With our pets being a major source of comfort in a tough year of coronavirus shutdowns, many of us no doubt want to pamper them as much as possible, especially with our favorite treats. But instead of tossing your pup off the grill for some extra wine, think carefully about what types of treats you are giving your canine friend – and how much you are giving them. JoAnn Morrison, DVM, director of veterinary medicine at Banfield Animal Hospital, found 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).
SKIP AHEAD The best dog treats to shop for
“Many pets don’t need a lot of calories every day,” said Morrison. “Some human foods – even in small amounts in treats – can use up too many of your pet’s daily calories and quickly add extra pounds.” Just as you want to find healthier in-between snack options for yourself, consider diet Do the same for your dog. We asked experts how to buy the best dog treats and where to find the best.
How to buy dog treats
Morrison suggested 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,” advised Morrison. “Whenever possible, choose treats that clearly state the calories in each treat.”
Kristen Nelson, DVM, author of Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life, also suggested that dog owners should pay special attention to the amount of fat in a treat to avoid concerns about their dog gaining too much weight. “A lot of the treats are pretty high in fat to make them appealing,” said Nelson.
It’s important to remember that treats are usually not nutritionally balanced. For healthier treats, look out for the Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) label (often in small print) on a bag. In addition to overfeeding concerns, Morrison noted that puppy parents should avoid potential allergens and artificial sweeteners like xylitol in the dog treats they purchase. Nelson also advised looking out for foods like grapes and raisins, which can be healthy for humans but toxic to dogs. If you are unsure about a specific food, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) maintains a list of foods that can be harmful to your pet.
The best dog treats for shopping
1. Zuke’s Mini Naturals Chicken Recipe Dog Training Treats
Nelson recommended Zuke’s Mini Naturals for training. They come in tiny bites so you don’t have to break open larger tidbits as you work on a new skill with your dog. Chicken is the first ingredient in these soft chews, which are about the size of an eraser.
2. Greenies Regular Dog Dental Treats
Approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (Nelson suggested that the organization review all dental treats), these dental treats help remove tartar and plaque from your dog’s teeth and help maintain healthy gums. They also help freshen your pup’s breath and contain easily digestible ingredients, vitamins, and minerals.
3. Three Dog Bakery Crunchy Beg-Als
These peanut butter treats are in the shape 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 dog treats with coconut and pumpkin bones
These organic crunchy treats contain only six human-grade ingredients (meaning they’re safe, if not recommended, for humans to eat). Organic pumpkin is mixed with organic oat, rye and peanut butter flour, organic oats and organic coconut oil. Plus, the packaging is 100 percent recyclable, which makes it an environmentally friendly option.
5. KONG Easy Treat peanut butter flavor
This semi-soft peanut butter flavored treat is a dispenser that works like spray cheese and can be slipped into a chew toy to keep your dog entertained. You can even freeze a toy filled with treats beforehand to make it last longer.
6. Wholehearted Boundless Bars of Chicken and Mixed Berries
A granola bar reinvented for your puppeteer. These dry bars receive 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 Carrot Biscuits
These heart-shaped treats are soft-baked and easy to break into smaller treats. Chicken and potatoes are the first two ingredients and they are also filled with peas and carrots. The treats contain no soy, wheat, or artificial flavors or preservatives.
8. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Dental Chewz
Here’s a dental chew to help prevent tartar build-up on your pup’s teeth – beef skin is the first ingredient in the crunchy, protein-filled treats.
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 crumbled over the food as an additional treat.
10. Rachael Ray Nutrish Soup Bones Chicken & Veggies Flavor Chews
This 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 it splintering in your dog’s mouth. A soft center rewards your dog for their chewing efforts.
11. Castor & Pollux Organix Organic Peanut Butter Cookies
Organic free range chicken is the first ingredient in these crispy biscuits. The small, thin slices serve as a treat for small and large dogs and can be chopped up for training and as a reward.
12. SmartBones Pork Stuffed Twistz
These rawhide-free treats are filled with a pork-flavored chew center. They are also made with real chicken and vegetables. The treats are enriched with vitamins and minerals and are easy for dogs to digest. SmartBones also offers a peanut butter option with a pork flavor.
13. DreamBone Chicken Classic Bone Chews
DreamBone’s treats don’t splinter when dogs chew them, so they’re safe and can be enjoyed for a long time. They are made from corn, sweet potatoes, peas, and carrots, as well as real chicken. DreamBone’s Classic Chicken Bone Chews are available in three sizes: Mini, Medium and Large.
Types of dog treats to consider
When looking for the best dog treat, the experts we consulted recommended considering the portion sizes and actual treat size, as well as advising your veterinarian about grain-free options and deciding whether a dental treat is right for you.
Find the right dog treat
While a puppy is struggling with an oversized bone, it will look adorable (and may be TikTok suitable), but you should watch out for the treat you are giving your dog. “The size of the treat should be the size of your dog,” she said. “Very small dogs shouldn’t be given large treats, and conversely, a very small treat would not be recommended for large dogs.” She suggested keeping an eye on your dog while he chews larger treats like rawhide gum, which break and create choking hazards can be. Nelson also recommended crushing large cookies to reduce the calories per treat.
What about grain-free dog snacks?
Grain-free diets are a current trend in dog foods, but as NBC News previously reported, the FDA opened an investigation in 2018 to investigate a possible link between a grain-free diet and a heart condition called canine dilated cardiomyopathy. Nelson recommended avoiding grain-free treats, but noted that you should ultimately consult your veterinarian. “The grain-free phenomenon is a fad from the human diet,” she said. “If the grain is removed, other ingredients like higher glycemic carbohydrates or fat can be added – and these lead to other problems.”
Should I give my dog tooth snacks?
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 treats can help calm your dog’s breath and clean their teeth. “Tooth treats can help remove plaque buildup and can be a valuable addition to your home oral health care routine for your dog,” noted Morrison.
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