Step into any pet or grocery store and you’ll be bombarded with the many treats available — all in attractive colourful packages, each claiming to be safe, beneficial and nutritious — it gets confusing. If your dog is eating a well-balanced healthy food, treats are definitely not a necessary component to his diet. However, certain treats are often very useful in training, or for improving
his dental health. And, of course, they’re fun to give!
Treats for all reasons
There are several different types of dog treats. Quality treats serve a purpose and are not just empty calories filled with artificial flavours, colours and preservatives. There are many treats meant for chewing, with the aim of improving dental health and keeping the dog happy and occupied. Other treats are meant for training and reward purposes, and are able to be broken into small pieces.
Most dogs value food and therefore food can be used as an effective positive reinforcement tool during training. Too many treats, though, can really pack the pounds on your pooch. If you’re using treats for training, be careful not to give too many during one session, as your dog could become overfull and no longer want his regular meal. So, if many treats are used, or if individual food pieces are used for training, the amount of food you give him at mealtime should be decreased. Veterinarians have a lot of experience with many treats and chews.
Certain types of chews have repeatedly shown to cause damage to dogs’ teeth or intestinal tract. Cow hooves and hard cow bones are often sold at pet shops. These can seriously damage the pet’s gums and teeth. Many veterinary clinics sell healthy treats for dogs.
Match the treat to the dog
The size of the chew is very important. If your dog is a small breed, such as a Yorkshire terrier, and has a small mouth it is not recommended to offer him a chew that is meant for a huge Lab or German Shepherd. Similarly, don’t feed a chew that is too small to a large dog as he could swallow it whole, which may lead to blockages in his intestinal tract. If your dog is using a new chew treat, he should not be left alone with it. It is best to supervise the dog while he is chewing until you know that the chew is perfectly safe. Several safe toy/treat combinations can be exciting and beneficial to dogs. Firm rubber toys with a hollow centre can be packed with safe treats such as low fat peanut butter, dog cookies or chews. Your dog has to chew on the durable rubber toy and manoeuvre it around in order to reach the treat in the centre. These toys don’t break teeth and can be safely left with the dog as long as you use the appropriate.
It is so tempting to give dogs “people food” as a treat. However, it is important to know that certain foods can cause grave illness in dogs including kidney failure, blockages in the intestine or even death. Grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, onions, chocolate, broccoli and coffee beans should never be fed to dogs. These have all been found to cause serious illness. However, some low calorie foods such as carrot pieces or apple pieces will not cause sickness or obesity problems. It is important however to ensure that the pieces are small enough so they will not be choked on or cause intestinal blockages.
Discuss with or show any treats or chews with your veterinarian before offering them to your pet. Your veterinarian has the ability to determine if they are safe and nutritious for your pet.