Everyone enjoys a treat now and then, and your pooch is no different. Treats may be part of Skipper's training program or serve as a little afternoon snack. In spite of the many varieties of dog treats to choose from, picking the right treat for your pup isn't too difficult.
Common Sense Above All
According to a 2012 survey of veterinarians by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 53 percent of adult dogs are considered overweight or obese by their vets. The Association considers treats to be a major contributor to weight gain, noting treats can be high in calories and given multiple times during the day, add up to excess pounds. That doesn't mean you shouldn't indulge Skipper in treats; it does mean you should choose your treats wisely. Common sense can guide your choices.
The first thing to consider when choosing Skipper's treats is his current health. Specifically, does he have any medical conditions to consider, such as pancreatitis or food allergies? If so, talk to your vet about what ingredients you should avoid. Even if your pup has no restrictions, reading treat labels is vital if you want to ensure you're feeding him healthy treats. As a general rule of thumb, if you can't pronounce the ingredients in the treat, you may want to give it a pass. Say no to treats loaded with fats and sugar and look for snacks with natural ingredients and whole grains, such as oats. Snacks containing single source proteins, such as chicken, lamb and fish are tasty treats too.
Making Skipper's treats yourself is a simple way to know exactly what he's eating, and it's usually pretty easy. If your pooch enjoys vegetables, use them as treats. Green beans and cooked or canned yams are two easy options for giving him a bit extra during the day without adding lots of calories. Chicken or tofu hot dogs can be cut into 1/2 inch pieces for your pup to enjoy. During hot days, freezing small chunks of apples and watermelon into ice cubes will make a refreshing surprise. If you're raiding your pantry, skip the raisins and grapes, as well as garlic and onions, which can be toxic for dogs. And though chocolate is a great treat for you, it is definitely not suitable for Skipper.
Ingredient Buzzwords to Look For
Generally, there are a few things to look for and other things to avoid when you're choosing Skipper's dog treats. Sweeteners should be food-based and natural, such as honey, molasses or applesauce. Look for natural preservatives -- vitamins C and E, or "mixed tocopherols" -- and avoid products with BHA, BHT, sodium nitrate, potassium sorbate, ethoxyquin and calcium propionate. Skipper doesn't care what color his snacks are, so say no to artificial coloring as a useless ingredient. Moist treats often use ingredients to keep them chewy; look for humectants using molasses and vegetable glycerin and steer clear of those such as propylene glycol.
According to WebMD, treats should comprise no more than 15 to 20 percent of Skipper's diet. When you plan for his meals, account for the treats you give him through the day to avoid overfeeding him and including him in the "53 percent club." Low calorie, bite-sized treats are ideal; just because the treat in the bag is the size of a cookie doesn't mean Skipper has to eat the whole thing at once. Breaking it into smaller pieces still gives him a nice little snack to nosh on. Remember, it's a treat, not his meal, so he doesn't need more than a little bit extra.
By Betty Lewis
About the Author
Betty Lewis has been writing professionally since 2000, specializing in animal care and issues, business analysis and homeland security. Lewis holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from West Virginia University as well as master’s degrees from Old Dominion University and Tulane University.