How Many Treats is Too Many?

By John Carter

One of the most frequently asked questions about dogs is how much is a healthy amount of food to feed. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. Much depends on breed, size, age, living conditions and amount of exercise a dog gets each day.

Since we know that obesity can lead to serious health disorders, dog owners need to understand that there is a fine line between feeding an adequate amount of food and treats and over feeding or under feeding your pet. When it comes to dog food, you can use the directions on the bag or can as a guideline. However, it is very important to note that these amounts are guidelines only! You may have to adjust the amounts you feed until you find the right “recipe” for keeping your dog’s weight under control.

When it comes to feeding treats, the sky is not the limit! It is easy to fall into the scenario that you are showing your dog that you love him by feeding him all the treats he can eat. What you are really doing is shortening your dog’s life span. You have to find a happy balance between what your dog wants and what you know your dog should have.

Doctors Foster and Smith who run the website say the golden rule is to limit the amount of treats to no more than 10 percent of a puppy’s caloric intake. As a dog ages, this amount may need to be reduced because the adult dog’s metabolism can be slower than that of puppies. Pet owners should never feed so many treats that their dog turns up his or her nose at their meal.

An important part of the answer to how many treats a dog should get on a daily basis depends on the types of snacks you choose to feed. There is such a large variety of treats available today that reading the labels on all of the packages is a bit like trying to read a novel while you’re at the grocery or pet store.

First, beware of the doggie snacks that are manufactured to attract the pet owners. Your dog doesn’t care if his snack looks like a hamburger or that it is shaped like a t-bone steak. Purchase dog treats for their nutritional value, not their appearance.

When shopping for treats for your dog, keep in mind that the word “natural” does not necessarily mean that there are no preservatives and dangerous chemicals. “Natural” is a popular buzz word meant to attract shoppers. Unfortunately, there are no government guidelines on how these words can be used in marketing dog food. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients (with the exception of buying treats in a foreign country), chances are pretty good that the food is far from natural. Don’t buy it! Look for a healthier alternative.

It is also important to keep in mind that dogs are carnivores by nature. Feeding a lot of grain-laden treats may not be beneficial to your dog’s well being. One option to buying some of the unhealthy supermarket treats is to take beef or chicken livers from organic, range-fed animals and boil them until they are thoroughly cooked. Set them aside to cool and dry. Package in small freezer bags and thaw one package at a time. This type of snack must be refrigerated, but it is worth the effort knowing that your dog is eating a healthy alternative to chemical-laden treats.

You can also freeze-dry chemical-free meats for your dog. Just leave out the spices, flavorings and marinades.

There are many wholesome dog treat recipes on the Internet. Discuss your dog’s needs with his or her veterinarian so that you can choose the recipes that best suit your pet’s needs.

If your schedule doesn’t allow time for preparing Fido’s treats, at least choose grocery or pet store varieties that have protein or a meat product as the primary ingredient. Some companies make dehydrated chicken or turkey treats and freeze-dried snacks.

Introduce your puppy to wholesome snacks such as fresh vegetables and fruits, so that he or she comes to think of them as treats. For example, Fido can easily learn to munch on raw carrots if he never receives processed snacks manufactured to attract the owner.

If you do choose to use fruits and vegetables as snacks, talk to the dog’s veterinarian to make sure you are not about to feed something that is hazardous to Fido’s health. Onions are one example of a vegetable that dogs should not eat.

Don’t overlook hard chew treats and biscuits that are designed specifically for dogs. These types of treats do double duty in that they entertain the dog and improve dental health by exercising the gums and helping to rid plaque build up. This is especially important for puppies that still experience the need to chew.

It really is best to avoid feeding table scraps as treats, but it can be a hard thing for a dog owner to do. If you simply cannot stop yourself from sharing your food, make sure it is a small amount (a bite or two) and feed the things that are not full of fat and grease. A bite of your broccoli is a lot healthier than the cooked fat from your grilled steak. However, you can feed a bite of lean meat.

In addition to the fact that table scraps can quickly lead to a dog becoming obese, they can create a monster. Some dogs will refuse to eat dog food after they have sampled people food. Others like it so much that they will think nothing of stealing a thawing roast from the kitchen counter.

If you do notice that your dog – no matter what his or her age is – is gaining weight, cut back on the amount of treats you are feeding. Increased exercise with a decrease in the number of extra treats being fed is a good way to get your dog back in shape.

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John Carter

About the Author

love dogs. And if you love your dog as much as I love mine, you’re probably concerned about how to find a safe and healthy food to nourish her. What’s more, you’d probably like to know a little about me and how my website can help you. I’m a graduate of the Medical College of Virginia with a doctorate in dental surgery. My undergraduate studies include a major in chemistry and a minor in biology. In addition to my professional studies in human nutrition, I’ve also cultivated a personal passion for canine nutrition, too.

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