Your pet’s treats are an important part of her everyday life, because they can communicate love, positively reinforce good behaviors, and ensure your pet takes her medicine. Some pet owners give treats between meals to their perpetually hungry dogs so they are less hungry. Does the kind of treats you give, and how often, really matter? In fact, it does.
What is a pet treat?
A treat is anything you feed your pet apart from her normal meals. A treat is usually considered tasty, but treats fed day after day should be selected carefully, because they can affect your pet’s health and well-being. What are the best treats? When you share your snacks and leftovers, your begging dog may be satisfied for a while, but are there consequences? Are pet-store treats better?
Choosing the best treats for your pet
Many things should be considered when choosing treats for your pet.
- Nutrition — Always take note of the ratio of protein, fat, and carbohydrates when purchasing treats for your pet. No specific ratio is necessarily correct, but poorly proportioned treats can sicken your pet; for example, treats with elevated fat levels can cause intestinal upset, such as diarrhea or vomiting, or in severe cases, potentially life-threatening pancreatitis. Treats high in carbohydrates can cause a spike in blood sugar, which can make your pet stressed and anxious. Excessive protein can increase the amount of nitrogen compounds in the blood, and potentially damage healthy kidneys. Our veterinary team can help you choose the most nutritional treats.
- Dental danger — You must always consider how a treat will affect your pet’s teeth. Bones, antlers, and sticks can break or loosen your pet’s teeth and, if left untreated, cause infection and pain. Contact us, if you think your pet may have a broken tooth.
- How much, how often — Most pet owners feed their pet too many treats, which should not comprise more than 10% of the daily food amount. Too much food leads to weight gain, and obese pets are more at risk for many painful conditions, including joint disease, respiratory disease, and metabolic conditions, like diabetes. Our veterinary team can help you calculate your pet’s appropriate daily calories.
The best treats for pets?
The best treats for your pet may be right in front of you. Have you ever tried feeding your dog fruits or vegetables? Most dogs enjoy them, and—with the exception of onions, garlic, grapes, and raisins, which are toxic to pets—they make excellent treats. Cucumbers, carrots, pumpkin, and other vegetables can help pets feel full between meals, while fruits, such as blueberries and strawberries, are full of antioxidants and make great dog treats, especially on a hot summer day. Some dogs also love apples and peaches, so treat your dog with a slice of your next apple or peach, minus the seeds or pit. Salads—without the dressing—are healthy for dogs who always seem hungry, or are overweight.
Your dog or cat no doubt loves many pet-store treats, but healthy fruit and vegetable treats every day will help ensure her optimal health, and will make sticking to her diet much easier.
Bake homemade treats
You can take healthy treats a step farther by baking a batch of fresh treats for your pet. Instead of purchasing pet-store treats that may be chock-full of preservatives, artificial colors, and animal byproducts, make your own using fresh, healthy ingredients. Try one of these recipes— your pet will love peanut butter and pumpkin dog treats from allrecipes.com, or apple-cheddar dog biscuits from marthastewart.com. Schedule one day a week as your baking day, and whip up a batch that will last your pet all week—or longer, if you freeze the leftovers. Don’t add ingredients that are toxic to pets, such as chocolate, macadamia nuts, raisins, garlic, onions, or xylitol, and omit any salt called for in the recipe you choose.
The Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center team wants you to have all the information you need to make the best health decisions for your pet. If you would like to know more about a healthy diet, including treats, for your pet, or if she has gained weight, or always seems hungry, call us and schedule an appointment with our team.