We’ll admit, we love spoiling our pets as much as you do. We’re also guilty of sneaking them a few too many snacks occasionally, but we know the limits we should set when choosing the best treats for our pups. Although we have the benefit of working in an animal emergency hospital, we definitely don’t want to bring in our own furry friends suffering with pancreatitis or toxicity. Choose your pooch’s treats wisely to keep her out of tasty trouble. Here are eight tips to help pick the best treat options for your pet.

#1: Limit your pet’s daily treats to 10% of her daily caloric intake

Although your dog would be delighted to have a non-stop treat buffet to fill her caloric needs—we would, too—like us, they need to maintain a healthy weight and receive the appropriate vitamins and minerals from their food, which they cannot get with a treat-heavy diet. Calculate your dog’s daily calorie requirement, and ensure no more than 10% of those daily calories come as treats. 

#2: Watch the sugar, salt, and fat content in your pet’s treats

Not all treats are created equal. Some are loaded with sugar, salt, and fat, which pets find tasty, but which should be considered junk food. Instead, search for treats with a low sugar and fat content, and minimal salt, and aren’t chock-full of preservatives and artificial colorings and flavors. Many commercially processed treats on the healthier end of the treat spectrum are available—simply read the label. 

#3: Swap out processed treats for fresh foods

Many dogs go bananas for fresh fruits and veggies, and don’t realize that they’re healthy alternatives to processed treats. Small bits of carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, peas, apples, bananas, berries, and melon are excellent treats for dogs. But, ensure you avoid raisins, grapes, and currants, which can cause kidney failure in dogs. 

#4: Cut your pet’s treats in half if she is gaining too much weight

While dogs are fairly intelligent, they fortunately have not learned division. Your pup won’t know that you break her treats in half and offer a smaller piece. She’ll still be thrilled to have a special snack, no matter how small. 

#5: Show your pet love with activity and interaction instead of treats

We often feel guilty leaving our loyal companions home alone all day, and attempt to assuage that guilt with an overabundance of treats. Hit the hiking trails, or play an extra game of fetch, rather than give your pet a handful of treats to show how much you love her. All she really wants is your attention, which is calorie-free.

#6: Teach your dog to take treats gently

Many dogs are so excited when presented with a treat, they’re liable to snack on your fingers as well as a biscuit. Teach your pup to take treats gently, especially from small children, to avoid injury. 

#7: Choose treats that offer additional health or dental benefits

Although we consider treats a dessert more than a necessity for daily vitamin intake, treats that offer a wide variety of health benefits are available. You may choose treats that have additional glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support; L-theanine, valerian root, and chamomile for calming and anxiety relief; or raised ridges and delmopinol to banish plaque, tartar, and gingivitis. 

#8: Avoid giving hazardous foods as treats

When choosing treats for your pet, avoid table scraps, which are mostly unhealthy. Fat trimmings from steak, turkey skin, chicken bones, and foods seasoned with garlic and onions can lead to a trip to our animal emergency hospital. Pancreatitis, gastrointestinal obstructions, intestinal perforations, enteritis, and toxicity can occur if your pet eats too much of the wrong food. While small pieces of lean meats are fine for pets, fatty or heavily seasoned pieces can cause issues. Also, avoid chocolate, raisins, grapes, and macadamia nuts when treating your pup. 

If your pet thinks the wrong snack—a dropped pill, a grape rolling on the floor, or an entire batch of double chocolate chip cookies cooling on the counter—is a treat, call our animal emergency hospital. Toxins can look like treats to the undiscerning pet, but we’re here to help during evenings, weekends, and holidays.