Dog Treats…Just How Many is Too Many?

White Lab Balancing a Treat On His Nose

Of course you love to treat your dog. Those smiling eyes, the wiggly butt dance, just begging for a crunchy snack—how do you say no?! Unfortunately for Fido, and for us humans!, too much snacking can lead to a few extra pounds around the mid­section. The question is, how many is too many dog treats?

All Dog Treats are Not Created Equal

Some dog treats are high in calories, some lower, some have natural ingredients and some not so much. For this reason measure treats on the percentage of caloric intake, not purely by number of treats. As a general rule of thumb, dog treats should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s total calorie intake. Use common sense, 10% of a greyhound’s diet is definitely not the same as a Chihuahua’s. You can calculate your dog’s calorie intake by using PawedIn’s Ultimate Dog Calories Calculator

Know What is in That Dog Treat

There is nothing more rewarding than a sweet treat. But let’s face it, most things we consider to be a treat are really not on the healthy side of the food pyramid. Just like your doctor, veterinarians would like to see you reaching for a healthier treat to pamper your furry friend.

dog treat aisle

Dog Treat Packaging and Ingredients

So, how do we judge a treat by its cover—er, uh, packaging? Always look at the ingredients. Be a smart shopper. If you can’t pronounce more than a few ingredients, or if have never heard of them before, don’t buy the bag!

Fillers

Another thing to be on the lookout for is fillers. Filler ingredients like wheat, corn, or soy have no real nutritional value and are just there to make your dog feel full. Stay away from any treat that has more than 35-40% of these filler ingredients or one that adds in salt, sugar or artificial flavors as these could cause ill effects to your dog. Common ill effects to dogs caused by harmful ingredients include; itchy skin and ears caused by an allergic reaction to the ingredient, vomiting, constipation, stomach upset and diarrhea.

Caru Beef Recipe Bites

Looking for a new go­to snack? Try a well-balanced treat like CARU Beef Recipe Bites for Dogs. CARU is well-known for providing products with meat as the #1 ingredient, no filler ingredients and a variety of well-balanced ingredients. The perfect store bought treat option for dog owners who care about their dog’s health and wellbeing.

caru beef recipe bites

All-Natural Snacks

Perhaps “ah-­natural” is more your style. You’d be surprised how many sweet—and dog approved—snacks you have lying around the house. Bits of apple, sweet potatoes, carrots or even green beans are all good options. Natural treats are great to give your dog because they are right in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, plus they promote healthy digestion by fiberizing the colon. Give it a try and see which treat tickles your dog’s taste buds.

golden retriever with a carrot  in his mouth

When to Treat

Only treat your dog for good behavior. Treating is a great way to form a special bond between you and your dog; it can also be a wonderful motivator in training scenarios, and for rewarding good behavior in general.

The famous Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, does an excellent job in guiding dog owners in how to give their dog treats through positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is the act of rewarding your dog for doing what you ask or expect of him.

Why Do Treats Work?

One of the main reasons treats work so well in training is because a dog’s sense of smell is so incredible. A dog’s nose can smell from over 20 yards away and if something smells good, your dog will do just about anything to get that tasty treat. After about 10 or 12 times, your dog will soon learn to associate a treat with good behavior and will continue to demonstrate this good behavior in hopes of receiving another tasty reward.

Though treats are great for training, treating your dog too much can have ill effects.

The Effects of Too Many Treats

  1. Counter­productive Training. Over-rewarding can actually lead to your pooch no longer responding to training—he’s figured out he can do just about anything and get fed.
  2. Obesity. Not surprising, too many treats can lead to long-term health problems such as obesity.  Obesity is a disease of poor nutrition, causing the body to accumulate excessive amounts of fat. Obesity is defined as a disease because of what this excess fat does to the body. More weight means more for the dog to carry, leading to arthritis and joint pain early on in life. An obese dog will have difficulties breathing, causing a number of health problems to his heart and lungs. Due to the severity and number of health problems associated with obesity, overweight dogs tend to live a much shorter life.
  3.  Dental Decay. Dog treats that are soft and chewy in texture tend to cause the layers of the teeth rot away, also known as dental decay. When a dog chews, bits of the treat become lodged in his teeth. Saliva binds with the leftover treat and causes it to harden to the dog’s tooth. Healthy bacteria found within the dog’s mouth begin eating away at the calcified particles (hardened treat) on the dog’s tooth and in the process, eat away at the tooth.

Be Careful

Even the most natural of treats can be bad for you dog if not given appropriately. As humans, we can eat every part of an apple because our bodies naturally filter out the bad parts, but your dog cannot. Make sure to remove all seeds and stems before giving your dog this healthy treat. Even the healthiest of treats can be bad for your dog if he is given too many. Allowing your dog to have too many healthy treats can also cause them to develop diarrhea and gain weight.

Always Ask a Vet

Don’t fret, call up a vet! If you ever have any questions about your dog’s nutrition, remember your veterinarian is here to help. A veterinarian is not only a doctor to your pet, but also a dentist, surgeon, trainer and nutritionist. He or she has spent 8, 9, even 10+ years learning everything they need to know about proper pet care So if you ever get lost in the what, when, and why of dog treats, remember your veterinarian is just a phone call away.


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