One common trait amongst pet owners is the desire to spoil their four-legged family members with treats. Many dogs absolutely love treats and they serve as a great bonding and training tools when used appropriately. It is important to remember that commercially available pet treats are often high in calories and dogs should never be fed too many treats to avoid future weight issues. Furthermore, dog treats are not part of a balanced diet, so they should not be used to replace a dog’s regular food. Today, there are so many treats available that choosing something safe and delicious for your pup can be a little overwhelming. In the paragraphs that follow, we aim to discuss some good treat options of various textures and types that are generally safe and appropriate for most pet’s gastrointestinal tracts. It is important to remember that you should always introduce new treats slowly and carefully and under direct supervision to make certain your dog does not have difficulty eating the treat. The information contained within is considered general guidelines and may not be appropriate for all pets, especially those with sensitive gastrointestinal tracts, food allergies or medical concerns. If you are unsure about introducing a specific new treat to your dog, we recommend contacting your veterinarian.
The current options for dog treats are seemingly endless and things can quickly become overwhelming, so we will break treat options into the following categories: soft treats, crunchy treats, home cooked treats, and longer-lasting/chew treats. Ideal dog treats are those that have few ingredients, are made by a reputable brand, preferably manufactured in the USA and made with high quality ingredients.
Soft treats are a great tool for training purposes because they can easily be broken into very small pieces which aid in avoiding overfeeding during training sessions. They are also great for puppies, tiny breed dogs and senior dogs with limited dentition. Some of our favorite soft treats include Zuke’s Mini Naturals and Lil’ Links, Wellness Soft WellBites, Buddy Biscuits Soft and Chewy Dog Treats, and Hill’s Science Diet Soft Savories. Greenie’s brand Pill Pockets are a delicious soft treat that provide a great tool for administering oral medications to dogs.
Crunchy treats are a great choice for providing something slightly longer-lasting, as they are often a bit larger than the soft treats. Some of our top choices for biscuit-type treats are Earthborn Holistic Grain-Free Dog Treats, Buddy Biscuits Oven Baked Dog Treats, Hill’s Science Diet Crunchy Fruity Snacks and Baked Light Biscuits, as well as Old Mother Hubbard Classic Biscuits. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Treats are another good option and may be very helpful for dogs with certain food allergies.
Home cooked treats are an awesome alternative to commercially available treats. There’s an ever-expanding collection of awesome recipes with limited ingredients available online and these may be a great choice for dogs with known or suspected food allergies or food sensitivities. It is also very easy to make soft training treats or jerky style treats using baked meats, such as chicken, turkey, steak or salmon cut into the appropriate size of your choice and stored in the refrigerator (or freezer).
Longer lasting treats are an excellent distraction and enrichment tool for dogs and they can even help expend some energy from high-energy pups, though they’re definitely not a substitute for exercise. Stuffing certain toys with spreads creates a treat that can help satisfy a dog’s instinct to chew and is mentally stimulating. There are lots of types of toys, such as the classic Kong style toys, that can be stuffed with various types of spreads to make a great longer lasting treat option. Other examples of toys that can be stuffed are Flavorit BarkBones, Kong Quest Toys, and JW Megalast Bones. These toys may be stuffed or spread with small amounts of peanut butter (make sure it does NOT contain Xylitol which is toxic to dogs), canned dog food, unsweetened pumpkin puree, plain yogurt, and/or small pieces of soft dog treats. When first introducing your dog to this style of treat, make sure it is very easy for him or her to get to the peanut butter or other spread; otherwise the dog may become discouraged and give up. As your dog catches on, gradually make it more difficult to get to the spread. Freezing these toys after filling them further increases the challenge once your dog is an expert. It is very important to make sure that the toy is appropriate for your dog’s jaw strength and that he or she is not able to chew it apart or ingest the toy itself.
Other long lasting treat options that may be appropriate for your dog include bully sticks, salmon skins, USA-made jerky treats, No-Hide stix and chews, and USA made beef trachea chews. There are number of canine dental treats on the market and these, in combination with regular tooth brushing and veterinary care, can be helpful in maintaining dental health. A couple of our preferred veterinary recommended dental chews are Greenies Dental Treats and Virbac C.E.T. VeggieDent Dog Chews. Whenever giving your dog a new treat, chew or toy, it is very important that you directly supervise the dog to make certain that he or she is not swallowing large pieces or eating inedible toys which could put the dog at risk for a bowel obstruction. When any treat (such as a bully stick), has been chewed down to a small piece, we recommend trading your dog with a delicious biscuit or soft treat for the chew end and throwing it in the trash to make certain that your dog does not swallow it whole. It is also important to note that many commercially available dog chews, such as real antler chews, may be too hard and may risk causing tooth fractures and other dental problems that could require veterinary intervention.
All of the treats listed above are just a small sampling of a lot of great options. There are a number of other great treat options and other wonderful brands, but the above suggestions are some that are favored by veterinarians, pet owners and our four-legged taste testers with sensitive tummies. If you love your pets as much as we love ours, you should definitely read about ViaGen Pets and our cloning and genetic preservation services at www.ViaGenPets.com.
If you liked this article, be sure to check out next week’s blog on great treat options for cats!
By: Kerry Ryan, DVM