From Snausages to Milky Biscuits to Dentastix, dogs love treats. And, there's something rewarding about seeing the excitement in your dog's eyes when you go to give them one. It's hard to pass on something that makes your dog so happy – even when you know it's not necessarily the best thing for them. But, most dog treats you buy in stores are just so much processed garbage.
If you want to keep your furry friend healthy well into their old age, their diet is an important consideration. Choosing natural treats is one easy way to boost their health, by cutting out processed food, adding vitamins, and even reducing their risk of health problems. And, best of all, most dogs love natural treats just as much as anything unhealthy you could give them.
Why Natural Dog Treats Work
In 2005, a study at the Purdue University on Scottish Terriers showed that adding a few pieces of fresh vegetables to regular grocery store kibble improved dogs' health and reduced instances of cancer. The study showed that regularly adding a combination of green leafy vegetables and orange ones (like broccoli, spinach, and carrots) to your dog's diet can reduce the risk of bladder cancer by up to 92%.
Most of us think of dogs as carnivores, but they can adapt to a wide variety of foods and are not dependent on meat-proteins. In fact, most dog food brands are primarily made of starches and grains. All-meat diets can harm your dog due to the lack of calcium and iron. Using natural snacks is an easy way to ensure that your dog gets a healthy variety of foods in their diet.
Most dog owners notice that dogs seem to love peanut butter, and that remains true for peanuts. Peanuts are a vitamin-rich snack, high in protein, vitamin B6, vitamin E, niacin, and a variety of healthy fats, without the risk of added salt, sugar, and fat from peanut butter.
Try buying unsalted, boiled peanuts to use as a healthy snack. Avoid peanuts with flavorings, salt, or additives – which may be toxic for your dog. If you buy peanuts in the shell, make sure you remove the shells carefully and completely. And, remember that moderation is key. Peanuts, like avocados, are high in fat, so your dog shouldn't have more than a few peanuts a day.
Carrots make an easy, healthy snack for your dog that most will love. These cheap and easy-to-find vegetables are low-calorie and full of fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin A, potassium, and many other vitamins.
Consider making carrot sticks or buying scraped or baby carrots for an easy bite-sized doggie snack. Many dogs may swallow small carrots whole, so cut them to avoid a choking hazard.
Raw honey is a healthy snack that most dogs love. A quick spoonful of honey is ideal for offering an easy treat or you can drizzle it over their meals to add extra incentive to eat. Honey may help dogs’ seasonal allergies, throat infections, and kennel cough, in the same way, it helps humans with the common cold.
Make sure you choose a dog-safe honey like K9 Honey, rather than an over-the-counter brand. Many store brands contain additives and may even be artificial honey, which isn’t safe for your dog. Do not feed honey to dogs who are obese, diabetic, or under 6 months old.
Zucchini is an easy, affordable treat that your dog will love. While mostly water content, zucchini is also full of vitamins and fiber, making it one of the best vegetables you can feed your dog. More importantly, it's completely safe in any form; raw, steamed, or baked – and is safe at up to 10% of your dog's total diet.
Try slicing raw zucchini into bite-sized pieces and using them as training treats. Avoid taking zucchini off your plate, as most human food contains too much salt for your dog.
Nearly everyone loves the tart taste of apples, and dogs are no different. Apples are nutritional powerhouses, full of vitamin A and vitamin C. Both apples and carrots also help to clean your dog's teeth.
Slice apples, completely removing the core and any seeds, and use these as treats. Be careful around apple seeds, which can cause cyanide buildup over time. An apple slice with a light drizzle of honey is a perfect treat or reward for most dogs.
Plain oatmeal may sound gross to most of us, but to your dog, it's a tasty treat. Oats are full of vitamins and nutrients like linoleic acid, which is important for keeping your dog's coat and skin healthy.
Boil rolled or steel cut oats whole until soft and serve as-is or add a spoonful of honey. Like other treats, keep it to a minimum. A spoonful of oatmeal or a small bowl every now and then instead of kibble is more than enough.
Dogs love eggs. But, while most dogs have deep-rooted instincts that enable them to find and eat raw eggs whole – you should cook their eggs first. Eggs are full of protein, riboflavin, and selenium, but raw, they can cause biotin deficiency and may be contaminated with salmonella.
Boil an egg and chop it into pieces, or scramble eggs without oil or salt. Don't overdo it, one egg a week is a good maximum.
Chicken is an easy, natural snack that most dogs love. While you should never feed your dog raw chicken, parboiled, baked, or freeze-dried or dehydrated chicken (without salt) makes an excellent natural treat that your dog will definitely love.
Finding natural treats your dog will love is probably a lot easier than you think. However, it is important to be careful. While dogs love many fruits and vegetables, not all of them are safe. For example, dogs love summer squash like zucchini, but can't properly digest other types of squash unless you cook them. Check any food before you use it as a treat.
Healthy dog treats are easy, often affordable, and will make your dog just as happy as a processed version. Over time, they'll also help your dog to be healthier by reducing their calorie and fat intake and improving their nutrition.