We all want to please our pets. When they obey us or just to show them some love, sometimes we find ourselves giving them too many treats and not at the right times. These practices can cause pet weight gain and bothersome behavioral problems like begging for food.
Here are some great tips on the healthiest and best ways to award your dog with treats.
1. Good Ingredients
It is best to look for dog treat brands that are "complete and balanced" because these treats usually have the good nutrients and vitamins your pet needs. However, it is also important to look at the ingredient list to determine how healthy (or unhealthy) the treat is. Keep an eye out for treats with large amounts of sodium and fat because these ingredients can cause pets to urinate in the house or drink huge amounts of water. In general, the rule of thumb is that healthy treats should account for a maximum of 10 percent of your pet's total daily calorie intake.
2. Do Treats Really Help With Dental Health?
While some pet owners claim that treats can be good for the teeth by reducing tartar and preventing gingivitis, it is best to consult with your veterinarian on the treats that really aid in dental health. Some treats can contain high degrees of sugar and salt that will actually harm your pet's teeth in the long run. There are also certain kinds of treats that can help with pet allergies of the skin and problems with digestion, and these treats are usually labeled "hypoallergenic".
3. The Difference Between 'Natural' and 'Generic' Treats
Natural is defined by major feed and animal food officials as anything that is taken from plant or animal sources, and which is not subject to any chemical processing. This does not mean that natural ingredients aren't rendered in any way, but that the source of the ingredients are natural. Generic brands usually contain a lot of sodium, coloring and artificial flavors, so in general, it is better for your pet's health to by the natural treats, and even organic unprocessed treats if possible.
4. Jerky Should Be Avoided At All Costs!
There are loads of dog owners out there that swear by jerky because they believe it is closest to what animals 'eat in the wild'. Yet after years of observation, it has been shown that jerky can cause serious kidney problems for most pets, and it has even been tied to some kinds of cancer.
5. Is Human Food Really That Harmful?
The answer is yes, most of the seasoned foods that we eat can be harmful and even deadly to pets due to their high fat and sodium contents. We tend to eat foods that are seasoned and spicy, which are foreign to pet's gastrointestinal tracts and can result in serious health conditions. You should steer clear of foods with garlic, onions and even grapes (because of their seeds), and if you insist on feeding your pet from the plate, it should only be with bland foods like rice or unseasoned, cooked meat. Even though you may do so already, it is best to treat feeding pets like feeding a toddler - never give them foods that are too complex.
6. How Many Treats Are Too Many?
According to most veterinarians, overfeeding pets with treats is the number one mistake owners make. This harmful habit may come from a good place, but it can cause irreversible damage to your pet's health and even obesity. A good way to control how many treats your pet gets a day is by keeping a tally or a daily log. Most veterinarians agree that dogs at a healthy weight should receive no more than two to three treats a day in order to maintain their appetite for their food.
7. The Best Way to Give Pets Treats
Treats can be extremely useful tools for modifying your pet's behavior, encouraging good behavior or teaching them something new. When training your pet, it is best to break treats into small pieces, halves or thirds, to reward your pet in a training session. Treats will keep the pet focused on the task and will get them used to eating less. It is also important to consider other options for rewards besides food, like their favorite toy or even love and affection that will show them they are behaving correctly.
The bottom line: Feed your pets natural or organic treats low in fat and sodium in small, broken-up pieces only when they behave well, and just to show them, love.
Images (top to bottom): Tony Dowson, Stuart Miles, Carlos Porto/ freedigitalphotos.net