Healthy Dog Snacks

Dog obesity, just like human obesity, is on the rise.  The difference between the two types of obesity is the people can seek their own remedies, but dogs require outside assistance to get back in shape. 

Concerned pet parents have probably heard the number “10%” thrown around for treats, and Dr. Edward Moser, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and adjunct associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine believes the number is solid.  When ninety percent of a dog’s calories comes from balanced nutrition, good health can be maintained.  Pennsylvania veterinarian Dr. Erica Tramuta-Drobnis has noted, however, that people tend to overestimate their dogs’ caloric needs. Ideally, she recommends consulting with a veterinary nutritionist; short of that internet calculators provide an acceptably accurate numbers.

Outside of the quantity of treats, there are still qualities that make some healthier and less fattening. The rule for making the right choices for our pets is the same as making the right choices for ourselves: always read the label.  Pet food labels read differently from human food labels, but the Association of American Feed Control Officers makes certain that the necessary information is provided.    

Dr. Moser’s recommendations for obese dogs are the tried and true rules that have been supported by doctors of veterinary (and human) medicine for years:  fewer calories in from food, more calories out from exercise.  Similarly, the best ways to ensure a dog feels full on fewer calories are the same as for people: higher protein or higher fiber. Dr. Moser points out that high fiber food increases dog’s stool volume, making a high protein diet easier for dog parents to manage, therefore he recommends aiming for 20-25% of a dog’s calories from protein if this is the route taken.

All experts recommend giving the list of ingredients a thorough read-over, stressing that at the very least, everything should be identifiable. Dr. Moser recommends avoiding foods and treats that use meat by-products. Heidi Junger, of Onesta Organics, warns pet parents away from all added sweeteners, including honey.  Both urge pet parents to limit added fats to identifiable, quality fats, like those people are urged to include in their diets. Ultimately, quality food helps dogs feel better which helps them move more and burn more calories. 

While there are treats available that claim to have added ingredients to encourage weight loss, Dr. Moser urges caution with such “functional” snacks. As always, it is important to read the label to determine whether the treat is “truly functional, or does it just have the functional ingredient.” Pet parents should also know whether veterinary evidence supports the ingredient effectiveness. 

Ultimately, fattening dog treats are those that are fed mindlessly, with a lack of awareness of their contents.  By paying attention to both the quality and quantity of foods, pet parents can ensure their dogs live a long, healthy and mobile life.