Are dried, raw and dehydrated treats safe and good for my dog / Bully sticks, pizzles, rabbit ears, pigs ears, rawhide treats, liver treats, fish skins for puppies / Nutrition advice for dog owners / How to choose dog treats safely? / Dangers of raw and dehydrated dog chews / Perfect cocker spaniel (C) dog blog, cocker spaniel advice, health tips, grooming tips, puppy training, diet, questions / Natalia Ashton

Q&A | Can I give my puppy dried & dehydrated treats?

Once upon a time, when Cooper was a little puppy, we took him for a walk in the wild where the boy met another cocker spaniel. And as all pup parents we stop and chatted about the way our pups are raised, groomed and fed. At one point the other pup’s dad mentioned that he swears by natural treats…. freshly shot pigeons, rabbit ears covered in fur, raw bones, dried chicken legs… the list went on. At the time I never heard of those.

I did a bit of googling upon return, found a few things, but never felt convinced enough to give them to my puppy.

A few years on, and there is a huge array of treats available around to keep the dogs happy.

But are they actually safe?

The first thing you need to bear in mind is that very few of those treats would be suitable for a cocker spaniel puppy. The only exception is sweet potato but even those need to be looked at with caution because, as it happened last year, they can arrive covered in mould due to poor manufacturing or storage.

Any dehydrated body parts may suit an adult dog with a robust digestive system, but they contain too much protein (pigs ears, for example, contain 73%) for a little puppy and thus can increase the risk digestive upsets as well as skeletal problems in the future.

Additionally, not every company can guarantee complete product safety, so the chews and treats may be contaminated with bacteria, toxins (as a by-product of bacteria lifecycle or from the animal source), pathogens or chemical residue (unless you can absolutely guarantee that the animal has never been treated with antibiotics or fed a pesticide-free diet, just to give you an idea)

For example, when a study published in Canadian Veterinary Journal examined 26 random bully sticks, all 26 were found to be contaminated with bacteria including Clostridium difficile, MRSA, and E. coli. It followed the 2019 case when FDA issues a recall for all pig ear treats due to salmonella outbreak.

An adult dog may show no symptoms and have no side-effects, but the puppy’s gut defences are still weak and can be affected.

There is also a possibility that the asymptomatic dog will shed salmonella for about 7 days, potentially passing it onto his human family.

Some animal body parts can contain high levels of specific minerals and vitamins, which can potentially cause vitamin and mineral imbalance in the dog’s body.

Others, like pig ears, are naturally high in fat and can lead to weight gain, diarrhoea and even increased risk of pancreatitis.

Certain body organs can naturally contain hormones. If a dog regularly consumes such treats, his own endocrine system can be affected.

Treats add calories. It is known that a typical 20cm raw hide chew can contain as much as 100 calories, which is roughly 15-20% of your dog’s daily requirement. Considering that all treats should fall below 10%, anything on top can lead to weight gain and obesity. Reducing the amount of food your dog eats for a sake of giving him a chew can create a deficit or excess of major nutrients and cause problems.

Not every chew is safe. Some can splinter, others can cause blockages or perforations of the gut.

Antlers, hoves, horns and bones may be extremely popular among dogs, but they are also  a major concern among vets because these can cause jaw dislocation and broken teeth, especially in dogs who really do love to chew hard.

Fish skins are suitable for most dogs, but not puppies under 4 months of age.

Liver treats appeal to all dogs, but they are incredibly rich in vitamin A and can cause toxicity if used frequently or generously. Liver is also a detoxifying organ, so any residue from those toxins can end up in your dog’s body.

So what can you do if you want to treat your dog safely?

Choose a trusted UK-based (or EU-based) company that  follows strict guidelines for product safety, happy to provide you with additional details and inform of any food recalls should the worst happen.

All reputable UK pet food companies should be registered with PFMA

All UK companies that produce any treats made from by-products must be approved by APHA. Depending on their set-up, they are often required to obtain a licence from a local authority, too.

Any pet food manufacturer should have at least one nutritionist who holds a veterinary degree and/or is trained in small animal clinical nutrition.

Check the packaging label for any age restriction. If you can’t find any, contact the company.

Always check the treats for signs of mould and odd smells (even though some can be a little smelly, but they should not stink)

Give these chews once a week at most, not on a daily basis.

Always supervise your dog when he is busy chewing.

If in doubt, bin – don’t feed.

Make your own treats or indulge your dog’s need to chew by giving him crunchy slices of carrots and apples.

If your dog has diagnosed health conditions, is genetically predisposed to such illnesses as pancreatitis, or requires a special diet, always consult your vet before you use these (or any) treats.


Photo credit: image by Mikhail Dmitriev for

Can my dog eat lemon? Citrus fruit toxic to dogs? Signs of citrus fruit poisoning in dogs / Psoralens toxic to dogs / What fruits contain psoralen / Perfect cocker spaniel: breed and puppy guide, dog blog, grooming tips, healthy nutrition, cocker spaniel diet, puppy diet / (C) Natalia Ashton

Can my dog eat… lemons?

Lemons are such a special fruit! They are wonderfully fragrant, tactile and full of vitamins. They add a special touch to any home decor and can even reveal a few secrets about your personality. Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh and Braque painted them, and fashion designers from Stella McCartney to Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana turned the fabulous citrus into one of the hottest trends.

But the question is…


The answer is No.

A bit surprising, isn’t it? Lemons do seem so innocent, after all. Yet the sunny fruit bears a dark secret unknown to many.

Lemons, just like all citrus fruit, contains psoralens, a group of compounds (phellopterin,   5- and 8-geranoxypsoralen) that belong to a chemical family of furocoumarins. The plants use these chemicals as a natural protection against pests and disease, as well as a survival mechanism that helps them adapt to the environment.

Even though lemons only contain small to moderate quantities of psoralen (the highest amount is found in the rind, pulp, seeds and any other part of the plant, the juice and flesh are less toxic), they can cause a reaction in dogs if eaten or applied on their skin.

The symptoms include digestive discomfort, vomiting, diarrhoea, and lethargy.

If you suspect that your dog has eaten any part of the lemon, you need to contact the vet.

Psoralens are also used in medications to treat psoriasis, eczema, vitiligo and a rare type of cancer called cutaneous t-cell lymphoma, so it is important to keep the drugs away from your dog and prevent the dog from licking the skin after an application of any topical creams.


Photo credit: Pexels from Pixabay

Reasons to change and vary dog food / Changing dog food to prevent sensitivities / Why dogs develop food sensitivities / Perfect cocker spaniel, dog blog, breed & puppy guide book / Puppy tips, training, cocker spaniel grooming, handstripping, canine nutrition diet advice / (C) Natalia Ashton

Changing food for good

It’s not that our little lives are that uneventful, but this change needs to be documented here as it is pretty important to us.

Last week I changed the boys’ food. Not dramatically, but I did it. They have been eating a chicken based diet for a few years. It’s been great, really. They love it. Almost too much.

I’ve loved it, too, because it was a good recipe, organic and natural, no junk included.

But at the back of my mind I had this silly little brain worm reminding me about food sensitivities and ways they tend to develop. And I definitely did not want my boys to experience that. So I decided to add another source of protein to give them a bit of variety and reduce the risk of any reactions in the future.

Even though the risk of suddenly becoming sensitive to chicken (or any other protein) is minimal, it can happen if the dog is fed the same protein every single day for a lifetime. He doesn’t need to be sensitive to begin with, but his immune system may question the presence of high amounts of a certain protein in the system and eventually react to it.

Of course, the real situation isn’t as simple as it looks here because it takes a lot of factors and underlying reasons to create such a reaction, but I wanted to explain the basics and encourage you to read the Nutrition and Allergies chapters in Perfect cocker spaniel to learn more.

As I like things to be safe and balanced, I chose the same food company and simply picked a lamb option for the pups to try. After three days of a gradual swap, the boys embraced it fully without any complains or issues. I even think they love it more than chicken…

As of today, we have chicken meal for breakfast and lamb – for dinner. I also use both chicken and lamb kibble for training. Coop and Fred are also continue eating their favourite fresh treats and occasional home-cooked dinner (this really is random).

In three months I am planning to add another flavour to the menu, most likely duck. We’ll see how it goes…

Photo credit: Cooper photographed by me