If you have a hungry hound or a famished feline, what better way to show your love than through a handful of treats? Most, if not all, pet owners shower their furry pals with loads of treats to demonstrate their affection. In some cases, treats are used to help ease guilt as pet owners leave their faithful companions at home while they run errands or head to work. No matter the reason for your pet’s treat stash, you always want to choose safe, healthy snacks for your furry pal. To help you safely treat your pet, we’ve outlined four simple ways for healthy snacking.
#1: Portion out your pet’s daily treat allowance
With so many overweight and obese pets in the United States—more than half the pet population—sticking to a diet plan where treats are concerned is essential. Avoid weight gain by factoring your pet’s daily treats into their total calorie intake. Treats should account for no more than 10% of your pet’s daily calorie allowance. For example, a 20-pound dog should eat about 500 calories a day, meaning no more than 50 calories of treats. If you treat your pet with original Milkbones, you should limit your dog to three small bones a day.
A daily treat jar is an easy way to ensure your pet receives the appropriate amount of treats each day. Each morning, place your pet’s allotted treats in the jar, and offer no more once the treats are gone. This system works well when your kids, friends, and spouse all want to share snacks with your pet, but you want them to remain at a healthy weight.
#2: Choose healthy options for your pet’s treats
Now that you know you should keep your pet’s treats to a 10% limit each day, maximize their snacking by choosing healthy options. Some of the healthiest treats for your pet are fresh fruits and veggies, including:
- Green beans
- Sweet potato
However, be cautious about offering your pet large amounts of fruit, since their sugar content, and thus their calorie content, is higher than vegetables.
If you’re searching for commercially produced pet treats, look for low-calorie options. Avoid treats high in fat and sugar, and with artificial colorings, since these can pack on the pounds and upset your pet’s stomach.
#3: Watch out for dangerous pet treats
Pets can make a “treat” out of anything, including dangerous foods, such as an unattended T-bone steak, a chocolate stash, or a fruit bowl loaded with grapes. Many foods are toxic to pets and can cause pancreatitis or a gastrointestinal obstruction. Before sharing with your pet, ensure your snack is not one of the following items:
- Grapes and raisins
- Macadamia nuts
- Xylitol, a sugar substitute
- Onions, garlic, and chives
- Milk and dairy products
- Salty snack foods
- High-fat foods
- Raw or undercooked meat, eggs, and bones
Bones, hooves, antlers, and other hard items can also be hazardous to your pet’s health, since they can easily fracture teeth, or splinter and become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract. High-fat treats can lead to pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening condition, and raw meats can contain bacteria that are harmful not only to your pet’s health but also your own.
#4: Search for pet treats with additional benefits
Treats can serve more purpose than showing your pet how much you love them. Many treats are packed full of ingredients with proven health benefits that can pack a nutritional punch. Double up on your pet’s treat benefits by looking for foods that help support or manage:
- Dental health
- Joint health
- Cognitive function
- Skin and coat health
- Digestive issues
You may not think so, but adding treats to your pet’s dental care regimen, joint support, or anxiety management can help round out a multimodal treatment plan for maximum efficacy.
While you would think that every pet wants treats, some pets may not be food-motivated, and would rather spend quality time with their favorite human. If this sounds like your pet, reward them with additional walks, playtime, grooming, or petting instead of snacks.
Not all treats are safe and healthy for pets, and if your furry pal gets their paws on a hazardous snack—like grapes, chocolate, or rawhide—contact our Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center team for help.