For some dogs, treats are an integral part of their daily routine. For some they’re nothing more than a reward for training. Whatever the approach, it’s important to ensure all treats are healthy dog treats. It’s also important to remember moderation, because too many treats, even healthy dog treats, have an adverse effect on your dog’s health.

healthy dog treatsAccording to Tami Pierce, clinical veterinarian at the University of California (pets.webmd), many pet owners forget this fact and end up feeding their dogs more than 4 substantial treats a day. After all, it’s just a treat, right, what harm can it do?

Vets recommend that dog treats comprise no more than 10% of your dog’s daily intake of calories. Your veterinarian can tell you how many dog treats that equates to based on your dog’s weight, exercise treat type. If you’re reluctant to to give up the treating habit, substituting healthy dog treats for the ones you’re using will significantly reduce his caloric intake.

Healthy dog treats should not be …

… Hard to chew: It’s well known that dogs like to chew bones, but vets don’t recommend it as a treat because it’s hard on the teeth. Tami Pierce says a good test is to push your thumbnail in and see if it leaves a mark. If it does, then the treat is safe.

… Highly Processed: If you were planning a healthy diet for yourself, chances are good it wouldn’t include most of the tinned foods and sachets sold at supermarkets. The same goes for your pet. Commercial dog treats contain additives that are bad for dogs’ health and cause unforeseen side effects. Natural dog treats and homemade dog treats are your best bet. Organic dog treats are also a good choice, although they can get quite expensive unless you bake them yourself.

Home cooking is always the best way to ensure healthier food. If you’re short of time, here’re a few examples of quick and easy healthy dog treats.

dog watermelon

Quick and easy healthy dog treats

  • Fruit and Vegetables. Fruit and vegetables make great healthy treats for dogs. Watermelon is delicious and refreshing, but make sure your dog doesn’t eat the rind. Some dogs are pickier than others, but most will enjoy carrots, cauliflower, raw pumpkin and apple. Modern Dog Magazine even recommends adding some steamed cabbage to your dog’s dinner.

  • Frozen Sardines. They may not appeal to us, but to a dog they’re delicious and crunchy. The fact that they’re smelly also helps.
  • Grains. Brown rice and quinoa are two grains that make healthy treats for dogs especially those with upset stomachs
  • Cheese. Most dogs adore cheese, but don’t want to give your dog more than a few pieces at a time.

If you’re willing to invest the time, homemade healthy dog treats are worth the effort. They’ll save you cash in the long run and will benefit your dog’s health. You have more control over what goes into the food, and you can make use of ingredients like fish oil which are known to have beneficial effects on dog health. A shiny and soft coat is a good sign your dog is eating well.

Take a look at some of these homemade dog treat recipes by Angela Colley on Money Crashers and Kristin Appenbrink and see if any of them catch your interest. They mostly utilize organic ingredients and are low in fat and sugar.

Here are a few more examples:

  • dog food showdownPeanut butter cookies: Make use of organic peanut butter, or make your own using raw peanuts.
  • Chicken jerky, or sweet potato jerky for a vegetarian alternative.
  • Frozen yoghurt pops (using non-fat yoghurt).
  • Cheddar blueberry biscuits, which are loaded with antioxidants.

Be sure to consult your vet before feeding your dog any homemade dog treats though, just to make sure none of the ingredients you’re using are harmful to your particular pup. The ASPCA has this list of foods deemed hazardous to dogs that is a useful resource to have on hand.

You should also start off with small, infrequent amounts of whatever you’re planning treat him with; drastic changes in diet can cause an upset stomach. You could start off mixing a little bit into regular dog food, so their digestive systems can gradually become accustomed to the new delicacies. Over time, you’ll start to see the benefits of feeding your dog healthy dog treats, instead of whatever’s being churned out of the dog biscuit factories these days.