One thing I have learned in life is that some pets eat any treats, some are picky, and some believe that variety is the spice of life. I always tell customers that I don’t like people to waste money. We carefully select treats that are not only healthy for your pet, but they also have a purpose in mind. Some treats keep them occupied (aka babysitters), others help them go to bed at night, and most importantly treats that creatively get them to do what you want them to do (sit/stay/not bark).
If you want to know what the best types of treats are for your pet, here are a few questions that can lead us in the right direction.
- How old is your pet?
- How would you describe the size of your pet?
- Extra Fun-sized
- Does your pet have any issues (select all that apply)
- Sensitive stomach
- Loose stool
- Joint issues
- Dental (plaque)
- Other ______
- What best describes your pet?
- Fluffy – could lose a couple of pounds
- Skinny – needs to put on a few pounds
- Looks okay to you.
Now let’s see what the optimal treats are for your pet.
If you have a new puppy, treats are an important part of their life. Treats should be easy to digest and not to hard for their puppy teeth. Different treats can be used depending on what you behavior you want. For example, if you are training you want a treat that is small and smelly, so that they smell it easily and eat it quickly. Biscuit-like treats are good for potty training or going to kennel at night. For adult dogs, you need to be mindful that a treats have calories, so the more you give, the less calories/treat you want. For senior pets, it is good to look for treats that have ingredients such as turmeric, chondroitin, glucosamine, coconut, salmon, any fish (they can be smelly but are so good to give omega fatty acids they need), and pumpkin. As our pets age, their bodies do not work as efficiently, so it is really important to give them good nutritious treats that are not filled with fillers.
When it comes to the size of your pet, a small treat is fine for a large dog. However, a large treat may be too big for a little dog. A good guide for any chews or dental treat is to make sure your pet cannot easily swallow it hole. Your dog’s strongest teeth are his back molars, so select bones that are larger for big dogs. It is always a good idea that chews are given for recreational chewing while you are home. This way if they try to eat it to fast you can remove it from them. If you are looking for your treat to last a little longer, you may consider using a Kong® or, with dental chews, we suggest you freeze them so as to slow your pet down from devouring them.
All of us, most likely, have issues or sensitivities; there are ingredients we like, ingredients we don’t like, and some ingredients that we should avoid. If you have a pet that experiences allergies in the fall and the spring, you should look to modify their diet to help minimize food sensitivities on top of their seasonal allergies. We recommend staying away from grains, chicken, and anything that has natural sugars (sweet potato chews, fruits) that might make any yeast from allergies worse. If your pet has a sensitive stomach, I like treats with pumpkin, probiotics, and limited ingredients. You may also want to try adding a prebiotic supplement to their diet to help build up their intestinal tract. For pets that have either have joint issues or are prone to joint issues (Dachshunds, large breeds), look to add treats containing turmeric, glucosamine, salmon, fish, and coconut (sound familiar? This is similar to what recommended for senior pets). If you have a pet that gets anxious when you leave for work, there are two things that I like to try – give them something they really enjoy that will keep them occupied for more than a couple of minutes. Try freezing a Kong® stuffed with peanut butter, yogurt, bananas, or treats. You could also try a natural jerky or bully stick. Another thing you can try is giving treats calming chews or a spritz that have natural calming ingredients, such as lavender or chamomile. If your pet has other medical issues, it is good to check with your vet. My rule of thumb is less processed is better. Look for treats that use protein, fruit, or veggies and stay away from rawhide, treats that have unnatural colors (food dye is terrible), processed sugars, and processed grains.
We all love our pets and often we want to demonstrate our love by giving them treats. Treats are great but when your pet starts to look a little fluffy you need to cut back the calories. Pet obesity is one of the leading causes to health issues and not only does it stress their joints, it can affect their heart. If you cannot easily feel your pet’s ribs, you probably need to cut back on their food or their treats. On the reverse, if their ribs are visible apparent they may be too skinny.