Wanting to spoil your furry pal is a natural part of pet ownership, but going overboard on the treats can cause serious health problems, including obesity, osteoarthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. When searching for treats for your four-legged friend, choose the healthiest options available. Healthy snacks will still seem like a treat to your pet, and you can rest easy knowing you’re sticking to their diet plan while still spoiling them. To treat your pet to good health—and yummy snacks—follow our clinic’s five tips for healthy treats.
#1: Skip the junk food for your pet
Those delicious-looking treats at the pet store may be irresistible, but many commercially produced treats—especially the soft, chewy ones—are laden with fat, sugar, food coloring, and calories, and for your pet, they are the same as a person eating a candy bar. Your pet may drool for these tasty snacks, but equally delicious options with greatly reduced calorie, fat, and sugar content are available. Search for low-calorie, healthy treat alternatives with no food coloring or other artificial ingredients for your furry pal.
#2: Count your pet’s calories when handing out treats
Your pet’s begging gaze may beseech you to constantly hand out treats, but their daily treat ration should add up to no more than 10% of their daily calories. For example, a typical 20-pound dog who gets moderate exercise should consume about 514 calories a day. A well-balanced diet should account for 90% of those calories, leaving only 51 calories to allocate for treats. To determine your pet’s suggested daily calorie intake, try this calorie calculator for dogs and cats. Calculate 10% of that number for daily treat calories, and stick to that amount. If your pet insists on a special treat after coming indoors, or right before bed, give them lower-calorie options, or break the treat in half to reduce calories.
#3: Give your pet fresh foods instead of processed treats
Fresh fruit, veggies, and lean meats are excellent nutrition sources for pets, and also serve as a tasty treat. Many pets love “people food,” and serving up fresh foods is a win-win. Ideal pet treats include:
- Green beans
- Sweet potato
- Chicken breast
When feeding your pet fresh foods, ensure raw meat is cooked to avoid pathogen transmission, and that all meats are bone- and seasoning-free. When choosing fresh fruits, avoid grapes, raisins, seeds, and pits, which can be hazardous to your pet. Don’t forget to introduce fresh foods slowly into your pet’s diet to avoid gastrointestinal upset.
#4: Search for treats that double up on benefits
While treats are often used to show your pet some love, they can have additional benefits. Treats can thwart dental disease, support hip and joint health, and promote calm behavior. If your pet has a medical condition, speak to your family veterinarian about the best treat options that won’t negatively interact with any current medications.
#5: Consider making your pet’s treats at home
The easiest way to control the content of your pet’s treat is to make your own at home, because you can skip the salt, lower the sugar content, and ditch the preservatives and food coloring. For dogs, try this drool-worthy recipe that features carrots and bananas. Cats will enjoy this tasty recipe that highlights tuna and catnip. Choose pet treat recipes that do not add salt, sugar, or extra sweeteners—your furry pal will be happy without those added calories. You can also bake your pet’s canned food into tiny biscuits using a treat mold or cookie cutter, or roll small bites of canned food into balls, and bake as necessary until they turn into a delicious cookie.
Although your family veterinarian is your pet’s first line of defense against obesity and weight-related medical issues, our Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center team can tackle challenging internal medicine cases that may cause your furry pal to gain weight. If your pet needs additional help managing their hypothyroidism or other weight-related issue, despite a switch to healthier treats and food, contact us.