For many people, dogs are as much a part of their family as their own kids. It’s only natural that you’d want to make sure that your dog is well-cared for. You take them on walks every day, you make sure their coat is clean and groomed, and you feed them high-quality dog food.
But what about the treats you give them? If you’re not paying attention to the types of treats you’re giving your dog, then they may be at risk for obesity or damage to their digestive system.
Not sure what to look for in dog treats? We’ve got you covered! Read on for some tips on healthy treats!
1. What Do You Need Them For?
Dog treats have many different uses. You can use them in a traditional sense, as an occasional treat, as a method of dental care, or you can use them for training purposes.
If you’re planning on training your dog via a positive reinforcement or clicker method, then you’re going to need a lot of dog treats. This means that you need to make sure that you use small, low-calorie treats for the majority of the training process. Occasional extra yummy treats are okay if your dog does something you love during training.
Dog dental chews are a super popular way to keep your dog’s teeth clean between cleanings. Just be sure to limit them to the amount listed on the package.
If you’re using treats just as treats, then you don’t have to pay as close attention to the calorie content. That doesn’t mean you can give your dog treats all day. Make sure you’re limiting your dogs treats as you would your own treats, otherwise your dog might start gaining some extra pounds.
Side note: if you’re giving out the treat for a special occasion, like your dog’s birthday, feel free to give Fido some tasty pupcakes!
2. Check the Ingredients
A lot of dog treats that you find in grocery stores or traditional pet stores contain unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients.
The first ingredient you should try to avoid is ethoxyquin, which is used as a preservative. Ingestion of ethoxyquin has been associated with kidney and liver damage, cancer of the spleen, stomach, and skin, blindness, and leukemia, among other conditions.
You’ll also want to avoid dog treats that list “by product” in the ingredients. By products are everything that is left from the inside of the animal apart from the muscle meat. Sometimes this includes tumors and diseased tissues and organs.
Last, you should avoid butylated-hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) which is found in both pet and human food. Both contribute to kidney damage, though BHT is more dangerous and has been found to have a direct link to cancer in dogs and humans.
A good rule of thumb is to make sure that you recognize and can pronounce all the ingredients in your dog’s treats. If you’re not sure about the ingredients, check the manufacturer’s website for more information.
3. Steer Clear of Rawhide
Rawhide has been widely lauded as a great treat for dogs, especially for dogs who love to chew. Regardless, there is a whole slew of risks associated with rawhides that make them something you should avoid.
Rawhides may be contaminated with toxic chemicals. They can also be contaminated with Salmonella or E. Coli. These contaminants can make it dangerous for humans to handle them.
Rawhides also pose a choking risk and a blockage risk to the dogs that consume them. Dogs are not great at fully chewing their food and treats before they swallow them, so when they swallow large chunks of rawhide, it can get caught in the esophagus or digestive tract. In extreme cases, dogs can require surgery to remove the blockage.
4. Check Where It Was Manufactured
You’ve thought about the calorie content and the ingredients, but have you thought about the manufacturing process? If you want to make sure that your dog treats are free from contamination, you want to make sure that they were manufactured in a country with strict quality controls.
Always check the back of the package. Avoid dog treats that were manufactured in China or other countries with similarly lax quality standards. Ideally, you’ll want to purchase dog treats manufactured in the United States.
5. Be Careful with Fish
In general, fish is a great ingredient and are very healthy. You should avoid small fish like sardines and herring because the manufacturers frequently do not list all the preservatives.
You can also choose to feed your salmon skin on occasion but be wary that salmon contains some mercury. As a result, you should limit the amount of salmon and salmon skin you feed your dog.
6. Is It Too Good to Be True?
Like the old adage says, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Does the package list a ton of expensive ingredients, but the retail price is only $5? That should set off warning bells in your head because, admirable as it may seem, no dog treat manufacturer is in the business to lose money so your dog can get cheap, healthy treats.
7. When All Else Fails, Do It Yourself
The only real way to make sure that you’re feeding your dog super healthy treats is to make them yourself.
It’s surprisingly quick and easy to make your dog peanut butter biscuits or chicken snacks. You can also control the calorie content and portion size of the treats to meet the purpose for which you intend to give them. It only takes a little bit of your time, and your dog will have a simple and healthy treat that you’ll have no qualms giving to him.
Healthy Treats Mean a Healthy Dog!
There are many reasons to monitor the treats you give your dog. If you give them too many high-calorie treats, your dog will be at risk for obesity, and if you give them rawhides, your dog will be at risk for intestinal damage. Following these tips about healthy treats will put you on the fast track to a happy and healthy dog!