These are the healthiest dog treats, according to experts | Good + Good
If you’re a dog parent, it’s natural to want to spoil your pup with sweet treats. And, with May being National Pet Month, it’s natural to want to celebrate with an extra snack here and there. But even though they love French fries and nibbling other table scraps, vets agree that the best (okay, the healthiest) to treat a puppy is with treats specially designed for him. Here’s where it gets shaky, though: Not all dog treats are created equal.
“The ingredient list is a tricky subject, not just in dog food but also in treats,” admits TikTok famed vet Hunter Finn, DVM. “The pet treat industry is simply not well regulated and, let’s be honest, treats are not a necessity for our pets, but help us to strengthen our bond [with them].”
Since you don’t want to give your pup gross treats, but you don’t want to make him sick either, it’s important to know which ingredients to look for and which to avoid. More on that, below.
Ingredients to look for
Dogs are like us! Sure, they have four legs and four legs, but when it comes to their diet, puppies need their fair share of greens. According to Mary Rhodes, Production and Product Development Manager at Bocce’s Bakery, our canine companions eat fresh fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, strawberries, spinach, apples, sweet potatoes and broccoli. “They provide great taste and essential vitamins and minerals,” she says.
Along with feeding your dog the rainbow, Rhodes says peanut butter (with no added sugar or salt) is a great snack option, given the flavor and protein it provides. Don’t just look for specific ingredients, though. Also consider labels. When looking for healthy and tasty dog treats, Leilani Alvarez, DVM, DACVSMR, Veterinary Advisor at The Honest Kitchen, says to prioritize those that have few ingredients (only one, if possible) and are:
- Made in the USA
- Preferably organic
- Bite (to avoid weight gain)
- Rich in fiber; low carb
- Made with pure animal protein (chicken, fish and/or beef as main ingredient(s))
Overall, you want to feed your dog a healthy diet. “When choosing treats for your pup, the ingredients should be whole, unprocessed, and easy to digest,” says Gary Richter, DVM, medical director of Holistic Veterinary Care and founder of Ultimate Pet Nutrition. And remember, dogs digest differently than humans. As such, raw foods are actually recommended. “Freeze-dried, dehydrated, or frozen raw treats are ultimately the best options because they contain the most nutrients and haven’t gone through much processing,” says Richter.
Ingredients to Avoid
Whether incorporated into a treat or served on their own, there are some foods you just don’t want to feed your dog. In addition to chocolate, grapes and raisins are prohibited, according to Finn. “These can cause kidney failure and can be fatal,” he warns. “Even a single grape can be very harmful to your dog.”
Likewise, Alvarez says to avoid treats made with:
- High carbohydrate content (“It predisposes [dogs] to obesity,” she warns.)
- High in fat (“It can cause gastrointestinal upset/pancreatitis,” she shares, noting that macadamia nuts are particularly high in fat and can cause vomiting and diarrhea.)
- Ingredients sourced from China (“They can be contaminated with toxins,” she says.)
- Xylitol (“Many peanut butters, yogurts, and honeys contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that’s toxic to dogs,” she says.)
Additionally, Richter says it’s important to avoid any meat byproducts or leftovers from the slaughtered animal, which can be tricky given that many treats are made with these ingredients. Essentially, anything with the word “meal” in it means it’s been altered and isn’t as healthy.
Ultimately, Finn suggests that if you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it. “Many products will contain additives that add flavor, extend shelf life, or have other treat benefits, but in my opinion, the simpler the better,” he says. “The only time I would deviate from this advice is if the product is a double-benefit treat. That means it’s a treat, but it adds value to your pet in other ways, such as a joint supplement, dental chew, or probiotic. Often these will contain ingredients that will not seem natural to you to help make the treat more effective, but that doesn’t mean they are unsafe.
Still, if you want to make sure your pup is eating wholesome, nutritious food, he recommends that you only buy supplemental treats with the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal of approval. “If you’re buying a dog dental treat, look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VHOC) seal of approval,” he adds.
One more thing
Even when opting for healthy, well-made dog treats, Alvarez says they should take in no more than 10 percent of your fur baby’s total daily calorie intake. “It’s important to maintain the nutritional balance of foods and prevent weight gain,” she says.
To make sure your pup gets the most out of his meals and treats — and to make sure all of his dietary needs are met — schedule regular appointments with your veterinarian. And if you’re ever unsure whether or not your dog can eat something on the spot, use your smart home devices to your advantage. Alexa, for example, can respond which ingredients are safe for dogs. Talk about practice! (Test it for yourself by asking “Alexa, what’s safe to put in homemade dog treats?”)
10 of the healthiest dog treats to spoil your pup
Bocce’s Bakery, PB + Blueberry Crisps – $8.00
These workout crisps from Bocce’s Bakery tick all the boxes and ship out in two days when you order them from Amazon. Their lightweight, bite-sized shape makes them the perfect treat for obedience training, allowing you to reward Fido without filling him up. Each treat contains just three calories and is made with feel-good ingredients including oats and blueberry powder.
Full Moon, All Natural Dog Training Treats – $20.00
Or check out these organic workout treats from Full Moon. They’re made from all-natural, premium ingredients, so you won’t have to worry about preservatives, artificial flavors, GMOs, or any other quirks. Like Crispies, they’re only three calories, so don’t worry about gaining weight during a workout.
Petaluma, sweet potato jerky — $18.00
If you want to go for the chewy option, you can’t go wrong with these Pure Sweet Potato Slices from Petaluma. They’re dehydrated from California-grown organic sweet potatoes, are a great source of fiber, and are better suited for mats than other jerky chews. The bag is also compostable, making it a great sustainable alternative to traditional treats.
The Honest Kitchen, Wolffish Ocean Chews – $20.00
You might wince at the name, but your pup will to like these sea bass skins, made entirely of 100% pure fish. They’re made in a human-grade food facility, which means they’re safe enough for humans (although you’ll probably want to pass) and are definitely safe enough for dogs. Best of all, they’re packed with protein and healthy omega 3s, the same good fats that keep your skin and nails looking good. Shiny coats and fur are to go.
Greenies, Original Natural Dental Dog Treats — $33.00
Ah, Greenies, the toothbrush disguised as a dog treat. Their minty texture is strategically designed to support your pup’s dental hygiene, removing plaque and tartar while supporting a healthy gum line. And the smell?! Goodbye, stinky dragon breath – you won’t mind getting licked off after they chew them.
Thrive Market, creamy peanut butter — $3.00
You can’t go wrong with a classic peanut butter dog treat. The high-protein snack is mostly safe for pets, as long as it doesn’t contain xylitol, added sugar, or any other suspicious additives that could be toxic to your pet. Spread a trail of the stuff on your tub wall to distract your pup on bath day, or spoon a dollop over his kibble for a dinnertime protein boost.
Reggie, morning multivitamin — $30.00
As with human supplements, buying dog supplements can be tricky: there are a lot of confusing ingredients and many brands are unregulated.
That’s why we love Reggie, the vet-approved supplement company that makes multivitamin treats from a NASC supplier. All of the brand’s supplements come in a chewy snack that Fido doesn’t even realize is actually a vitamin, like these multivitamins that contain vitamin C, copper and iron.
Zesty Paws, 8-in-1 Multifunctional Chews — $30.00
Likewise, Zesty Paws makes these 8-in-1 snacks that support everything from coat and fur growth to brain health. Think of them as a functional smoothie, packaged in puppy form. Choose between savory chicken or sweet and creamy peanut butter.
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