Truthfully, if you have taken the time to ensure that your dog is eating a nutritious, balanced diet, they likely do not need snacks or treats because they really shouldn’t be hungry outside of their meal times. Snacks and treats really should be given sparingly because the extra calories can affect your dog’s health. That being said, they are great rewards and can be integral to any training effort. Dog treats can be expensive, which is why it is worth thinking about foods that you might already have in the house or foods that you can eat too.
A Background on Dog Treats
A significant number of dogs today are overweight or obese, and this can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, cancer and joint and muscle issues. A lot of commercial dog treats are marketed as healthy, but they are not; they are full of sugar and calories. Some pet owners do try their best by reading ingredients, but they are not always accurately represented. This is especially tricky for dogs that already have dietary requirements and need their intake strictly monitored. This isn’t to say that you need to avoid store-bought treats completely, but you should be wary when purchasing them.
There are several fruits that you can feed your dog as a treat. As mentioned above, treats should always be fed in moderation anyway, and it is also worth giving your dog a little to start with to ensure that they like the fruit and that it doesn’t have any effect on their digestive system.
- Apples are a great choice, they are high in fiber and vitamins A and C. Remember to always remove the seeds, stem and core when feeding your dog apples because they can be toxic if consumed. As luck would have it, apples can also help to keep your dog’s breath fresher too.
- Pears do tend to be overlooked, but, like apples, they also contain fiber too, but pears contain vitamins C and K. They can help to improve your dog’s digestive system and boost their immune system. Also, like apples, you should also always remove the stem, core and seeds before serving.
- Bananas are a fantastic treat for dogs; they are also versatile, meaning that you have more serving options too. They are low in sodium but relatively high in sugar, meaning that occasional consumption is recommended. Bananas are an excellent source of fiber, potassium and vitamins too.
- Blueberries are often regarded as a superfood for humans, but they can be good for your dogs too. They are rich in antioxidants, fiber and phytochemicals too. You can feed your dogs blueberries as is, or if you want to create more interest for your dog, try squishing them a little to release their scent and change the texture.
- Strawberries are another berry that you can feed to your dog as a treat. They are thought to boost the immune system as well as, again, being a great source of fiber and vitamin C. However, like bananas, they are high in sugar and, as such, should only be given occasionally.
- Cantaloupe is actually incredibly nutritious for dogs because it contains folate, niacin, fiber, potassium and several vitamins. Again, remember to remove all seeds and the rind before serving to avoid giving your dog a poorly tummy.
- Watermelon is mainly water which makes it an amazing summertime treat for your pup. It can help them to keep hydrated as well as containing potassium and the vitamins A, B and C. Like cantaloupes, they too have seeds and rinds which need removing before you serve them to your dog.
In addition to all of the fruits mentioned above, there are also several vegetables that you can feed to your dog as a treat. Remember to think about how you prepare the fruit and veg because it could change their nutritional value.
- Carrots are very popular among dogs, they make a great chew, and they can be good for their teeth too. They also contain fiber and beta-carotene, which is a great antioxidant. While raw carrots do indeed make an excellent chew, boiled carrots can also be given.
- Celery, like carrots, makes a great chew because it is so crunchy. Raw celery is probably the best option here, although if you wanted to cook it beforehand, you could try to avoid oil if possible. It also contains high levels of vitamins A, B and C.
- Cucumbers are similar to watermelon in that it also has an incredibly high water content which makes it a hydrating treat for your dog. Cucumber is also totally packed with nutrients too like magnesium, potassium, biotin and vitamins B, C and K.
- Green beans are another deliciously crunchy treat that you can give to your dog. Avoid canned versions, and only give your dog fresh green beans. These, too, are high in fiber, calcium, potassium, beta-carotene, niacin and folic acid, as well as vitamins A, C and K.
- Pumpkin is arguably a seasonal treat, but when that time of year rolls around, it can make an excellent treat for your dog. Pumpkins, like carrots, are full of beta-carotene, which is responsible for giving them both their orange color. It is also loaded with fiber, vitamin C and potassium. The pumpkin should be cooked; try to create your own pumpkin puree for your dog as opposed to using tinned pumpkin pie mix.
- Red peppers are said to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. However, when it comes to giving them to dogs, you need to make sure that you haven’t gone for the spicy options as well as taking care to remove stems and seeds. Otherwise, red peppers are packed full of vitamins and antioxidants, which makes them a great treat for your pups.
- Sweet potatoes, like pumpkin, are seasonal, but again when the time comes, they do make an excellent treat for your dog. A lot of people find themselves wondering: can dogs eat sweet potatoes, and the answer is yes if they are cooked. Native Pet has a great blog post detailing the benefits of sweet potatoes for dogs. Uncooked sweet potatoes can be bad for you dog’s digestive system. They are full of vitamins B and C and minerals, as well as being high in beta-carotene and fiber too.
The Importance of Portion Control
Dogs obviously have different calorie requirements from us, and as such, even the healthy treats mentioned above can make them gain weight if you do not exercise portion control. Think about the size of your dog too; for example, a small dog will not need a whole banana or a whole sweet potato, et cetera. Use your judgement, and if you think that you have allowed them to overindulge in treats during the day give them less dinner. Dogs also have their own likes and dislikes too when it comes to food, so they might not enjoy every item on the list; if you are buying these products anyway because you like them, then obviously, this is not going to be a problem because you will still use the rest.
There are a lot of foods that are not only appropriate but good for your dogs that you might not have considered because they tend to be thought of as ‘people food’. However, there are also several things that you should never feed your dog because they can be incredibly bad for them. If you aren’t sure whether you can feed something to your dog, it is always worth checking. Otherwise, happy snacking!