Written by FOTP Team
We all love snacks, and that includes our furry friends. Technically, if your dog is eating a balanced and healthy diet that meets their nutritional and calorie requirements they shouldn't really need to snack at all (but the same can be said for humans too!). Nonetheless, we all find ourselves throwing them a treat from time to time, afterall, they went to all that trouble to develop those adorable, soleful eyes so it’s hardly our fault if we can’t resist the odd beg!
There are plenty of legitimate reasons to offer the odd snack:
So, whatever the reason for their treat, it’s important for dog owners to know which snacks are healthy for dogs and which should be avoided. And in this article, we’ll cover just that.
Obesity is an issue in dogs of all ages, but particularly senior dogs. This is a problem in itself as it means the dog is unhealthy and possibly not eating well or getting enough exercise. But when a dog is overweight it can also lead to further conditions including osteoarthritis, cancer, and heart disease.
Since many commercial dog treats and snacks are packed with filler, sugars, fats, and other questionable ingredients that can contribute to weight gain and ill health it’s no surprise that 56% of dogs in the USA are considered overweight or obese.
However, any food when fed in excess can contribute to weight gain, which is why understanding the snacks and treats that will be healthier for your dog when fed in moderation is key.
Even if you’re convinced you can keep your dog at a healthy weight, too many treats can lead to problems like behavioral challenges. If you’re using treats for training, they could lose their effectiveness when offered too freely. If your dog gets too used to snacks on tap, they might learn to expect them and then take matters into their own paws when they don’t get their own way. This could be anything from poor manners like begging when humans are eating, becoming fixated on any children in the house who are likely to leave crumbs or counter surfing and bin raiding.
It can be much harder to correct behavioral issues than it can to exercise off some excess weight (especially in younger dogs). So remember to resist those puppy dog eyes, your dog has no concept of their future health so it’s up to you to think of it for them.
Like humans, it’s important that dogs don’t regularly surpass their recommended amount of daily calories. Snacks should never make up more than 10% of your dog’s calories per day – known as the 90/10 rule. And since it’s not easy to measure exactly what 10% might be, it’s best to err on the side of caution and only feed treats sparingly.
To treat your dog with snacks throughout the day without going over their recommended calorie intake, you could save back 10% of their regular food to use as a snack. Dried food can be fed like other treats, while raw or fresh food can be frozen like ice cubes.
As a way of preventing weight gain and helping your dog to eat their meals and snacks more slowly, many owners use puzzle mats and toys, where food is hidden and slowly released for the dog to seek out. This also provides mental stimulation as they play to find their food.
Whatever you choose to feed your dog, whether it’s raw food, human food, or treats specially made for dogs, you should always check that it’s not high in salt, sugar, fat, or any foods that are toxic to dogs like alliums, xylitol, grapes and raisins, or chocolate.
Whether you’re feeding your dog snacks as a treat or for training purposes, these are some healthier options:
Picking treats that are rich in nutrients that your dog needs to remain healthy, like protein, adds extra benefits to their snacks:
For a safe, low-fat treat made from pure animal protein, try Front of the Pack’s freeze-dried treats. They come in three deliciously meaty flavors and contain nothing but pure animal protein. Freeze drying locks in all the nutrients from the meat without sacrificing the taste, so your dog will love them, and you won’t have to worry about their health.
If you opt for store-bought dog treats, always ensure that they are approved by board-certified vets or veterinary nutritionists. They should be rich in fruit, vegetables, and animal proteins and contain no fillers or additives that can be detrimental to your dog’s health.
There are a number of fruits that you’re likely to have in the house that are healthy when fed to dogs in small quantities that don’t exceed the 90/10 rule:
If you’ve got some veggies leftover from your food prep, don’t throw them out. These vegetables are safe for dogs to eat, as long as they’re unseasoned:
As you can see, there are a lot of human foods that are safe and healthy snacks for dogs too. But there are also plenty of human foods that can be dangerous when ingested by dogs despite being healthy for us.
They include (but are not limited to):
If you’re ever unsure about what your dog can and can’t eat, never take the chance. Check online or ask your vet.
And remember, the snacks listed here are only recommended as small additions to a healthy and balanced diet that’s rich in protein. If your dog is overweight, speak to your vet about a weight and calorie management plan and avoid feeding them any snacks outside of meal times.