Dog treats are just as important as dog food since they can be used as a training tool and to bond with your pet. Given that there are many things you need to know about dog treats, it is easy to get lost and overwhelmed.
And in this article, we will help you keep track as we discuss everything you need to know about dog treats, such as why dogs need treats, the best dog treats ingredients, what to avoid, nutritional value, different types of dog treats, and how much treats can you give your dog!
Why Do Dogs Need Treats?
As mentioned, dog treats are necessary for our dogs’ lives. With that, here are the reasons why owners should give treats to their dogs:
- Dog treats are a valuable training tool. It helps them stay motivated and encouraged to learn because of the treats! Moreover, giving treat rewards improve positive emotions and might quicken the process of learning.
- Treats also help dogs form a bond with their pet parents! Giving treats to your dog creates positive and friendly communication between the pet and the owner.
- If your pet has chewing problems, dog treats can also help solve the problem! Chewing treats, a type of dog treat, distract the dog from chewing on furniture and other materials.
- And more importantly, there are dog treats available that can help your dog with its specific medical needs! For example, there are recommended treats for dogs with digestive problems or oral health issues.
The Best Dog Treat Ingredients
When looking for dog treats, knowing what ingredients deliver the most benefits is best! Thus, we can ensure that our chosen treat will help improve and maintain our dog’s overall health.
Here are some of the best dog ingredients you can look for:
Meat is considered one of the most critical ingredients in a dog’s diet because of its protein content. Moreover, the meat keeps dogs’ muscles and joints strong as they age and helps them maintain a healthy weight. Here are some examples of meat ingredients:
Take note that it is also crucial to choose the best source of meat depending on your dog’s preference and specific medical needs (if any).
Incorporating fruits in dog treats can provide several health benefits. Why? Fruits possess a lot of nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, that are essential in improving and maintaining your dog’s general health. It also provides advantages like boosting immunity, avoiding cancer, and more.
Here are some examples of fruits that are healthy for dogs:
- Acai Berry
- Blood Orange
- Dragon Fruit
- Passion Fruit
However, certain fruits are toxic to dogs. These include avocados and citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, limes, and grapefruits.
Vegetables are a fantastic way to keep your pet healthy. Dogs need a range of organic foods and nutrients for a balanced diet, just like people do. Moreover, vegetables in dog treats also provide high levels of fiber, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, and phytonutrients that are absent in meat. Below are some of the vegetable dogs can consume:
- Green Beans
- Brussels Sprouts
But, similar to fruits, some vegetables are unsafe for dogs to consume. These vegetables include mushrooms, raw potatoes, garlic, onion, tomatoes, and chives.
Vitamins ensure a dog’s immune system is strong and ready to fight any bacteria, infection, or disease that might enter its body. A balanced diet, consistent exercise, together with vitamins made with premium and purity-tested components will all help your dog live a longer and healthier life. Here are some of the vitamins your dog needs:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Minerals are required to keep your dog’s bones and teeth healthy and strong. Plus, minerals like calcium and phosphorus are curricula for maintaining balanced nutrition. Insufficient calcium and phosphorus can easily lead to fractures in canines. Mineral deficiency can also lead to health problems like impaired immunity and anemia.
Some minerals to check on labels are:
- Manganese Sulfate (small amounts)
- Zinc Gluconate (small amounts)
- Ferrous Sulfate or Iron (small amounts)
Initial studies conclude that essential oils have health benefits for dogs. These health benefits include calming skin irritations or problems and managing anxiety and stress. Here are some of the essential oils that are safe for dogs:
But, always check first whether your dog does not have any specific medical conditions (like allergies or sensitivities) that might cause them to react poorly to essential oils.
What to Avoid In Dog Treats?
Despite the overall benefit of dog treats, we still need to watch out for some ingredients or components that owners should not give to their dogs. Some of those ingredients are the following:
Rawhides are designed to be durable chews; however, they can eventually crumble into small, pliable pieces. Strong chewers can often easily break off substantial pieces, constituting a severe choking hazard or resulting in intestinal blockage, representing a severe risk to life.
Like rawhides, hooves often break, and the sharp fragments have endangered numerous dogs. Therefore, there are better alternatives, such as pig ears, nylabones, and bully sticks, rather than giving them hooves. Nevertheless, keep an eye on your pet when they consume these, as there is always a chance that a piece will come loose and split.
Artificial preservatives, flavorings, or colorings are strictly not recommended for dogs. These ingredients do not contribute any health benefits to your dog and only act as a filler to bulk up the ingredients. Moreover, artificial ingredients can cause mild to severe allergic reactions and other medical risks. With that, it is better to look for natural and healthy dog treats that stray from these artificial contents.
Xylitol is a type of artificial sweetener that is common among human food and necessities, which is highly toxic for dogs. Even a tiny dosage of xylitol can cause fatal damage to your dog’s health. It can result in liver failure, seizures, and even death.
Moreover, other sweeteners such as Erythritol, Stevia, Aspartame, Saccharin, Sucralose, and Monk fruit are not as dangerous as Xylitol. However, it can still cause digestive problems like diarrhea and gastrointestinal issues.
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are controversial ingredients that are linked with cancer and other major medical issues. However, there are still no concrete studies that fully confirm BHA and BHT’s connection with cancer. With that, the Food and Drug Administration allows BHA and BHT to be added to treats (with certain regulations and moderations).
Aside from the certain fruits and vegetables that are toxic for dogs, the other ingredients that are highly toxic or can be bad are the following: chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, nitrates (sodium nitrate), Propyl gallate (a potentially harmful ingredient for dogs like BHA and BHT). Furthermore, poorly processed grains can also cause stomach or digestive problems.
Nutritional Value of Each Dog Treat
Moving on to the nutritional value of each dog treat. How much do they need, and how much is too much? Let’s enumerate it below!
Dogs can live healthy lives without consuming carbs. Because they don’t get significant nourishment from carbohydrates, a dog’s body cannot benefit from them that much. Given that, dog treats should not contain too many carbohydrates – or nothing at all.
But, to ensure that the dog’s body doesn’t exhaust its supply of protein, carbohydrates are crucial as a backup fuel source. The protein is utilized for more crucial tasks, including boosting the dog’s immune system, mending cells, digesting food, and generating amino acids. At the same time, they continue to derive their energy from carbohydrates.
Protein in traditional dog treats comes from meats like beef, hog, chicken, or lamb. The American Kennel Club states that 20 to 22 percent crude protein is ideal for dogs. Your dog’s body needs protein to function correctly. The amino acids your dog receives from protein help with things like healthy hair and skin, muscular growth, and tissue repair.
A dog’s diet should have 2% to 4% of fiber for a healthy and balanced meal. Fiber has two forms: soluble and insoluble. Both types are significant and impact the digestive system’s health and operation. Moreover, a dog’s diet should not have more than 10% fiber. Your dog can have trouble absorbing minerals if they ingest too much fiber. Fiber imbalance can also cause diarrhea.
Vitamins A, D, and E are better absorbed when consumed with essential fats. The American Association of Feed Control suggests including 5% fat in your dog’s diet. Furthermore, a diet is deemed low-fat if it contains less than 10% fat or fewer than 17% of its calories from fat. In contrast, diets containing 10-15% fat or 17–23% of calories from fat are regarded as having a moderate quantity of fat. High-fat diets include more than 20% fat.
The golden rule of thumb regarding the calorie content of dog treats is that it should not be more than 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake. Too many calories can pose various medical problems like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and a short lifespan. With that, ensure to give them a moderate amount of treats.
Proteins, particularly those derived from dairy, beef, chicken, eggs, soy, gluten, and wheat, are dogs’ most frequent causes of allergies. With that, if you know that your dog is food/treat sensitive, pick a dog treat that has little to no allergens. Some breeds, such as Bulldogs, German Shepherds, Pugs, Dachshunds, Shih Tzus, Golden Retrievers, and Pitbulls, are more prone to allergies.
Types of Treats Dogs Can Eat
Just like dog food, there are also different types of treats for dogs. Knowing these types of treats will help you identify which one suits your dog the most.
Dog treats that have been freeze-dried resemble kibble perfectly, except they have undergone less processing. Low temperatures are used to freeze the ingredients, turning them into ice while protecting their nutritional value.
Additionally, this treat has all moisture removed, making them highly shelf-stable dog training treats. Freeze-dried dog treats can actually keep for years without refrigeration. Because no water remains in the meal, no chemicals or preservatives are required.
Some freeze-dried dog treats you can try…
Raw dog treats are all-natural treats that can help your dog achieve a balanced diet. This type of treat ranges from chews and bones to treats wrapped with meat, providing additional nourishment. Unlike certain dog treats on the market, it does not contain any artificial flavorings or preservatives. Some raw dog treats you can try:
- Lamb ribs
- Fresh chicken and turkey necks
- Chicken and turkey hearts
- Fresh chicken carcasses
Synthetic chews and bones are made to stimulate the mind and exercise your pet’s jaw. These bones are especially beneficial for teething puppies and hyperactive chewers. This type of dog treat can be a better choice for certain types of dogs. For example, a long-lasting, sturdy synthetic dog bone would be more beneficial for dogs with sharp teeth prone to aggressive chewing than a fragile natural chew.
Fresh Fruits & Vegetables
As mentioned earlier, fruits and vegetables have many nutritional benefits for your dog. Thus, giving them this as a treat is worth the try. Here are some examples of fresh fruits and vegetables you can give your dog:
- Green beans
But of course, do not forget the list of vegetables and fruits that are bad for dogs. You should also consider if your dog has specific health concerns like allergies or sensitivities.
How Much Dog Treats Are Good For Dogs
Since all dogs are different from one another, the amount of dog treats that are recommended for dogs varies too. With that, check the tables below as we show the recommended treats dogs should get per day depending on their age and size.
|Weight||Required Calories Per Day||Preferred Dog Treats Per Day|
|10 to 30 pounds||10 to 1000 calories per day||0 to 100 calories per day|
|30 to 70 pounds||1000 to 1800 calories per day||100 to 180 calories per day|
|70 to 100 pounds||1800 to 2400 calories per day||180 to 240 calories per day|
Here are some dog treats specifically made for puppies:
|Weight||Required Calories Per Day||Preferred Dog Treats Per Day|
|10 to 30 pounds||Around 280 to 760 calories per day||28 to 76 calories per day|
|30 to 70 pounds||Around 760 to 1410 calories per day||76 to 141 calories per day|
|70 to 100 pounds||Around 1410 to 2000 calories per day||141 to 200 calories per day|
As You can observe, puppies require more calories than adult dogs because the puppy stage is the growth and development period – thus, a lot of energy and nutrition is needed.
Here are some dog treats applicable for adult dogs:
|Weight||Required Calories Per Day||Preferred Dog Treats Per Day|
|10 to 30 pounds||120 to 345 calories per day||12 to 35 calories per day|
|30 to 70 pounds||345 to 930 calories per day||35 to 93 calories per day|
|70 to 100 pounds||930 to 1395 calories per day||93 to 140 calories per day|
|100 to 140 pounds||1395 to 1860 calories per day||140 to 186 calories per day|
Here are some dog treats recommended for senior dogs:
In addition and as mentioned before, the basic rule of thumb, in all ages, when it comes to dog treats limitations is it should be not more than 10% of their daily calories.