passing. I cringed at each tiny bit she got – but it was better than setting us back with our work on reactivity!!! Oh, she loved that twizzler.

  24. You mention feeding the boys “puzzles” and “kongs”. I know what the kongs are, but what is a puzzle? Also, I found a fabulous cookbook: “The organic dog biscuit cookbook”. An egg is occasionally used in some recipes, but oat flour and brown rice flour are the key players in most recipes. So far, they hasn’t been one recipe that my “kids” haven’t loved.

    • Hi! A Kong is one of them, yes. But when I say puzzle, I refer loosely to anything that my boys have to work to extract food from. A buster cube, a Kong wobbler, a gatorade bottle, a hollow bone, etc. There are tons out there!

  25. After Moree had a cancerous tumor removed from his tongue, we became really picky about the dogs’ treats. We were already picky about food, but hadn’t been paying attention to the ingredient list on treats. When corn syrup or sugar are on the list, they are now off of ours. We even switched to having all natural peanut butter in our house to cut down on their sugar.
    It is a special treat when we take the hollow bones and put peanut butter in it for the dogs. Otherwise they get chicken or duck jerky, pork chews or salmon treats- all with ingredient lists that are only one or two items long.

  26. We like to get those round beef trachea treats and stuff them. They’re one time only, since the trachea gets eaten, but very popular at Casa de Kolchak. you’ree right, those store bought stuffed bones are gross as woof!

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