The vet’s office: In for a treat
Considering dog and cat treats and their place in a pet’s diet
By Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Treats are commonly given food rewards that can be used to reinforce behaviors we want our pets to repeat. Treats are also given just for fun and to increase the bonding between pet and owner.
Longer lasting chews, such as those marketed for dental health, can provide needed jaw exercise and help keep teeth and gums healthy. When we eat a snack in front of our pets, it is easy to get in the habit of giving the pet a bit of it as a treat just for being there.
There seems to be an ever-expanding variety of dog and cat treats on the market. With all of this in mind, it is important to realize a few things about treats.
First, nutrition experts agree that treats should not make up more than 10 percent of a pet’s caloric needs. If treats are fed at higher amounts than this, the pet may not eat enough of its complete and balanced food and may develop nutrient deficiencies. Also, the pet risks becoming obese due to the extra calories.
Unfortunately, it is not easy to determine calorie content of pet treats since manufacturers are not required to put that on labels. Owners can check the internet as some groups have posted calorie counts of common treats. Tables show some larger treats contain over 700 calories and could easily exceed the 10 percent rule for a large dog.
Small dogs have it even harder as many treats contain at least 30 calories, making just one the limit for a 10-pound dog. An entire pig’s ear could be over 130 calories, and the popular bully sticks are about 88 calories for an average 6-inch piece. A 40-pound dog could get too many calories with these treats if amounts are not closely watched. Cats should stay with less than 30 calories per day of treats, so treats should be counted and not given as a small pile to nibble on.
One reason people like snacks is taste, but since dogs have a sense of taste that is six times less than ours, they may not get as much enjoyment out of food. This is to our benefit as they may just as well enjoy a simple game or our undivided attention as much as a food reward.
Pets can also be satisfied with treats broken into halves or quarters for fewer calories. They do not know it is not the entire treat. Also, try using frozen green beans or fresh baby carrots for dogs and guilt-free catnip for cats.
Treats can be part of any pet’s diet, but be aware of hidden calories, and treat your pet responsibly.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.