Giving your pet a treat is an effective training aid, a reward for good behaviour and a way to show them love and make them happy. In general, treating your pet is a healthy practice, but it should be just that: a treat. An overweight pet and pet obesity is a major contributor to pets with arthritis, diabetes, and other preventable issues.
Here are a few basic tips that will help keep treat time healthy.
Start by using treats sparingly. It is, after all, a treat, and make sure treats aren’t spoiling scheduled meal times. Look at the ingredients and avoid too much crude fat or sugars that can contribute to weight gain.
Also, try to look for treats that contain a calorie count on the packaging so you can keep track of how many “extra” calories your pet is consuming. Remember to subtract the calories given through treats from your pet’s daily food intake.
It is a good idea to break apart large treats into smaller pieces that you can give out through the day.
How to choose a healthy treat
When looking for treats look for those made with healthy, natural ingredients. Avoid treats that are loaded with fats and sugars, as they are not good for your pet and can contribute to unhealthy weight gain. Be sure to read all labels for ingredients before making a purchase
A treat made with natural meats and whole grains is a good choice. Look for real meat and not a by-product, ideally hormone free. If your pet has a grain allergy there are plenty of healthy options available.
Some naturally grown fresh fruit and vegetables also make great healthy treats, these include:
Apples (minus the core, apple seeds can be toxic to pets), blueberries, watermelon (minus the seeds), bananas, green beans, carrots and sweet potato
Although these are “Human” foods that pets can eat it is important to remember that there are many “Human” foods that pets should avoid. These include (but are not limited to):
Grapes, tomatoes, mushrooms, nuts and any pitted fruits like cherries, avocado, plums.
Sneak in healthy
Treats don’t just make our pets happy, they can also keep them healthy. Try to find treats that not only taste good but offer health benefits also. Dental treats are a great way to work tartar off of your pet’s teeth, and glucosamine and taurine are perfect for maintaining aging animals' joints and organs.
When choosing a treat that has supposed health benefits, look for reputable brands.
Watch for food sensitivities
10 percent of allergy causes for dogs are due to foods, and grains are one of the leading allergens. Other common allergy-triggering foods include eggs and dairy. Look for excessive itching, flatulence, ear inflammation, and gastrointestinal upset as indicators of allergic issues. If your dogs are one of those with a grain intolerance, as mentioned above there are grain free options available that are perfect for pets with sensitivities.
Know when enough is enough
Treats should only comprise about 10% of your pet’s daily diet, which is quite small. If your amount of treating is surpassing this then you need to find other ways to love and reward your pet, such as special toys or walks.
Cater the type of treating you do to the type of activity you have planned - if you are training, use a combination of small treats, hugs and playtime with a favourite toy.