We look into those large puppy dog eyes or hear the soft hum of a purring cat, and we just can’t resist giving them a treat. Have you ever wondered how many treats you actually give your pet a day? Do you give too many or not enough? How many should you give? What type of treat should they have? All of these are very good questions.
Most of us equate treats as a necessary tool to achieve a certain behavior (sit, stay, be quiet). Most trainers agree treats are great as a tool, but are often overused. They can contribute to obesity, and may have unwanted side effects such as constant begging.
There are many other reasons for giving your fur baby a treat. We have busy lives, and many of us are gone most of the day. When we are home there is always a long list of things to do: kids, laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc. I am sure most of us can agree an active pet with nothing to do will find something to do. My lab, Callie, is an excellent example of the old adage, “idle minds are the devil’s playground”. When I adopted Callie from the Houston SPCA, she was 1 ½ and full of energy. I couldn’t leave anything in her kennel I didn’t want destroyed. If I didn’t pay attention to her when she wasn’t in the kennel I would see shoes with love marks (a chunk missing) and carpets with holes on the edges. I realized I needed to keep her occupied with a chew, or I would see chew marks elsewhere.
We love our pets, and it is an important bond to nurture. Bonding with your pet is one of the primary reasons to treat. I set aside time each evening to give my pets attention. It may be rubbing their belly or heads while I am watching TV or simply watching our cocker spaniel referee a wrestling match between our labs in the living room. Other treats can encourage good health, a good digestive tract or help strengthen joints.
How much and what you give as a treat is important. Over treating can contribute to obesity, make organs work overtime to process them and contribute to future issues such as joint pain and diabetes. Health issues impact quality of life and often quantity of it (life span). It is important to include the number of calories in treats you give as part of the daily calories.
What is the best treat for my pet?
There is no one size fits all for all pets. However, certain types of treats are better depending on what you are trying to achieve. My first rule of thumb is the less processed the better because pets do not need sugar. Over processed diets contribute to human obesity and thus, it is not surprising it is the same for our pets.
Training Treats – If you are trying to train your pet to sit, stay or give paw you should look for a high value, small treat. High value means it is something that smells really good to them, like our organic liver treats or tiny buddy biscuits. You want it to be small so they won’t lose focus on what they are doing when they eat the treat.
In addition to daily physical activity, your pet needs something to focus on or challenge them. Not only does it reduce boredom, but it will also curb destructive behavior. We do not recommend raw hide because many pets have food sensitivities plus it will swell when it comes in contact with moisture (saliva, gastric liquid in their stomach). This can cause blockages which, if severe enough, may require surgery. We suggest raw meaty bones, natural chews like bully sticks, chicken chews, sweet potato chews and antlerz (cut up pieces of naturally shed deer antlers). A dog’s digestion is different from ours. What they eat will digest primarily in their stomach and not in their intestinal tract like humans. This is why they can eat raw meat or bones and not get sick. It is important to note any pet supplier of raw bones or diets must meet a zero tolerance for bacteria. The tolerance for protein purchased at a grocery store is much higher since the expectation is it will be cooked prior to being eaten.
Treats for your HEALTH
If you like to give your pet treats, why not offer them baby carrots or broccoli. Only a handful of fruits and vegetables are not good for your pet (avoid onions or anything with a pit). Many treats are helpful to joints, full of added vitamins or good for urinary support.
Rules when selecting your pet’s treats
1) Read the ingredient panel. My favorites are those with a single or just a few ingredients. If there are more than 10 ingredients, it is most likely too processed. Also look for whole grains, protein, fruits and vegetables. Typically there are less food sensitivities and allergies with more natural treats.
2) Reputable manufacturer. Bones bought from a large pet store can be dangerous because they may be overcooked which can lead to splintering. Did you know there is a growing number of treats originating from China, India and other countries? In addition, avoid treats with sugar and preservatives such as bha or bht that have a possible link to cancer.
3) If your pet has food allergies be very careful with treats. Often pet owners search for a particular food due to allergies but then negate any benefits by giving treats containing ingredients such as corn, soy or wheat which are top allergens for many pets.
Everyone and pets enjoy a treat from time to time. Just make sure to use in moderation and pay attention to what you give them.
Nadine Joli-Coeur is the owner of Natural Pawz and a featured monthly columnist for pet nutrition.
About Natural Pawz:
With 7 stores in the greater-Houston area, Natural Pawz continues to set the standard in the market for 100%-natural pet food, treats and holistic health solutions supplies, all of which are sourced from the USA and Canada. The Natural Pawz team can help navigate you through choosing the healthiest food for your companion cats and dogs, while showing you how easy and affordable it is to provide the proper nutrition to your beloved animal. Natural Pawz is not like traditional boutiques or national retailers. We are a locally owned natural pet food store that also carries a wide variety of wellness products, collars and leads, bedding and special rewards for your cat and dog. Each location is managed and staffed by a team of customer-friendly knowledgeable associates that are involved in the community and truly get to know you and your animal. Natural Pawz has been voted Best Pet Supply Store in Houston in Click2Houston’s Best of Houston for two consecutive years and was voted as “Best Pet Services, Supplies or Boutique” by the Houston Press, Fort Bend Herald, Woodlands Online and, most recently, named “Best Pet Product Company” in H-Texas Magazine’s Best of the Best list.