In my previous blog post, I talked about the growing problem of dog obesity. I touched on feeding habits and my recommendations for properly feeding your dog. One of my suggestions was to make healthy treat swaps and I would like to talk a little more about this. Additionally I will tell you my personal favorite treat swaps that I feed my own dog.
We all like to give our four-legged best friend treats throughout the day. Treats are used as encouragement for getting your dog to do something she otherwise might be hesitant to do such as jumping into the back seat of your car. Also, treats are great rewards for good behavior or in other words, positive reinforcement.
If you’re a big treat giver like me, a treat here and a treat there can add up at the end of the day. I know this personally. A few years ago, I brought my lab, Taylor in for her annual check-up. Much to my surprise as well as the vet’s, Taylor had gained close to 7 pounds from her previous check-up (or more than 10% of her body weight). I was shocked because I had carefully measured her food everyday and made sure I did not go over the food label guidelines. What I did not take into consideration were the treats I had given her throughout the day. A doggie biscuit here, a jerky treat there.
The next day I measured all the treats I gave her by placing a duplicate treat in a bowl. To my shock, I realized that I was in essence giving her an additional cup and a half in the form of doggie treats (her doggie food amount was two and a half cups per day). This was 60% more food each day in treats. This is like you and me eating a second dinner and maybe a second breakfast each day in the form of snacks. Of course you will gain weight.
The first thing I did was to cut back on the treats. Secondly, I reduced slightly Taylor’s food portions to factor in treats. I still gave her treats in the same frequency, however, I just gave her half the size each time. However, it was not until one day that I saw my sister feeding Taylor some carrot sticks that the lightbulb went off. I noticed that Taylor could not get enough of them so I decided to do some reading on what people foods could be good for dogs. Not only is this a healthier option for your dog, but it is also a more economical option for you (a bag of pre-cut carrot sticks is about 10% of the cost of a bag of popular brand dog treats of the same weight for example).
Fast forward three years and today I am a big proponent of substituting healthy people food alternatives as treats. It is important to know that there are certain, specific people foods that can be harmful to toxic for your dog (especially if consumed in great amounts). Grapes and raisins, for example, could harm your dog’s kidneys. If you are not absolutely sure, it’s best to be on the safe-side and avoid. I have provided some useful links below from where I obtained my information and for you to read further. All this being said, here are my top five, favorite people foods that I feed my dog (replacing doggie treats).
1) Carrots – Carrots are great for dogs. You can chop up carrots and add to your dog’s food or give as treats. Carrots are good for their teeth and contain many vitamins. Most importantly, they are low in calories so you can feed to your heart’s content. My dog absolutely loves carrot sticks.
2) Green Beans – Green beans are great for dogs in many of the same ways carrots are. They are packed with vitamins and low in calories. You can feed your dog fresh or frozen green beans. Frozen would be good in that they have that crunchy texture dogs love.
3) Apples – Like carrots and green beans, apples provide a lot of good vitamins as well as fiber (w/skin) with the added benefit in being low in calories. Apples are crunchy which also appeals to dogs. An important note is that you should not give your dog whole apples because the core and the seeds especially can be harmful to your dog if consumed a lot. It is a good idea to make sure any ok-to-feed-your-dog fruit is absent of cores, pits and seeds.
4) Peanut Butter – For that special treat, peanut butter is like an indulgence for dogs. It’s like ice cream for me. Peanut butter contains proteins and healthy fats that are good for dogs. Like any food indulgence, make sure you feed in moderation. A teaspoon a day is what I would recommend and make sure that the PB is unsalted. Peanut butter is also a great way to hide pills that your dog may refuse to take. I do this for Taylor’s heart worm meds.
5) Yogurt – Another special treat, yogurt is a great way to give your dog protein and calcium. Yogurt is also a good probiotic which aids digestion. There are a couple things to pay attention to with yogurt. Make sure the yogurt you give to your dog is one that contains live, active bacteria which act as the probiotics. Also, the yogurt should be plain, low fat and contain no added sugars or artificial sweeteners and no fat substitutes. The more natural the better.
In summary, substituting specific people foods that are ok for dogs is a great and healthy way for you to maintain your dog’s weight and overall health. Also, it can be a great way save a few bucks when compared to buying doggie treats. Always remember to be 100% sure that what you are giving your dog is an acceptable food item. I have provided some helpful links to use as resources. I personally use the information provided as guidelines for my own dog. These links are also where I gathered my sources for this blog post.