Food treats are equally liked by humans as well as dogs!
But are you among those who love their furry friends so much you can’t resist offering an occasional scrap under the table (when no one else is looking)?
No matter how well intentioned you are, many human foods are bad for your dog’s health. Plus, giving your dog a scrap off your plate only teaches him that he’ll get a reward for sneaking under the dinner table.
A 2014 study published in Animal Cognition says that your four-legged friends get more excited when they work to earn their treats. Also, the intensity of the emotional response was influenced by the type of reward, i.e., greatest response to food and least to another dog.
As a pet owner, you can use food treats to make your dog exercise more, improve cognitive skills, enhance problem-solving skills and lots more.
But you must be very careful when choosing treats for your dog. Unhealthy treats will only add more calories to your canine’s diet, which can lead to obesity and other health issues.
Dog owners have plenty of options for healthy treats and just need to be aware of those that offer a good balance of nutrition.
Here are the top 10 healthy dog treat options.
This orange vegetable is a great treat for canines. Besides the fact that most dogs like the sweet taste and crunchy texture of a raw carrot, they offer many health benefits.
Munching on carrots helps keep your dog’s teeth clean, which is important for preventing dental issues that cause your dog pain and cost you vet bills.
Being low in fat and calories, carrots also make an excellent meal supplement that can help curb your dog’s appetite and prevent weight gain. Just as in humans, obesity can cause health issues and shorten you pet’s life span.
In addition, carrots are remarkably high in soluble fiber that will increase bulk and water in your dog’s intestinal contents. This will improve his overall bowel movements.
Carrots are also high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant and precursor to the production of vitamin A, which is needed for healthy vision.
Raw and cooked carrots (with no spices, salt or sugar when cooking) can be given to both puppies and adult dogs. Also, frozen carrots will feel great for teething puppies.
Pumpkin makes a healthy treat for dogs. In fact, pumpkin has many health benefits – and best of all, most dogs love the taste!
Pumpkin is a great source of vitamin A, potassium and fiber. While the vitamin A is needed for healthy eyesight, fiber helps maintain regular bowel movements and is also a great natural remedy for mild diarrhea and constipation. Potassium is needed by canines for efficient functioning of muscles, nerves and enzymes.
You can make pumpkin puree at home or choose canned puree. When feeding canned pumpkin puree, make sure it does not have added sugar or sweeteners.
Never feed your dog pumpkin pie filling, as it contains too much added sugar and other additives that may be unhealthy for your dog.
3. Ripe Bananas
Just as a banana makes a healthy snack for humans, it is also an affordable, tasty stand-by treat for your furry friend.
Bananas contain three natural sugars – sucrose, fructose and glucose – that provide an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy.
Also, bananas are high in fiber, which can help if your dog is having gastrointestinal problems, and magnesium, which promotes bone growth. Bananas are also a good source of potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, biotin and copper.
You can cut a banana into small pieces, mix it with a little yogurt or peanut butter and then serve it to your pet. You can also serve frozen banana pieces as a healthy treat to teething puppies.
4. Baked Salmon
Baked, plain salmon with no added seasonings is another excellent dog treat.
Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids and protein, which will help keep your dog’s coat healthy and shiny, as well as supporting your dog’s immune system.
Plus, this healthy fish contains magnesium, potassium, zinc, vitamin A, B vitamins and vitamin D.
Always feed your dog properly cooked or baked salmon. Never feed your dog raw salmon, as it could make him fatally ill.
5. Baked Chicken
There may be only a few dogs who do not love a little chicken treat from time to time.
Properly baked with no added seasoning, chicken makes a tasty and healthy treat for your pup. However, baked chicken should be served in moderation and do not feed your dog any pieces containing skin or bones.
Chicken has 10 essential amino acids, which help keep your dog healthy. The protein in it helps form new skin cells, build muscle tissue and even new fur growth. Protein also provides energy and keeps the immune system strong.
Avoid serving raw chicken, as it may expose your pet to salmonella or other bacteria.
6. Sweet Potatoes
Many dogs absolutely love sweet potatoes as treats!
This root vegetable is a good source of dietary fiber, which supports a healthy digestive system. It is also full of many beneficial nutrients, such as vitamin A that is great for skin and vitamin C that promotes a healthy immune system.
Also, it contains vitamin B6, potassium, iron and manganese. It is also low in fat and being a low-glycemic index food, it is even beneficial for weight control.
You can make delicious dehydrated sweet potato chews at home for a natural, gluten-free and grain-free treat for your dog. Also, boiled and pureed sweet potatoes make a great treat.
7. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is another favorite of canines!
Peanut butter is a good source of protein, which is needed for healthy skin and fur. Also, it contains heart-healthy fats, and vitamins B and E. However, due to its high fat content, it should be used as an occasional indulgence for your pet rather than a daily treat.
There are many peanut butter-flavored treats on the market, but you must choose one carefully. Look for one that is all natural and has no added sugar, salt or harmful chemicals like xylitol.
Just like with humans, some dogs may have peanut allergies. If your dog appears to have a bad reaction to eating peanut butter at any time, scratch it off your treat list.
8. Dried Apricots
Dried apricots make for a sweet, healthy treat for your pet. It is perfect for a dog with a sweet tooth, but should be fed in moderation.
Dried apricots are rich in fiber as well as many vitamins and minerals that can boost your dog’s immunity and prevent many health issues. In particular, dried apricots are rich in potassium, which is needed for bone and muscle health; and beta-carotene, which can help fight against cancer and improve vision.
While dried apricots make a healthy treat, bear in mind that the apricot pit can be poisonous. Make sure any dried apricots that you give to your dog have been pitted.
9. VOHC-Approved Dental Chews
Buildup of plaque and tartar in your pet’s mouth can lead to painful, inflamed gums, and open the door to infection and periodontal disease. But the simple mechanical action of chewing can make a difference in your pet’s oral health.
If you want to give a treat to your dog that also offers teeth-cleaning action, try VOHC-approved dental chews.
The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) has approved several dental chews that improve oral health. These products are approved after various testing.
Only products that are beneficial at wiping away plaque and abrading tartar are given the VOHC seal of approval. You can check the list of their approved products, here.
10. Healthy Dog Biscuits
For some dogs, the crunch of chewing a biscuit is the best treat they can think of.
Dog biscuits have been around for centuries, and there are many varieties to choose from. Biscuits also come in different sizes, from big biscuit for a hearty crunch to smaller kibble-sized treats.
The best biscuit treats are made using all-natural ingredients like chicken, cheddar cheese, oatmeal, sweet potatoes or apples and are slow baked in the oven.
When looking for dog biscuits, always check the label thoroughly. Avoid any brand that has artificial flavorings or preservatives.
If you are good at cooking, you can bake biscuits at home to serve to your pet.
- Treats are meant to be enjoyed occasionally. They don’t have to be daily food for your pet.
- No more than 10 percent of your dog’s daily calories should come from treats, even the ones listed above.
- Your dog’s treats should be easy on their teeth as well as stomach. Avoid anything that’s hard and non-chewable.
- Steer clear of grapes, raisins, onions, chocolate and anything with caffeine. These items can be toxic to pets.
- Apple (without seeds), broccoli and green beans also make healthy treats for dogs.
- Just like people, dogs may not react well to certain foods. If your dog does not like a specific food, it’s probably best to avoid it.