From Dr. Bob Encinosa, Boyette Animal Hospital, Riverview FL
Who doesn’t love to give their dog or cat an occasional treat ? We love treats ourselves and since pets are a part of our families, why shouldn’t they be allowed a little tasty pleasure as well. My family is certainly no exception. We buy all kinds of treats for our cats and dogs. Of course lately it seems that every treat our pets become accustomed to gets recalled for some reason. However, in spite of that, we still try to be health conscious where they are concerned.
For most families, the biggest health concern revolves around trying to keep our pets from getting overweight. Matters become more difficult when there are multiple family members who would all like to hand out the treats. I’ve also noticed that it is very rare for treat makers to put the calorie count on their labels. So how can you tell what’s too much?
Recently I found a helpful website that lists the calorie content of hundreds of dog and cat treats. You can find this information at Petfinder.com. When you get to the website, search “Dog treats calorie count”. You can also search “Cat treats calorie count”. It’s quite interesting and, in some cases, amazing to see how many calories common treats can have. After reviewing this list, I felt better about something I’ve been doing for years with my two 60 pound dogs. Whenever we have run out of dog treats, I have resorted to Cheez-its or Wheat-thins. As it turns out both of these human treats have fewer calories than most dog treats. Of course the salt content is probably not so good for a dog in congestive heart failure, but then again, neither is obesity. Another advantage of Cheez-its or Wheat-thins is the cost. At about one penny a piece, they are much cheaper than most of the name brand dog treats.
Here’s a few more things to think about.
– Why does a 60 pound dog need a “large” treat? Treats are for taste, not nutritional support. Use small breed treats, even for giant breed dogs.
– Most dog treats do not help keep teeth clean. Even many brands that actually make that claim are ineffective in my opinion. I believe that for a dog treat to help clean teeth, the dog treat must take 3 -5 minutes for a dog to actively chew and consume. Occasional Greenies and rawhide are what I give my dogs. Rawhide that has been chopped and pressed like particle board is probably safer, especially when multiple dogs in a household are chewing competitively.
– If your family life is such that you cannot control the numbers of treats your pet gets, I suggest using treats with the most nutritional value and the fewest calories. Then reduce the amount they are fed in their daily meal. Sometimes you just have to compromise.