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Choosing the right dog treats

Monday April 27th, 2009

Treats are a great way to show your dog a little extra love. These special yummies can be anything from homemade biscuits to a package from a doggy bakery, or even just a morsel of steak from your own plate. With all these options, how can you choose the right treat for your dog?

Advantages of treats

All dogs deserve an occasional treat. Treats can be a good thing. Some are designed to enhance canine dental health. A favorite food can also provide great motivation for your dog during training or when you want to simply encourage good behavior.

When you're doling out these little gifts, you feel good about rewarding him and he feels good about pleasing you. This goes a long way toward strengthening the bond between you and your dog.

When good treats go bad

Many of the treats dogs love the most are high in fats or sugars. These can be a hidden cause of weight gain as it is easy to lose track of the amount of treats you hand out over the course of a day. Nearly half of all pets in the United States are overweight which puts them at higher risk for a number of health problems.

Depending on his level of activity, a 20-pound dog may burn only 700 calories a day. If one large dog biscuit contains 100 calories, just 2 or 3 of these added to his regular daily diet can push him into overindulgence. If your dog is overweight, save treats for very special occasions only or choose low-cal treats.

The downside of table scraps

It's hard to resist those pleading brown eyes under the table but if you give in, you may create a monster who begs constantly, even when your boss is visiting. Table scraps tend to be high in fat and sugar and can upset your dog's digestion as well as ruin his appetite for the nutritionally balanced food he should be eating.

Table scraps also contribute to obesity. It may be best to keep your dog out of the dining room when the family is eating.

Finding the right treats

You don't want to deprive your dog but how do you choose the proper treats for him?

  • Choose treats formulated especially for dogs. These are designed to please his palate without upsetting his tummy.
  • Offer treats that have added nutrients or dental benefits.
  • Try giving your dog fresh veggies such as carrots, green beans or broccoli. These are low in calories and high in fiber. However, some table foods can be harmful or toxic to dogs. Never feed your dog onions, chocolate, grapes, or raisins. Ask your veterinarian about other foods before offering them to your dog.
  • Keep track of calories in the treats and subtract these from your dog's total daily diet to prevent overindulgence.
  • Make sure your dog eats his nutritionally balanced food before filling up on treats.
  • Try to keep treats to under 10 percent of his diet.

With the vast array of dog treats available, do your best to make wise choices. Check ingredients and fat content. Ask your veterinarian about the right kind of treats for your pet. If your dog is healthy and eating a balanced diet, an occasional healthful treat will enrich his life.

Source: Adapted from the American Animal Hospital Association

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