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Choosing the right treats for your dog

Golden retriever receiving a heart shaped snack.

I love to treat my dogs with special cookies and dental treats.

Most pet parents think half the fun is spoiling their pups – and they’re not wrong.

But you need to know that you’re choosing the best treats for your dog.

And you want to be sure that you’re not overfeeding your dog with all those treats.

Overweight dog symptoms

overweight Pug sitting on dirt path

Obesity isn’t just unhealthy for humans.

It may actually be more dangerous for dogs – particularly for a small dog.

Some symptoms of obesity in dogs are weight gain, no visible waistline and not being able to see or feel your dog’s rib cage.

Even for a larger dog, just one or two extra pounds can mean joint and back pain and a lack of mobility.

We don’t want our furry babies to be in pain!!

So, we need to choose the right treats and know how many is too many.

But with all the options, different breeds, and conflicting advice – how do we find out what is best for our dog?

First, the easiest thing to do is talk with your vet.

Your veterinarian knows your dog’s health better than anyone else.

Jack Russell Terrier at Vet looking shocked

They may recommend an overweight dog only receive low-calorie treats.

Or they may recommend a particular brand that they’ve had success with for a dog with arthritis.

And for dogs with sensitivities, your vet may recommend home-baked treats so that you can control the ingredients.

Your vet will also be able to tell you how many calories your dog may have from treats before you’re overfeeding.

If you’re months away from a vet visit, here are some other tips for picking the best treats.

Read the ingredients in dog treats

Woman on blue background with magnifying glass reading ingredient on a can with a look of shock

You’re first looking to verify that the treat doesn’t contain anything you know is harmful to your dog.

Sensitive to corn?  You don’t want corn, corn gluten meal, or anything remotely sounding like corn in your dog’s food or treats.

The same advice goes for dogs with potato or other allergies.

Check the ingredients.

Xylitol in dog treats

Open jar of peanut butter on wooden table with slices of bread, open peanut shells, and a spoon full of peanut butter.

If the ingredients list peanut butter, check to be sure they do NOT include Xylitol.

Xylitol is toxic to dogs in even small amounts.

After you’re sure a treat is safe for your dog, see if there are things you like about it.

If you’re worried about additives, check to see if it is low in additives or even no additives.

And frankly, the fewer the additives, the healthier the treat.

You want at least part of your dog’s diet to contain fruits and vegetables.

If there aren’t many in your dog’s regular food, the treat is the perfect place to fill the gap.

Just don’t go too far – dogs are carnivores and MUST eat a diet high in meat to be healthy.

Sorry – your dog cannot go vegetarian.

Where are your dog treats from?

Hand holding a small globe with a blurred dog in the background.

I’m not interested in trade wars, but some countries do not regulate pet foods properly.

Without proper regulation, you have dogs get sick from their food.

Just a few years ago, there was a HUGE recall of dog food from China.

It was so bad that a lot of dogs died.

When I started my research for this post, I realized that I really LOVE Petco & PetSmart.

Both stores have removed all food products that come from China due to sick dogs.

I can’t find a date for PetSmart, but Petco did their purge in 2015.

I don’t know if other stores have the done the same thing.

But I’d ask before buying a brand I didn’t know well in another store.

How many treats should I feed my dog?

Black, brown and white dog receiving a treat from a human hand

Once you have treats you know are safe and healthy for your dog, you need to know how much they may have.

This is where I’d put in a call to the vet even if you’re not ready for a visit.

You want to know how many calories your dog should eat per day to maintain a healthy weight.

And then you figure it out by the numbers.

You can check online for breed recommendations.

I found a Canine Calorie Counter on a site called PetSci.

For my 16-pound Lorelei, with typical activity, they recommend no more than 558 calories per day.

I know that we’ve changed her food portions to allow room for treats, so her diet has 500 calories per day on average.

We have treats that are 25 calories each, and we let the Pups have them twice a day.

That gives them two treats, healthy meals, and the right calories for their activity level.

Their vet is very happy with their weight, and both dogs are healthy and energetic.

So, if you’re someone who loves to treat, I’d start by using the calculator to figure out how many calories pup should get per day.

Then figure out how many calories they’re getting from food and treats each day.

If they’re over, they get fewer treats, or you cut back their food a bit – but not too much because treats are like candy.

If they’re under, then you get to increase their food and treats a bit.

And if you’re looking for all-natural treats that you can make for your dogs at home, be sure to check out our Recipes section!

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