Providing a dog with treats is a great way for pet parents to train and bond with their dogs. However, not all dog treats are created equally. Some treats can cause dogs to have various health problems. Therefore, it’s important for pet parents to know what to look for when purchasing dog treats.
Types of Dog Treats
It can be easy for pet parents to get overwhelmed while looking at all the types of dog treats available at pet stores. Many pet parents find themselves wondering, "What should dogs eat?" This guide to dog treats will help make shopping for treats a simple task for pet parents.
Soft treats are a great option for all dogs and come in a wide variety of sizes and flavors. These types of treats are also a good choice for dogs with dental sensitivity or missing teeth, such as senior dogs. Soft treats can also be used as a reward when pet parents are training their dogs.
If the treat is used for training, pet parents can break the treat into many smaller pieces. With smaller treats, the dog can get rewarded frequently without getting too many treats during one training session.
One downside of soft treats is they can stick to the dog’s teeth and cause plaque and tartar build-up. Pet parents should regularly brush their dog’s teeth themselves and periodically have them cleaned by a professional.
Hard and Crunchy Treats
Hard and crunchy treats also come in many sizes and flavors. These treats are not easy to break apart and use for training. They also take more time for the dog to eat and often crumble. Pet parents should allow their dog time to lick up the crumbles or be prepared to sweep them up.
Hard treats don’t stick to the dog’s teeth like soft treats do. These types of treats include:
Dental treats are usually long-lasting treats that take a lot of time and work for the dog to eat. They are some of the best dog treats because they are sturdy and help scrape away plaque from the dog’s teeth, which helps keep the dog’s teeth clean and healthy.
However, pet parents should still have their dog’s teeth checked annually because these treats can’t clean under the gum line. Also, dental treats are usually higher in fat and calories and should not be given too frequently.
Dehydrated and Freeze-Dried Treats
Jerky is the most common type of treat in this category and one of the healthiest treats pet parents can give their dogs. There are a plethora of jerkies available for dogs. When shopping for jerky treats, pet parents should look for brands made from a single ingredient, sourced from the U.S. and avoid jerkies with additives.
Jerky is commonly made out of meat. On the other hand, there are also many plant-based freeze-dried and dehydrated treats available.
Most vets recommend that pet parents avoid giving their dogs “human food” because many foods contain ingredients dogs can’t handle. The following foods are safe for dogs to eat:
- Unseasoned lean meat
- Unseasoned cooked sweet potatoes
- Green beans
Before a pet parent serves their dog human food, they should check and verify none of the ingredients are toxic to their dog. It is also important for pet parents to consult a vet or dog nutritionist if they want to make or buy homemade dog treats.
Treats to Avoid
When shopping for dog treats, pet parents need to make sure they are buying high-quality treats. A high-quality treat doesn’t equal the most expensive brand on the market, though. The only way for pet parents to know if a treat is high-quality is by reading the ingredient label and researching the company. Pet parents should only buy from reputable sources.
Ingredients to avoid:
- Artificial preservatives
- Dyes and color additives
- Artificial sweeteners
- Long ingredient list
Some of the most popular treats on the market include a variety of animal parts that should not be given to dogs, including:
- Bones, hooves, and antlers: These can damage the dog’s teeth, block their gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and are a choking hazard. Cooked bones can splinter easily and cause excessive damage to various areas of the dog’s GI tract.
- Pig ears: Pig ears are chemically processed and usually have artificial dyes and preservatives. They are also high in fat and can cause obesity.
- Rawhides: They are hard to digest and can cause blockages in the digestive tract.
Treats should always be given in moderation and should not replace the dog’s normal diet. Pet parents will need to read labels to make sure they’re purchasing a high-quality treat. Finally, to keep things interesting for the dog, pet parents can use a variety of treats.