Since we’re more at home, we nibble more – so it’s only natural that you’ll want to treat your lockdown companion. But instead of throwing an extra weiner off the grill for your pup, consider how many goodies to give your canine friend. JoAnn Morrison, DVM and director of veterinary science at Banfield Animal Hospital, notes that a beef hot dog can represent up to 30 percent of the recommended daily caloric intake of a 30-pound dog (147 calories out of 479 total calories).
IN THIS ARTICLE How to shop for dog food | Types of dog foods to take into account | Best dog food shopping
“Many pets don’t consume a lot of calories every day,” says Morrison. “Some human foods – even in small, treat-sized quantities – can take in too many of your pet’s daily calories and quickly add extra pounds.” Just as you might want to find healthier snack options (like air-fried herb chickpeas) between meals, you should take the same approach when feeding your dog. We’ve consulted experts on how to buy the best dog treats and where to find the best.
How to shop for dog treats
Morrison suggests considering treats as part of your dog’s daily diet. “As a general rule, treats should never make up more than 10 percent of a dog’s daily caloric intake,” advises Morrison. “Whenever possible, choose treats that clearly state the calories in each treatment.”
Regarding calories, Kristen Nelson, DVM and author of Coated With Fur: The Life of a Veterinarian, suggests that dog owners pay special attention to the amount of fat in a treat to address concerns about their dog gaining weight. “A lot of the treats are pretty high in fat to make them appealing,” says Nelson.
It is important to remember that treats are usually not designed to be part of a balanced diet. For healthier treats, look for the Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutritional information label (often in lowercase) on a sachet. In addition to concerns about overfeeding, Morrison notes that puppy parents should avoid potential allergens and artificial sweeteners such as Xylitol in the dog delicacies they buy. Nelson also advises looking out for foods like grapes or raisins, which can be healthy for humans but toxic to dogs. If you are unsure about a particular food, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals maintains a list of foods that can be harmful to your pet.
Types of dog foods to consider
While you’re looking for the best dog treatment, the experts we consulted recommend considering the portion sizes and the actual size of the treat, consulting your veterinarian about grain-free options, and deciding whether a dog dental treatment is right for you.
Find the right size for dogs
As you watch a puppy struggle with an oversized bone, it looks adorable (and maybe TikTok suitable) so be sure to watch out for the treat you give your dog. “The size of the treat should be the size of your dog,” says Morrison. “Very small dogs shouldn’t have large treats and, conversely, a very small reward wouldn’t be recommended for large dogs.” She suggests keeping an eye on your dog while he chews larger treats like rawhide, which can break and create choking hazards. Nelson recommends breaking up large cookies to cut the calories per treat.
What about grain-free dog treats?
Grain-free diets are a current trend in dog food. As NBC News previously reported, in 2018 the FDA opened an investigation to investigate a possible link between grain-free diets and a heart condition called canine dilated cardiomyopathy. Nelson recommends avoiding grain-free treats, but notes that this is a topic that is perfect to consult with your veterinarian on. “The grain-free phenomenon is a human diet fad,” she said. “When the grain is removed, other ingredients like higher glycemic carbohydrates or fat can be added – and these create other problems.”
Should I give my dog dental work?
Puppy kisses are great – dog breaths aren’t. While regular brushing is the best way to keep your dog’s gums and teeth free of plaque, dental procedures can help calm your dog’s breath and clean teeth. “Dental treatments can help remove plaque and can be a valuable addition to your oral health care routine for your dog at home,” notes Morrison.
Best dog delicacies for shopping
1. Zukes Mini Naturals Chicken Recipe Dog Training Treats
For training, Nelson Zuke’s recommends: Tiny bites mean you don’t have to break off a larger tidbit when you’re working on a new skill with your dog. Chicken is the first ingredient in these soft chewy candies, which are about the size of an eraser.
2. Greenies Regular Dog Dental Treats
These Veterinary Oral Health Council-approved dental treatments (Nelson suggests reviewing the organization’s approval of dental treatments as well) will help remove tartar and plaque from your dog’s teeth.
3. Three Crunchy Beg-As Dog Bakery
The peanut butter treats come in the form of bagels for the dog who enjoys brunch. The crispy slices – wheat flour and peanut butter are the first two ingredients – are baked in the oven with no artificial fillers or coloring.
4. Riley’s Organic Coconut and Pumpkin Bone Dog Treats
These organic crunchy treats contain only six human-grade ingredients (meaning they’re safe for humans, although not recommended). Organic pumpkin is mixed with organic oat, rye and peanut butter flour, organic oats and organic coconut oil.
5. KONG Easy Treat peanut butter flavor
This semi-soft treat is a dispenser that works like spray cheese. It can be put in a chew toy to keep your dog entertained. You can even freeze a toy filled with goodies beforehand to extend its lifespan.
6. Completely limitless chicken with mixed berries bars
These granola bars are a granola bar reinvented for your dolls. You get points for portability. Chicken is the first ingredient with cranberries and blueberries mixed with quinoa and oats for a crispy bite in the park.
7. Blue Buffalo Baby Blue natural soft chicken and carrot biscuits
Chicken and potatoes are the first two ingredients. The soft chew for puppies is full of peas and carrots. You can see the tiny orange spots in the heart shaped goodies to boot.
8. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Dental Chewz
Here’s a tooth chew to keep tartar from building up on your pup’s teeth – cowhide is the first ingredient in the crunchy treats that are filled with protein.
9. Spot Farms Turkey Meatballs Recipe with Cranberries
These human treats are a mix of turkey (the first ingredient), oatmeal, honey, and cranberries. The soft meatballs can be given to your dog whole or sprinkled over the food.
10. Rachael Ray Nutrish Soup Bone Chicken & Vegetable Flavor Chews
This treat is a tough chew made with chicken and vegetables – dried beets, carrots, and peas – but with no real bones, so you don’t have to worry about the bone splintering in your dog’s mouth. A soft center rewards your dog for their chewing efforts.
11. Castor & Pollux Organix Organic Peanut Butter Flavor Biscuits
Organic free range chicken is the first ingredient in these crispy biscuits. The small, thin slices are suitable as delicacies for small and large dogs.
More buying guides and recommendations
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