Treats or trouble?



Treat (noun): an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure.

Treats are an everyday part of interacting with your pet. They can include play time, affection and special toys, but most often we associate treats with a food item.

Food treats can be functional. Dental chews for teeth, pill pockets for medication, and biscuits for training are all examples of multiple purpose treats. Most of the time treats are harmless and an expected part of our relationship with our pets, but no treat is perfect. I usually see the problems associated with treats gone wrong. Over the years, I have developed some guidelines for my clients.

  • Extra food items add extra calories, and some treats can pack a punch. Toy breeds can get full on very little treats and then get fussy with their regular diet. For overweight patients, you need to include treats into their total calorie count for the day. Size doesn’t matter. A dog doesn’t usually take extra time to enjoy a bigger treat, so break them into smaller pieces.

  • Table food is often richer than the dog’s usual food. Stomach, intestinal and pancreas issues can result from too much fat intake. Avoid sauces, drippings, and trimmings. Stick to veggies and lean meat if you must feed from the table.

  • Avoid hard chews. If you can’t bend it with your hands, it has potential to damage the teeth. If a tooth fractures, the solution is either extraction or root canal.

  • Jerky treats (duck, chicken, sweet potato) have been associated with some severe illnesses so we do not recommend feeding them.

  • Stay away from gimmicky treats. These are often made to look like human food – sausages, bacon, marrow bones, etc. Their ingredient list reads like a chemical directory. Pets don’t care what the treat looks like.

  • If your pet is on a prescription diet, check with us before adding treats. Some diets won’t work as well with other food items added. Many veterinary food companies have special treats formulated for these patients so your pet doesn’t have to go without.

  • Dental treats only work if they are chewed. If your dog or cat hoovers them, they are not helping the teeth.

  • Some dogs like their food so much that you can use their own kibble as a treat.

The bottom line is that anything can be a treat for your pet. It doesn’t have to be something rich or highly flavored to reward your dog. My lab thinks he’s died and gone to heaven when he gets a piece of lettuce. Try and keep it simple and safe.


Dog chef

Original artwork courtesy of Sharif Tarabay