As loving dog owners, we use treats to our advantage every day. Essential as a tool to reward good behavior, show affection, and strengthen the bond with our pups, treats can sometimes do more harm than good. When treats are given to dogs out of guilt or for no reason at all, the extra calories serve little-to-no purpose, and can actually lead to unnecessary weight gain, obesity, and associated health problems. The good news is whether you embrace DIY recipes or purchase pre-made varieties, healthy dog treats not only make your dog happy, but they add to their vitality.
The Human-Animal Bond
Simply giving your pet a treat creates a feel-good moment for both of you. Even without being hungry, dogs definitely enjoy anything remotely tasty, delicious, or indulgent. And it goes without saying that dog owners reap the benefits of treat-giving: the loving looks, the constant companionship, the reward-seeking behavior, and more. This mutually beneficial system works most of the time, but can easily and quickly add excessive calories to a dog’s daily limit and create unsustainable behavioral patterns.
A contributing factor in overfeeding dogs is human behavior. We love to snack between meals, and most of us include dessert at the end of the day. Dogs are expert observers of our behavior and seek crumbs or fallen food pieces as much as possible.
A Look at Their Needs
At your dog’s next wellness exam, we can help you get a handle on their weight and nutritional needs. Depending on their breed, age, lifestyle, and medical history, we can develop a plan aimed toward achieving optimal wellness. Since commercial dog treats can sneak in unnecessary calories, we can help you find healthy options for your dog in the fridge or pantry.
Many dogs enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables, including:
- Bite-sized apples
- Small bites of raw or steamed carrots
- Cucumber slices
- Cooked pumpkin
- Green beans
Used in place or in addition to small portions of their favorite treats, fresh fruit and vegetables offer a tasty distraction with fewer calories.
It is fun to work on your own healthy dog treats using any of the above, and add Xylitol-free peanut butter, low-fat plain yogurt, oatmeal, and more. If possible, add up the calories of healthy dog treats and reduce their meal portions accordingly so your dog isn’t overconsuming calories on a daily basis.
Preventing Weight Gain
Some dog owners find success using their dog’s normal food as treats. Instead of conventional treats, use kibble to reward good behavior and positively interact with your dog. Measure your dog’s daily food portions and throughout the day offer small bites when they show you mastery of commands and great behavior.
Dental treats are known to counteract the buildup of tartar and plaque on the teeth. Some dog owners offer their dog’s one treat a day in addition to brushing their teeth.
Healthy Dog Treats
If you want to try your hand at making your own healthy dog treats, the following recipes make pups pretty happy: