WEDNESDAY, Dec 8 (HealthDay News) -- A not-so surprising ingredient is now appearing in those treats your pet craves.
Over the past five years, sugar has increasingly been added to some popular brands of dog and cat treats to make them more palatable and profitable, according to veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.
Noting that 90 million U.S. pets are considered overweight, Ward said, "If I could only point to one factor causing the modern-day pet obesity epidemic, it would have to be treats. It's that seemingly innocent extra 50 calories a day in the form of a chew or cookie that adds up to a pound or two each year."
"Dogs, like humans, have a sweet tooth, and manufacturers know this," Ward added. "If a dog gobbles a treat quickly, an owner is more likely to give another, and another."
Americans spend more than $2 billion annually on dog and cat treats, according to Euromonitor International, a market research firm. In fact, some of the largest players in the pet food industry are companies also producing human snack foods, including Del Monte, Nestle, and Proctor & Gamble.
To keep pets trim and healthy, Ward tells owners to avoid treats with any form of sugar (such as sucrose, dextrose, or fructose) listed as one of the top three ingredients.
"The addition of sugar to pet treats has increased not only the calories but also the potential risk of insulin resistance and diabetes," he said.
Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Larsen, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of California's School of Veterinary Medicine in Davis, explained that sugar is used in foods and treats for a variety of reasons, and only some of those are related to palatability.
For example, she said, corn syrup is used as a thickener and to suspend the dough for proper mixing of ingredients, and dextrose is u
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