Healthy dog treats: What to look for, what to avoid

Providing a treat is one way that many Pack Leaders enjoy rewarding their pups — whether for learning a command, maintaining calm-submissive energy, or simply being a good companion.

While many Pack Leaders spend time selecting the right dog food, you may be less choosy when it comes time to selecting a treat — after all, it’s just a little something special to enjoy now and then, right? Unfortunately, these treats can sometimes lead to health issues, such as obesity, particularly when the treats selected are fatty and chock full of empty calories.

That’s why it’s important to do your research in advance and select treats that not only keep your dog happy and drooling for more, but also maintain her health.

So what should you look for in a healthy dog treat?

No added sugar

It may appear under different names, such as sucrose, caramel, or corn syrup, but whatever the sweetener, it’s unnecessary for your dog’s nutrition. In fact, eating it regularly can cause hypoglycemia, tooth decay, arthritis, obesity, nervousness, cataracts, and allergies.

No added salt

The ingredient may also be listed as sodium chloride, iodized salt, or sea salt. Salt is a required nutrient, but like in humans, excess intake of salt can cause health issues, such as an increase in water intake, heart rate, and hemoglobin concentration, as well as dry mucous membranes and restlessness.

No soy

This ingredient is often added because it is a cheap substitute for meat protein, but unfortunately, it offers fewer health benefits and also is a common allergen for dogs.

Corn-free

Corn is another cheap meat replacement with less nutritional value. It’s not a complete protein source and when used exclusively has been shown to result in muscle loss for dogs.

Grain-free

Ideally, you want a treat that is entirely grain free. In nature, dogs are meat eaters — they need protein. And those who eat grain in high amounts often suffer ill effects, such as irritable bowel syndrome, over time.

No dairy

Dairy products are a common cause of food allergies and sensitivities. If your dog is experiencing symptoms, you should talk to your veterinarian about whether or not eliminating dairy from his diet makes sense.

Gluten-free

Gluten is a binder, which means it helps bind food together, but unfortunately, it offers little nutritional value.

Made in the USA

While this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, it’s something worth considering when selecting a dog food. Why? Because some other countries may not hold the ingredients in their dog food to as high a standard.

Of course, every dog is different, so be sure to consult with your veterinarian, particularly if your dog suffers from any on-going health issues.

What are some of your dogs’ favorite treats?

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