What Makes a Healthy Dog Treat?
Did you know that all your pup’s favorite treats have come quite a long way over the years? In their very beginnings, dog treats were made with the ingredients that humans didn’t want: bland grains like bran, animal bones, and leftover meat. Thankfully, we now have much tastier and healthier alternatives for our furry loved ones. Unfortunately, however, that isn’t to say that all dog treats on the market are healthy. But what exactly is a “healthy” treat? A healthy treat comes down to its ingredients as well as how much and how often you feed it to your dog.
Single-Ingredient Treats: Single ingredient treats like chicken jerky or sweet potato chews are typically the healthiest kind of treat. With single-ingredient treats you can avoid giving your dog artificial or potentially harmful ingredients and keep better track of allergens.
Organic and Whole Food Ingredients: Treats with organic and whole-food ingredients like “salmon” as opposed to “salmon meal” also are safer than others. Meat meals tend to have higher protein content than whole meats, but because they are made in a rendering process, they lose most other nutritional value.
Preservatives, Sweeteners, and Food Dyes: To name a few, Ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT, and Propylene glycol are commonly found artificial preservatives in dog treats. These are potentially harmful chemical additives that are used in products like anti-freeze and pesticides. Natural preservatives like Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Ascorbates (Vitamin C), rosemary, and clove are totally safe for pets.
Some artificial sweeteners include corn syrup, fructose, and sorbitol, which can lead to diabetes and obesity. Safe, natural sweeteners include honey, molasses, and fruits.
Food dyes, which are commonly labeled as colors (i.e. Blue 2), are known to contribute to a myriad of health problems including allergies, gland issues, and even cancer.
How Much is OK?
According to research by vets and pet nutritionists, the “right amount” of treats for your dog equates to no more than 10% of his recommended daily calorie intake. So, for example, if your dog eats 400 calories a day, he should receive about 40 calories in treats a day. Check out Kurgo’s calorie calculator and list of popular food brands with their calorie content.
Training: So, what about training? The danger in training with treats is giving your dog too many where repetition is necessary. Fortunately, a lot of dog treat companies have made this easy by creating low calorie treats designed specifically for training. Depending on how large it is, a dog biscuit can have anywhere between 30 and 200 calories per treat. Training treats typically have as low as 3 calories per treat.
Is Human Food OK?
A lot of human foods make perfectly healthy dog treats. You’ll find a lot of these ingredients in healthy dog foods and treats, so feel free to test some of them with your pup: eggs, carrots, sweet potato, green beans, cucumber, apples, bananas, and blueberries. In moderation, foods like cheese, peanut butter, and coconut oil also make great snacks for dogs. Just be wary of some human foods that can be unhealthy and even dangerous for dogs, including grapes, raisins, avocados, mushrooms, white potatoes, onions, and garlic.
Happy snacking! Be sure to check out our large selection of bulk treats, bones, and chews available in store and online as well as our DIY videos for healthy, homemade treats:
- Vanessa Rances