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For Spot's sweet tooth

Specialty sweet treats are part of a growing pet product industry

Specialty sweet treats are part of a growing pet product industry

December 29, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

The cake had icing and smelled of peanut butter, vanilla and other sweet things you'd expect from a baked good.

But it wasn't meant for humans. This cake was for the dogs.

"It's not that different from a human cake, just a little drier than you or I would like," said Valerie Minteer, co-owner of in Hagerstown's Bones and Cones Eatery, which sells cakes, cookies and other baked goods for people and pets.

Making pastries for pooches seems to be a booming industry. The American Pet Products Manufacturer's Association, which recently released its annual pet owners survey for 2005-06, announced that pet spending will reach an all-time high in 2006, going from $17 billion in 1994 to an estimated $38.4 billion in 2006.

Pet food spending will reach an estimated $15.2 billion this year, according to the survey.

But is it worth it? Can dogs really tell they're eating homemade cake and not the same old Alpo?

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Jancie Riley, 31, of Hagerstown, thinks so. She and her husband, Rob, often buy treats for their "furbabies," a German shepherd named Harley and a Doberman-Labrador mix named Cubby.

"Most people go out and buy toys for their kids," Riley said. "These are our kids."

When asked why people choose to pamper their pets, pet owners said it was because they considered the pet as a family member or close friend, according to the APPMA's survey.

The survey also showed that 27 percent of dog owners in the U.S. bought their pets birthday presents; 55 percent of dog owners said they purchased gifts for the holidays.

Chip Stewart, co-owner of Bones and Cones, estimated that 80 percent of the store's sales around Christmastime were for pets.

Dog breeder Derry Krause, who is a member of the Mason-Dixon Kennel Club based in Washington County, said she'll buy doggie treats for her 16 Pembroke Welsh corgis once in a while.

"We almost all make (cakes) for their birthdays," Krause said, referring to club members.

Krause owns Gayheart Corgis in Mercersburg, Pa.

Lamar Solomon, president of the Catoctin Kennel Club in Frederick County, Md., said she doesn't often buy "fancy" treats for her standard poodles, which often compete at shows.

But she said one of her dogs was invited to a Saluki's birthday party years ago.

"There were 12 dogs. They had ice cream, cake; they loved it," Solomon said. "It was just like a cocktail party. They would go mingle with one group, talk for a little bit, then go to another group, talk for a little bit. It was weird, but it was fun."

Krause, who has been breeding dogs for 50 years, said nutrition is a major consideration when it comes to feeding her dogs. She said it's important that owners are aware of the ingredients found in the foods they're feeding their dogs.

"I don't buy them anything that I wouldn't eat myself," Krause said.

She said it's common practice for dog owners to nibble a bit of a treat to give their dogs.

Molly Meadows, a cat owner and an employee at Bones and Cones, went the extra mile to describe the treats. She nibbled a bit of a dog cookie that resembled an animal cracker (no pun intended) during her late-morning shift.

"They taste like Wheat Thins," said Meadows, 19, of Smithsburg. "That is the first and last time I will ever eat a dog treat."

Minteer, co-owner of the Hagerstown treat shop, said the treats they offer pets are preservative-free and can be made without wheat or corn products, known allergens to dogs.

But as with any treat for humans, they should be eaten in moderation.

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