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26 September 2023


How to Choose The Perfect Treat for Your Dog

Treats have a place on your dog’s food pyramid, but they should be given with care and consideration.

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Treats are a great way to bond with your pup and reward them for good behavior, but with so many options, it can be difficult to know how to choose the best treat for your pup. Similar to human snack foods, dog treats can vary greatly in their nutritional value, calorie content, and ingredient quality—making some options anything but a ‘treat’ for your dog’s health.

Use the following guidelines to ensure you’re treating your dog right.

Understanding Your Dog’s Diet

According to the Clinical Nutrition Service at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, treats should compose no more than 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake. This is because, unlike complete and balanced dog food, many treats have little nutritional value and an abundance of calories and sugar. Excessive

treating can tip the scales in more ways than one, leading to unhealthy weight gain and unbalancing your pup’s diet.  

Determining how many treats your dog can have requires a little math. Find out your dog’s daily calorie (i.e., kilocalorie or kcal) requirement (DER) by asking your veterinarian or using an online pet nutrition calculator. You’ll need to enter your pet’s weight and age and their daily activity level to ensure an accurate result. Multiply the result by 10% to determine how many calories per day can be derived from treats. Finally, check your dog’s treat packaging to find out how many kcals are in each treat. Warning—you may be surprised!

Factors to consider when choosing dog treats

Dog treats are designed to appeal to humans first—hence, the colorful pictures and cute shapes—followed by your dog’s sense of smell and taste. But, because these factors are often misleading, the Ollie team recommends measuring your pup’s treats against the following parameters:

  • Nutritional content — Inspect the protein, fat, and carbohydrate percentages in your pup’s treats. Ideally, your dog’s treats should be moderate in protein and low in fat and carbohydrates to prevent weight gain. 
  • Ingredient quality — Treats, like food, should be made with wholesome and high-quality ingredients such as meat proteins and recognizable fruits, vegetables, and grains. Avoid products containing fillers (e.g., corn, soy), artificial additives (e.g., dyes), and animal by-products.
  • Special dietary needs — Pay extra attention to dog treat labels if your pup is allergic or sensitive to certain ingredients, needs to lose weight, or is on a restricted diet because of a health condition such as kidney disease or pancreatitis. Ask your veterinarian for treat recommendations or to review specific products.

Dog treat types

Quality and flavor aren’t the only choices to make when it comes to dog treat selection; you’ll also need to consider what type of treat to serve your pup. Various treats serve different purposes and can benefit your dog’s emotional and physical health. The most common types include:     

  • Dental chews — Dental treats are typically designed to encourage chewing and break down plaque bacteria, the precursor to unsightly tartar, on the tooth’s surface.  In addition to cleaning your pup’s teeth, Ollie’s Dental Chews use natural ingredients like cinnamon and parsley to help freshen your pup’s breath.
  • Training treats — Training treats are small, low-calorie treats, so they can be quickly consumed and given in greater quantities during a training session. These bite-sized treats are often available in highly irresistible flavors to tempt the senses and keep trainees motivated. Ollie’s Training Treats are available in peanut butter and parmesan cheese — two tasty flavors best served in small quantities.
  • Crunchy treats — Crunchy treats provide satisfying texture and chewing action for dogs. Some crunchy treats may also offer dental benefits by scraping away tartar as your dog chews. Similar to dry dog food, crunchy treats often have a longer shelf-life than soft or semi-moist treats. Ollie’s Crunchy Treats are gently baked at low temperatures to retain the nutrients of natural ingredients like sweet potatoes and apples while serving up a hearty crunch.
  • Supplements — Many canine supplements are available as tasty chews. Supplement treats are a great way to address specific health issues and give your pup’s diet a nutritional boost. Ollie’s Supplements are scientifically formulated to tackle common pup problems and are now available in five unique formulas: Hip & Joint, Probiotic, Calming, Skin & Coat, and Immunity. Because supplements have a medicinal value, they must only be administered according to label directions to prevent an accidental overdose.

Tips for choosing the best dog treats

Selecting the best dog treat is more than finding one your dog will eat—many dogs have less than discriminating tastes. When you’re searching for your dog’s next drool-worthy delight, ensure every treat meets the following criteria:

  • Recognizable ingredients — Read the product label thoroughly and reject any items that contain artificial ingredients, coloring, or questionable compounds. 
  • Moderate or low calories — Low-calorie options allow you to reward your dog more often. Use moderate or high-calorie treats sparingly and only for high-value behaviors such as coming when called or sitting politely at the door instead of bolting outside.
  • Free from harmful ingredients — Reject treats containing questionable fillers and preservatives such as corn syrup, propylene glycol, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), ethoxyquin, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and carrageenan. The latter is less common in treats but may be found in soft or moist treat preparations.
  • Veterinary approval — Although this step isn’t necessary for healthy pups, inappropriate treats can interfere with veterinary treatment for dogs who are on a restricted diet or receiving care for a health condition.

For the final test, let your pup sample the treat. If they sit up and beg for more, it’s a winner.

Selecting the right dog treat for specific purposes

Although it’s acceptable to give an occasional treat simply to spoil or indulge your dog, strategically rewarding your pup is a great way to enjoy the satisfaction of giving your four-legged friend their favorite snack without guilt.

Use these simple guidelines to ensure the best health rewards every time you treat your pup.

  • Weight management — Weight management treats are low in calories and may have added fiber to help your pup feel full. 
  • Dog training — Training treats should be bite-sized pieces and require little to no chewing. Look for treats in your dog’s favorite flavor to ensure your pup will find them rewarding and work hard to earn them.
  • Dental health — Dental health treats should be firm yet pliable to encourage thorough chewing. For best results, look for dental health treats that feature the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval.
  • Joint and mobility — Joint and mobility supplement treats should contain glucosamine, chondroitin, turmeric, or similar compounds that promote flexibility and cartilage health to support your dog’s effortless movement.
  • Skin and coat health — The best skin and coat health supplement treats include omega-3 fatty acids and beneficial canine probiotics, which nourish the skin barrier, create a healthy sheen, and decrease itching by reducing inflammation and boosting immune health. 

Potential health problems caused by poor dog treat choices

Rewarding your dog with the right treat at the right time can be a pleasurable and beneficial activity for both ends of the leash, but incorrect or excessive treating can have serious health consequences for your pup, such as:

  • Obesity and weight gain — A few extra treats may not seem like much, but those unnecessary calories can pack on the pounds—especially for small, inactive, or senior dogs. Obesity increases your dog’s risk for chronic diseases, including arthritis, cancer, respiratory problems, and kidney failure. 
  • Allergies and sensitivities — There’s nothing fun about an allergic reaction. Inexpensive ingredients and fillers (e.g., corn, wheat, and soy) may cause itching, skin irritation, and digestive upset in dogs.
  • Digestive problems — Rich or unfamiliar treats can upset your pup’s digestive system and cause unpleasant signs such as vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. If such treats are used for training, your dog may develop an aversion to their lessons or the behavior you’re trying to teach. Always introduce new treats gradually and monitor your pup for digestive issues. Speak to your veterinarian if your pup seems sensitive to a specific protein, ingredient, or treat type.

Helping your dog live their best life begins with small gestures—including how you show affection, recognize good behavior, and support their total well-being. Dog treats often get a bad rap, but when they’re made with wholesome quality ingredients—such as those found in Ollie Treats and Supplement Chews—and judiciously shared, these sniff-worthy snacks are a great way to care for your pup’s physical and emotional health and strengthen the canine-human bond.

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