Dogs enjoy their treats and the nibbles are a good way to enforce training, or to reward behavior, or just to spoil your pet. Not surprisingly, not all dog treats are alike – in terms of nutrition, taste or quality. Just like when selecting dog food, you have to consider your dog’s specific needs when choosing their treats.
When selecting the treats for your dog, you will want to take the following into account:
- Use of treats – are you getting something just to reward or spoil the dog, or will you be using it as a part of a training process? There are special training treats, often liver bites, that are generally preferred for training.
- Teeth – can your dog handle a hard snack? Do they have a problem with tartar build-up that needs corrected? Keep these things in mind when selecting treats.
- Age – is your dog a puppy or an older dog? These dogs have special needs which can be met by selecting the appropriate treats. You’ll find the treats labeled for puppies or senior dogs specifically.
- Weight – does your dog need to lose weight? Look for snacks that are low-calorie or consider fresh vegetables or dried fruit as treats.
- Other health issues – does your dog have a sensitive stomach? Does it have issues with its joints? Is it diabetic or have other health issues or allergies? Be sure to select treats that meet your pet’s specific health needs. In today’s specialty world, there are treats that fight tartar, that freshen breath, that have glucoasmine to improve joints, that are easily digested, and that meet other special needs.
- Dog’s preference – yes, dogs do have taste preferences, so you may want to try out different types and flavors to find the one they like best. Fish, cheese and peanut butter tend to be popular flavors.
Read the Labels
Choose treats with minimal additives and those that are low in calories, sugar and fat. Be wary of fillers, preservatives and dyes. Treats that list meat as the first ingredient and have little grain content will be healthier choices. Treats containing fruits, vegetables, whole grains such as oatmeal, and peanut butter are also good choices.
For the older dog, select treats especially formulated for seniors. They will be easier to digest and contain the vitamins and minerals an older dog needs. For a dog that has a few pounds to lose, look for light and diet formulas; these will be lower in calories.
Homemade and Fresh Treats
You might be surprised to find that your dog likes vegetables and dried fruits. Carrots, green beans and broccoli are good low calorie choices and are good for your dog, too. Dried apricots are easy to keep on hand and most dogs find them delicious. Do not give your dog raisins or grapes as these are harmful.
You can make your own treats by dehydrating fruits and vegetables or even make your own jerky by drying meat such as chicken or turkey breasts or beef (be sure to use cuts without much fat).
Those delicious-looking table scraps might seem like a good treat for your dog, but they may contain fat, sugars and other things that your dog does not need. They can result in an overweight dog or may disagree with your dog creating digestion problems. Instead, feed your dog treats that are intended for dogs.
Greenies are a popular treat and are beneficial for cleaning your dog’s teeth. There used to be problems with bits of Greenies getting caught in the throat or intestines but new formulas break down easier. Still, be cautious and keep an eye on your dog while eating Greenies to be sure they have no problems.
Rawhide bones and chews, pig ears or cow hooves should not be given to dogs. These can cause choking, intestinal blockage and gastrointestinal problems. It’s also difficult to be sure these are properly processed and sanitized.
Treats should be given occasionally and added in when considering your dog’s daily calorie or food intake. They are not a replacement for a good nutritous dog food; they are merely a small part of a balanced daily diet.
If you have questions about the appropriate treat for your dog, consult your veterinarian and check out the resources below.