Pets have a unique relationship with their owners. These domesticated species highly benefit from the companionship and care they get from humans.


Pets rely on their owners for their basic needs such as water, food and shelter. Every now and then, they also get pet treats as a snack or reward for good behavior.


In a study using functional MRI to predict a dog’s preference for praise vs. food, experts noted that the dogs liked food more than human interaction.


The results highlight the importance of using food as reward or treat. As pet owners, it’s essential that you also carefully think about the nutritional value of pet treats and your purpose for giving them to your pets.


This article discusses the dos and don’ts of giving your pets treats, including tips to consider when feeding your pet.

Essential Things to Consider When Giving Pet Treats

Generally, pet owners give treats as rewards for doing good in training or showing proper behavior. You can also use pet treats to show your care and affection for your pets.

However, your noble intentions should not make you overlook the number of calories or ingredients in the pet treats that could be harmful to your pets.

For example, according to an article by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), even five pounds more than your dog’s ideal weight can put it at risk for developing serious medical conditions.

Check the Label

How can you tell if the pet treat you give to your dog is healthy? The best way to find out is to look for the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) statement on the label.


The AAFCO establishes pet food manufacturing standards and also verifies nutrition claims.


However, if you’re unsure what pet treats are suitable for specific animals, make sure to consult your vet for recommendations.

Avoid Complex Carbohydrates

VCA Animal Hospitals (originally called Veterinary Centers of America Inc.) says protein and fats are excellent energy sources. Dogs can also consume carbohydrates for energy.

The canine’s digestive system produces enzymes that specifically digest sugars and starches. This means dogs can also digest carbohydrates.

However, try to avoid giving your dog complex carbohydrates like grains. Though they can still digest them, it’s better if complex carbs are cooked.

Meanwhile, the WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) warns that canine’s daily intake of treats shouldn’t exceed 10% of their MER (maintenance energy requirements).

Researchers from the University of Padua in Italy examined 32 famous dog treats available in supermarkets and pet shops. Products include:


  • Five biscuits
  • Ten tender treats
  • Three meat-based strips
  • Five rawhides
  • 12 chewable sticks
  • Six dental care sticks


They found that almost half of the pet treat products mentioned “sugars” on their labels. All had varying amounts of minerals, with biscuits being the most calorically dense pet treats.


The result suggested that most dog treats available in the market exceed the recommended daily energy allowance. However, the study is still inconclusive and doesn’t represent all products worldwide.


Just like dogs, cats use protein for energy. However, since they lack salivary amylase which initiates starch digestion, breaking down sugars may be a challenge for them.


In addition, cats have low concentrations of other carbohydrate-digesting enzymes. They also have a much shorter small intestine compared to dogs. A high-fiber and carbohydrate-packed diet may lead to diarrhea and abnormal intestinal function.


Debra L. Zora, a clinical professor of Small Animal Medicine Surgery at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, recommends owners feed cats at least some canned food to lessen their carbs and calorie intake.

Opt for a Low-Calorie Diet

Most senior dogs have low energy requirements. It’s also true for indoor, neutered, or spayed canines. Ideally, dog food should be less than 350 calories per cup.


Your vet can estimate how many calories your canine companion needs each day based on its body condition score and lifestyle.


The standard formula for an indoor adult dog that is spayed or neutered is:

30 x weight in kilograms + 70 = recommended daily calorie intake


This formula isn’t exclusive to your fur baby’s main meal. It’s also used for snacks and treats.


For low-calorie snacks, go for water-based vegetables, such as green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and unsalted air-popped popcorn with no butter.


Generally, the average weight of a domestic cat should be eight to ten pounds. However, about 57.6% of cats in the U.S. were either obese or overweight from 2007 to 2013, according to APOP.


You can contact the pet food manufacturer or ask your veterinarian about your pet’s recommended calorie intake.

Keep Homemade Treats Simple

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has investigated illnesses associated with jerky pet treats.


As of December 31, 2015, the FDA has received roughly 5,200 complaints of illnesses linked to the consumption of sweet potato, duck, and chicken jerky treats. Many of these products are imported from China.


The reports indicated that 6,200 dogs had been affected, and approximately 1,140 canines had died. Aside from dogs, about 26 cats and three people had also been affected.


These reports prompt pet parents to proactively manage their pets’ meals and treats. Nowadays, it’s not hard to find sites that share simple and nutritious recipes that can be served to pets at home.


Watch out for the sugar content, and choose simple sugars like molasses and honey. Since homemade pet treats have no preservatives, make sure to store them properly in the fridge or air-tight container with labels.


Essential fatty acid is recommended to keep your feline friend’s skin and coat healthy. You may give them homemade sardines and tunas.


If you have a pet rabbit, you won’t have any problems as they have the same basic nutritional needs as humans. High-fiber fruits are the best, but make sure to feed them in small quantities and only as treats.

If your rabbit consumes too much sugar, it can cause an imbalance in fungi and bacteria within the cecum, which aids digestion.

Say No to Begging

Reward your pets with treats. However, make sure to give treats only for behaviors you want to encourage. Use pet treats as positive reinforcement.

Almost every pet loves a tasty treat. However, nothing can compare with your presence, so always make time for your pets. You can play with them after work or during weekends and give them lots of love and praise.

When they’re busy having fun, you don’t have to keep them busy chewing on treats. That’s a win-win for everyone.



Photo by Samson Katt from Pexels