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How to Choose Healthy Snacks for Your Dog: With Simple Dog Treat Recipes

Amanda was raised with dogs and has kept dogs all her life. "Dogs aren't just pets," she says, "They're workmates, friends, and family."

All dogs love a treat once in a while, but it's important choose safe, nutritional snacks to keep your dog healthy and happy

All dogs love a treat once in a while, but it's important choose safe, nutritional snacks to keep your dog healthy and happy

Dog Treats and Health: How Much Is Too Much?

Everybody loves an occasional snack. I know I do! But most of us these days understand that while the odd chunk of chocolate, bag of potato chips, or a donut won't do us too much harm, we're better off opting for a piece of fresh fruit or a handful of nuts and raisins. But what abut our pets? Should you be feeding "treats" to your dog? And if you do, what kind and how much?

Most pet stores carry a wide choice of chews and treats for your dog. Dogs enjoy occasional treats, which are also useful incentives for training. But like you, your dog could suffer from weight gain if he eats too many treats.

If your dog's feeding regimen already offers him a healthy, balanced diet, you must be careful how many extra calories he consumes as treats. It's easy to overfeed without realizing it. Many treats are high in calories and may be bad for your dog's health. An overweight dog risks damage to bones, heart, and lungs.

Store-bought chews and treats often contain added fats, sugars, colorings, and preservatives. Many people give their dogs two or three store-bought treats at a time. Doing so is an easy way to overfeed; one at a time is enough.

Vets recommend that you keep to the "10% Rule" for how many snacks and treats you allow your dog. The rule states that treats should make up only 10% or less of your dog's daily diet. It's a simple rule, but it's difficult to work out how many of what kind of treats makes up that 10%. If you're in doubt, ask your vet. They will be able to make recommendations based on your dog's breed, size, and current weight.

Giving your dog treats has many advantages, too, so long as you don't overdo it. It helps create a bond between you and your dog. It's useful for training and as a reward for good behavior.

Many dog treats such as bones, antlers, rawhide and pigs' ears, are available from pet stores and markets but they may not be the healthiest options for your pet

Many dog treats such as bones, antlers, rawhide and pigs' ears, are available from pet stores and markets but they may not be the healthiest options for your pet

Common Treats That May Harm Your Dog

Just because a treat is available to buy in a store doesn't mean it's healthy and safe for your dog. Vets recommend you avoid giving bones, antlers, and hooves to your dog, as these can splinter, and shards become lodged in your dog's throat. Hard treats can also crack your dog's teeth and damage his gums.

Rawhide becomes soft when chewed, so it is less likely to be a problem. However, once your dog has reduced it to small pieces, it's best to remove it to be on the safe side. Soft "chewy sticks" and dog cookies are safe options.

When you choose treats from the store, look for the "VOHC Accepted" seal on the packaging. This seal of approval indicates that the Veterinary Oral Health Council has tested the product and deemed it safe for dogs. Any product without the seal is a potential risk to your dog's health.

Many vets advise against giving your dog bones because they may splinter and damage gums or cause choking. Manufactured "chewy sticks" and dog cookies, like those shown above, are a safer option

Many vets advise against giving your dog bones because they may splinter and damage gums or cause choking. Manufactured "chewy sticks" and dog cookies, like those shown above, are a safer option

Healthy Snacks for Dogs: Alternatives to Store-Bought Treats

Dogs are natural scavengers. While everyone thinks of them as meat-eaters, most dogs are happy to eat fruits and vegetables, too. Fresh produce is cheaper and safer than manufactured snacks, although they're more difficult to store.

Among vegetables and fruits you can give, most dogs prefer slices of carrot, a few French beans, and broccoli. They'll also enjoy a banana, apple, and even de-seeded watermelon. The main advantage of all these alternatives to store-bought dog treats is that they contain almost no calories but are high in nutrients. They're ideal if you want to give edible dog treats that won't cause weight gain.

However, avoid giving your dog table scraps. Processed foods, chocolate, dried fruits like raisins and sultanas, and sugary cookies can all be harmful to dogs. Never give poultry bones or fish to your dog as they can cause choking.

As a healthy alternative to butcher's scraps or store-bought treats, you could try giving your dog fresh fruit and vegetables. Common favorites include raw carrot and apple

As a healthy alternative to butcher's scraps or store-bought treats, you could try giving your dog fresh fruit and vegetables. Common favorites include raw carrot and apple

High Risk, Low Risk, and Safe Dog Treats

A table showing dangerous, low risk, and safe dog treats

High RiskLow RiskSafe

Bones (real and nylon)

Flexible dental treats

Cauliflower florets

Pigs' ears

dog cookies

Raw carrots

Large rawhides

Pressed rawhide

Broccoli

Hoof and antler

Beef jerky

Sweet potato

How to Treat Your Dog

Well-chosen treats and snacks can give your dog pleasure, help you bond with your pet, and encourage good behavior.

Choose store-bought snacks which have the VOHC seal of approval. Go for soft snacks rather than hard ones that may crack his teeth or splinter and lead to choking. Offer fresh fruits and vegetables as an alternative to manufactured treats.

Remember also, that a treat doesn't have to be food-based; giving your dog verbal praise, a pat and cuddle, or a game of fetch can do just the same job with no risk to his health.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2018 Amanda Littlejohn

Comments

Amanda Littlejohn (author) on September 28, 2018:

Hi Ethel,

Thanks for your comment. Sweet potato is a surprise, isn't it? Carrot and broccoli seem to be the most popular alternative snacks. But whether you feed veggies or store-bought doggy treats, it's still important to make sure you don't over feed.

Amanda Littlejohn (author) on September 28, 2018:

Hi Shelley,

Thanks. Although I don't think I'll only ever write about dogs now. I've got a stack of educational articles for kids and teachers still in the pipeline, too, and that will continue to be my "main line". But the niche sites do allow us to dip into other areas, don't they?

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 27, 2018:

If I had a dg I’m sure I’d spoil him or her with too many great. I like that you give healthy alternatives.

You are burning ‘em up with these dog articles and that’s wonderful to see! I find that things work best when you pick a niche you love and push it as far as it can go.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on September 27, 2018:

Sweet potato? Now there is something I had not considered. Thank you