These days, it’s not just people who overindulge in eating, it’s our pets, too. Recent research noted that more than half of our dogs and cats are overweight or obese. In fact, according to the vets who assessed our pets in this study, 57.6% of our cats are overweight or obese, 52.6% of dogs are overweight or obese.
While vets can look at our pets with an objective eye, we often don’t realize it when our pets start to put on a few extra pounds! We’re guilty of sharing our own snacks and giving out one too many milk bone dog treats to our own dogs, so today we’re looking for a few healthy alternatives that can help our canine cuties maintain a healthy weight (or even shed a few pounds).
Finding the right healthy dog treat for your dog depends on the size of the dog, his likes and dislikes, and the point of the treat. Are you feeding your dog left overs because it’s convenient? Are you sharing your snack because those sad puppy eyes make you feel guilty? Or are you trying to teach your dog a trick? Figuring out your feeding habits and motivations can go a long way in ensuring your dog’s eating habits are healthy.
While feeding a dog table scraps is never a great idea, giving them SOME of what you have left over can be quite healthy. For example, carrots are crunchy treats that can have your dog chomping away for quite some time. And it’s good for their teeth. The carrots go right through their systems, so you can give them several carrots without worry. I also like celery sticks with peanut butter, which is also a great snack to share with Fido.
* Not all fruits and vegetables are safe for pets, so be sure to research anything you plan on giving your dog to be sure it’s safe for canine consumption. For example, while apples are a great choice, be sure to remove any seeds since the seeds can be quite harmful.
We often give our dogs treats just because we feel like it, because we love them, because they’re good dogs. The problem with a large number of affordable dog treats is that they are made with unhealthy ingredients, not to mention they often have the potentially dangerous Bisphenol A (BPA) used in packaging. Fortunately, there are a number of manufacturers who are making all-natural or organic treats. The down side is that most of these are not sold in local supermarkets, and they’re often quite a bit pricier. There are many retail stores, pet centers, and online shops that offer really good options.
Treats for Training
Anyone who has every tried to train a puppy to sit or tried to teach an old dog a new trick knows that it helps to have a pocket of treats to use as rewards for desired behavior. It can get tricky to not overfeed while during training sessions. We’ve used cheerios or even pieces of their own dog food for training. There’s something about getting it from your hand after a desired action that makes a dog’s tail wag – regardless of what the ‘treat’ actually is. Cheerios (the plain, oatmeal ones) are a good training treat in a pinch because they’re tiny and they’re affordable. We also loving turning to Chewy for a great selection of dog training treats that offer a way to reward your pet without expanding your pup’s waistline.
Make Your Own
There are a LOT of recipes online for homemade dog treats. In fact, we purchased Rover’s Recipes almost 5 years ago and included two of our favorite recipes in a review we did. You can snag the recipes for apple cinnamon doggie biscuits and tempting training treats here.
You can also get creative in the delivery of treats. Instead of just handing it over, give your dog a Kong toy with a few treats inside. They’re really engaging, so it’s also a great way to give your dog something to do when you need to give them something to do.
Using healthier alternatives like vegetables, natural or organic treats, and being inventive with treats and rewards can help your dog maintain a healthy weight or even lose weight and become healthier. Finding the right healthy treat for your dog just takes a little research and experimentation.
If you’re not sure if your dog is overweight or not, use this pet weight check tool from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.