“Plant-powered” Organic Dog Treats are Making their way onto Store Shelves.

A study published on Feb. 17 by Informa furthered the scientific support of the effects of medicinal plants. Today, Benji’s Farm Organic Botanical Dog Treats is discovering that plants with medicinal purposes for humans may have the same effects for dogs.

Rocky Graziose, a botanist, and his wife Allison, a health wellness teacher, created the company, using their backgrounds to develop “plant-powered” treats.

“We think the focus on meat in the dog food industry is neglecting the value and the virtues the plants have to offer,” Rocky Graziose said.

Graziose has been interested in plants since he was a child. He earned his Ph.D. in botany studying medicinal plants at Rutgers University. Each flavor of Benji’s Farm dog treats incorporates a unique combination of medicinal herbs.

Their flavor “Sleepy” is most popular. It uses lavender, passionflower and chamomile to induce calmness and relaxation.

“My dogs have very high energy,” Denise Loughlin, a customer, said. “Believe it or not, I definitely notice a calming effect after about 15 to 20 minutes.”

Interest in the treats can also be attributed to how they are gluten free. The global gluten-free food market size is predicted to nearly double from 2015 to 2020 according to Statista, a market research agency. A gluten-free diet has become trendy for humans in recent years, but is it healthy for this trend to spread into the dog world?

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“I have seen many dogs get sick from gluten especially and many grains,” Dr. Marcie Fallek, a veterinarian specializing in holistic treatment, said. Fallek, who is also a staff writer for Dogs Naturally magazine, said that dogs’ digestive systems are not suited for gluten.  “Some tend to get diarrhea and all kinds of digestive problems.”

Some dogs, like some people, cannot tolerate gluten, according to a study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. For humans, the condition is called celiac disease. For dogs, it is known as gluten-induced enteropathy.

The vegan-friendly aspect of the treats is gaining praise as well. “We appreciate and commend their work,” Erika Galera, the marketing manager of the Food Empowerment Project, a non-profit vegan justice organization, said. “We would advocate for dogs to try vegan diets.”

Many vegan products find ways to draw protein from sources other than meat. Benji’s Farm uses peanut flour in their mixture, which faces some criticism.

“Just because something is marked organic and gluten-free doesn’t mean it is healthy,” Susan Blake Davis, a pet nutritionist, said. “These treats are loaded with carbohydrates like peanut flour and molasses. Excess carbohydrates can lead to ear infections and skin problems among other things.”

Although the treats continue to draw in customers looking to feed their dogs on vegan or gluten-free diets, they were not created with this intention.

“We don’t particularly endorse or discredit vegetarian diets for dogs,” Rocky Graziose, the co-creator of the company, said. “It is the customer’s choice that they should consult with their veterinarian.”

Another flavor that uses a new combination of herbs for a different effect is currently in development, said Rocky Graziose. The new mystery flavor will not be revealed until next month.

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