A dog treat should be just that – something special which you give as a reward. Healthy treats for dogs come in all shapes, sizes, and flavours but not all are nutritionally equal, with some snacks being better than others.
Modern training techniques depend largely on reward-based learning, and so treats are part of everyday life for most dogs. This makes it’s even more important that you chose healthy treats so you don’t accidentally load up the dog with preservatives, colouring, artificial flavourings, or low quality soya.
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF A TREAT IS HEALTHY?
You biggest tool for finding the best healthy dog treats is to read the packaging. If you want a meaty treat, make sure meat heads the list of ingredients. For example, if you look at a chicken-flavored snack but chicken is way down at the bottom, then give it a miss.
Next, look for the calorie count of each treat. Manufacturers of healthy treats want you to know just how good their product is, and most are happy to advertise the calories per treat. This is important because it’s easy to overlook that that those calories add up over the course of a day, so even if the treat is healthy if you give too many it becomes unhealthy.
Another sign of quality is if a governing body such as the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) or VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) approves the treat –the latter is especially important if the makes specific claims about aiding dental healthy.
That said let’s now take a look at some of the best healthy dog treats available.
#1 FRESH FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
Just like us, dogs need the vitamins and fiber contained in fresh fruit and veg. Most dogs love crunching down on baby carrots or chewing through green beans. There are no holds barred when it comes to vegetables, and any fruit is fine with the EXCEPTION of grapes, raisins or sultanas which are toxic to dogs.
#2 FRUIT BASED TREATS
If you like the idea of fresh fruit treats but it’s not convenient to carry chopped up apple in your treat-bag, there are some excellent fruit treats available.
Crunchy rewards such as Healthy Dogma Apple Crisps or Banana Chips consist of freeze-dried fruit so each chip retains the goodness of the original apple or banana, but without the addition of chemicals or preservatives.
For a more crunchy-chewy texture but is still high in natural antioxidants and fiber, then the Fruitable range fit the bill. These come in a range of flavors such as Pumpkin & Apple, or Sweet Potato & Pecan and are suitable for keeping in a training pouch.
#3 MEAT BASED TREATS
For chicken treats, make sure chicken heads the ingredients such as in Zuke’s Mini Naturals. Another high meat content option is beef jerky. Rocco & Roxy Jerky Treats come with the added bonus that the slow, smoking process of manufacture means the treats have a lovely smoky flavour, but without being stinky on your hands.
Jerky also has the advantage of being low calorie and high protein. But a word of warning: be on the alert for cheaper imitations which bulk up their products using fillers such as wheat, corn, or soy. These fillers are more difficult for dogs to digest, which could end in excessive flatulence or even a tummy upset.
#4 BISCUIT TREATS
For some dogs there’s nothing quite like the satisfying crunch of chewing a biscuit. Dog biscuits have been around for centuries, but just because dog biscuits were one of the first commercial dog treats to be made, doesn’t mean they should be overlooked.
The best biscuit treats are made using all natural ingredients such as chicken, cheddar, oatmeal, cheese, sweet potato, apples and are slow baked in the oven, just like Old Mother Hubbard Classic Dog Treats. Again, check the ingredients and be alert for artificial flavorings or preservatives.
Biscuits have the convenience of coming in different sizes, from a big biscuit for a hearty crunch to smaller kibble sized treat so you can choose what best suits your dog. These treats are generally dry and non-greasy and so they won’t make a mess of a training pouch.
#5 VOHC APPROVED DENTAL CHEWS
The Veterinary Oral Health Council takes seriously the claims made by the manufactures of some treats about improving oral health. Indeed, to stop the consumer being misled and to help them find the best healthy dog treat for teeth, they subject many products to rigorous testing.
Only those products proven to have a beneficial effect at wiping away plaque and abrading tartar are given the VOHC seal of approval.
If you specifically want to give a treat that also has a teeth cleaning action, then look for VOHC approved products such as Greenies. (But just like any treat, make sure you get the correct size for your dog, to avoid it being a choking hazard.)
#6 CHEW TREATS
There are times when you need your dog to be quietly occupied while you do other things. A long lasting chew treat is ideal in this situation, but it doesn’t mean you have to compromise on their health.
Bully Sticks are popular options because they are made form 100% beef tendon. The best and healthiest bully sticks are made from US or Brazilian beef that is grass-raised and free from the use of antibiotics or growth promoters. Being high in protein, each bully stick has nutrition value and just be aware of this so you don’t accidentally give too many calories.
If you consider bully sticks a little too abrasive for your dog’s teeth then there are healthy, softer alternatives such as Kong Ziggies.
#7 LOW CALORIE
Last but not least are low calorie healthy treats for dogs. Oven-baked treats such as Coachies have all the benefits of a product free from artificial colours, flavorings, or sugars, but at only one calorie each they are great for reward-based training – without adding to your pet’s waistline.