Pet owners love spoiling their furry companions, especially in the form of treats. People often give their pet a treat simply for being adorable, or to assuage their guilt over leaving their four-legged pal home alone while they head off to work. Although refusing those begging eyes under the table while you enjoy a steak dinner with all the fixings is difficult, stay strong. Reward your pet with healthy treats instead, and help ensure her continued good health with the following five tips. 

#1: Keep pets’ treats natural

Although commercially packaged treats are convenient and simple to pick up at the pet store, natural, whole foods are a great alternative to processed treats. Most dogs aren’t picky about their snacks—they’re happy to be handed any treat. When searching for a healthy option for your pup, choose from the following fresh foods:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Green beans
  • Carrots
  • Watermelon
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Honeydew melon
  • Cantaloupe

You can also tempt your dog with small pieces of lean, unseasoned meat. Plain, baked chicken breast is a tasty snack many dogs will love. As with all new foods, introduce them slowly to your dog to avoid gastrointestinal upset. And, although fresh foods are a wonderful treat option, practice moderation with your pup’s snacks, and offer her only small bites. Remember—while a banana is a healthy fruit, an entire banana contains a lot of calories and natural sugar, so portion out bites to your dog accordingly. 

#2: Limit your pet’s calories from treats

Your pet’s daily calories should mostly come from her standard diet, to ensure she receives the correct ratio of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients for optimal health, with no more than 10% of her daily calories coming from treats. For help calculating your dog’s daily calorie requirements, contact us, or use this calorie calculator. Ensure you make the appropriate adjustments based on your pet’s age, neuter status, and activity level. Depending on the season, your dog may be less active, so change calorie calculations as needed for winter or summer. 

#3: Avoid artificial ingredients in pet treats

Many dog treats are designed to catch the pet owner’s eye. Truthfully, dogs don’t care what their treats look like—they’re simply delighted to have a snack. The treat’s bright colors and splashy packaging may appeal to you, but check the ingredient list and nutrient analysis carefully before purchasing. Treats that contain unnatural colors are likely packed with artificial preservatives, dyes, sugar, salt, and fat, and are higher in calories than simple treats with fewer ingredients. Choose healthy treat options that have low calories, zero preservatives or dyes, and minimal salt, sugar, and fat content.  

#4: Double up on pet-treat benefits

Your pooch can have her cake and eat it, too, when it comes to treats with health benefits. Many treats have multiple health benefits, in addition to being tasty snacks. Whatever your dog’s needs, there’s a treat for it, including:

  • Joint and hip pain
  • Obesity
  • Dental disease
  • Anxiety
  • Powerful chewer
  • Food allergies or sensitive stomach

Put the “treat” in “multimodal treatment plan,” and use your pup’s snacks as an extra benefit by combining them with pharmaceutical options and veterinary care to battle oral bacteria, osteoarthritis, stress, or hunger pangs.

#5: Make your own treats for your pet

An easy way to ensure that you know the exact ingredients in your pet’s treats is to make them yourself. Most treats can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week, so a once-weekly baking session will keep your pup stocked with snacks.

Are you eager to try baking your pooch’s treats? Try this apple-cheddar dog biscuit recipe from Marcia Knapp on the Martha Stewart website.

A word of advice when making your own treats for your furry pal—skip the salt. Your pet doesn’t need it, and she won’t care about the taste difference. Many online recipes include salt or sugar, but you should omit the salt, and replace the sugar with natural sweeteners, such as honey. Never use the artificial sweetener xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. Other potential toxins for dogs include macadamia nuts, raisins, chocolate, and onion and garlic seasonings. 

If you are unsure whether a food item would make a good treat for your furry friend, give us a call, and we will guide you on healthy treat options for your pet.