How to Choose Healthy Snacks for Your Dog: With Simple Dog Treat Recipes
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.
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.
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.
High Risk, Low Risk, and Safe Dog Treats
Bones (real and nylon)
Flexible dental treats
Hoof and antler
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