The Truth About Cat and Dog Treats
To Treat or Not to Treat?
This is going to be an unpopular message for many pet owners.
Your pets don’t need food-based treats.
We know, we know, we are awful, horrible people for saying that. Hear us out.
Pet obesity is a big problem (pun not intended). Over half of the dogs and cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese.
Is yours one of them?
But Those Eyes
She begs! I can’t resist! It’s our routine! He’s always hungry!
When she gives you that irresistible and adorable face, pet her. Pick her up. Play with her. Your pet wants your attention first and foremost. Treats don’t have to be food! Your attention, a walk, toys, and playtime are plenty rewarding for both cats and dogs.
Consider Food Safety
Dog treats (and some cat ones) are often on the recall list. There was a rather sizable peak in dog treat recalls in 2007, but things have stabilized. We strongly urge you to keep an eye out for current recalls. This goes for pet food as well. The FDA has the best list for pet food recalls (including cat and dog treats).
Read the Label
Treats are not always regulated like dog or cat food is. They may or may not have an AAFCO statement regarding their nutritional value. There may not be much nutritional value! Some commercial cat and dog treats can be healthy but many are the equivalent of us eating junk food. Those treats have calories and they add up. Check out the ingredients in your pet’s treats. You may not like what you find.
For cat food and treats, you want to make sure there is NO propylene glycol used. This additive is used to keep pet foods moist. It is general recognized as safe by the FDA for use in dog (and human) foods, but NOT for cat foods.
Going to Give Treats Anyway?
Because we suspect many humans cannot stop themselves from giving treats (we won’t name names), stick to these options.
- For dogs, unsalted green beans from a can.
- Put a portion of your pet’s daily allotment of kibble in a special treat jar. Get very excited about giving him a “treat”. Lame to you, great for him. Trust us.
- Buy a can of low fat, high quality dog food (you can try with cats, but they may not like something frozen). Put cookie dough sized blobs on waxed paper and freeze them. Store in a baggie in the freezer for special rewards. Then hope your children don’t get them mixed up with actual cookie dough.
- Consider buying a high-quality, freeze-dried or air-dried pet food. We like Ziwipeak, Honest Kitchen Grain Free, or Primal Freeze Dried because of their limited number of ingredients, named ingredients (e.g., lamb liver) and natural preservatives. These products are expensive, but if you are feeding them as treats the smallest bag should last a long time.
If you must give a traditional treat, please read the label. Pick something low fat, with as few ingredients as possible. Avoid treats with “animal fat” or “meat and bone meal” as ingredients (you want to know what type of animal it is from). Avoid treats with artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. And check the recall list first!