The word “treat” can be defined as “an especially unexpected source of joy, delight, or amusement.” Treats are a favorite way for us to show love, reward good behavior, or to simply brighten someone’s day. As pet owners, we love giving our furry friends treats for similar reasons, so it’s no wonder that pet-store aisles are brimming with treat options. Many treats are filled with empty, but tasty, calories, and are meant to be used sparingly, so why not choose a treat that your pet can enjoy regularly? Here are our tips on how to healthily treat your pets without skimping on the “joy” and “delight.”
Choose the right treat for your pet
The perfect dog treat is nutritious, fun, and most importantly, delectable. A healthy treat has little or no added sugars, and is low in calories, and high in fiber. Any added benefits are a major bonus. Here are a few examples of healthy treats that make the grade:
- Fruits such as apple slices, blueberries, banana, or melon — Fruits are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and they are naturally sweet, making them a yummy treat. But, never give your dog grapes, which can possibly cause kidney failure. Also, ensure you core or pit fruits such as apples or peaches, so your pet does not eat pits or seeds.
- Veggies such as carrots, green beans, or cucumbers — You can safely give your pet most veggies as treats, but ensure you avoid onion, garlic, and other veggies in the onion family. Also, never give your dog avocado or rhubarb.
- Dental chews — Many dental chew brands, such as C.E.T. or Greenies, are a great way to provide your pet with an occasional tasty treat, all while helping to scrape plaque off her teeth.
- Puzzle feeders — Kong toys and other puzzle feeders combine tasty treats with a fun game. Fill them with a dollop of peanut butter, a few slices of fruit, or a light commercial dog biscuit to keep your pup occupied. Consider freezing the mixture for a refreshing, long-lasting treat. Puzzle feeders also help stimulate your pet’s brain, and may help with separation anxiety.
Use certain pet treats sparingly
There is nothing wrong with most commercial dog treats, as long as they are given sparingly. But, since more than half of American dogs and cats are overweight, these high-calorie biscuits are often the first item you should eliminate from your pet’s diet when pursuing a weight-loss plan. These can include biscuits, soft chew bones, and certain jerky-style treats. Rawhides are acceptable in moderation, but steer clear of bones and hooves, which can cause obstruction or dental problems. Consider switching to a lower-calorie dog goodie, or using pieces of kibble in place of traditional treats.
Make a homemade treat for your dog
When in doubt, make a delicious, homemade treat your pet is sure to love. We love this recipe from Damn Delicious:
Spinach, Carrot, and Zucchini Dog Biscuits
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 large eggs
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
3 cups whole wheat flour, or more, as needed
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1 zucchini, shredded
1 cup baby spinach, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or use a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the pumpkin puree, peanut butter, and eggs on medium-high until well-combined, about one to two minutes.
- Gradually add old-fashioned oats and 2-1/2 cups flour at low speed, only beating until incorporated. Add an additional 1/4 cup flour at a time until the dough is no longer sticky. Add carrot, zucchini, and spinach, beating until incorporated.
- Working on a lightly floured surface, knead the dough three to four times until it comes together. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes, and place onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Place in the oven, and bake until the edges are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Let cool completely.
Consider alternative treat options
While food is undeniably a source of delight for many dogs, why not treat your pooch to a romp at the dog park or bring her to the pet store for a special outing? Offering her a special activity may not treat her taste buds, but you’ll amuse her other senses, and give her a physical and mental boost to boot. Here are some ideas:
- Choose a new trail to hike and explore.
- Check out a new dog park.
- Head to a pet-friendly pet store, and let your dog choose a new toy.
- If allowed, take your dog to the office.
- During warmer months, take your dog for a swim.
If you have any questions, or you would like to learn more about healthy treats for your dog, contact us.