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The Best Healthy Treats for Dogs

Three Minutes Aug 12, 2022

There’s nothing our dogs enjoy more than treats. But with so many options on the market, how do you know which treats are best for your pup? Our guide is here to help! We’ve got the low-down on treats for dogs, from healthy dog treats to homemade dog treat recipes. Dig in to find your pup’s perfect snack!

Types of Dog Treats

When shopping for dog treats, there’s more to consider than flavor. Treats for dogs come in all sorts of variations and specialties. Some are simply for enjoyment. Others can help your dog with anxiety, relieve pain, or clean their teeth.

Finding the right treats for your dog starts with knowing what your dog needs. How old are they? Do they have any allergies or digestive issues? Are they gaining unhealthy weight or could they stand to put on a few pounds? Your veterinarian can help you narrow down the best options for healthy dog treats.

Here are just a few of the types of dog treats you can choose from:

Homemade dog treats

If you’re concerned about the quality of what your dog snacks on and want to save money, you could just make your own! Homemade dog treats are a great option for health-conscious dog owners since you can control the ingredients. This is especially useful if your dog has unique dietary needs or is allergic to certain foods.

There’s no shortage of easy recipes for homemade dog treats online. Common ingredients include apple, pumpkin, and banana. You can use just about anything to make dog cookies, as long as the ingredients are all safe for dogs to eat.

CBD dog treats for anxiety

Cannabidoil, or CBD, has become a popular panacea for everything from joint pain to anxiety. The good news is that it doesn’t just benefit humans — it works for pets, too! Enter CBD dog treats. These cannabidiol-infused biscuits are formulated specifically for dogs that suffer from anxiety, fear, and/or pain. Some studies have also found evidence of CBD combating cancer.2

CBD is a hemp derivative, so there’s no THC like you would find in medical and recreational marijuana.2 Still, you should talk to your vet to make sure your dog is safe to enjoy these calming treats. It’s also important to pay attention to a number of factors when choosing CBD treats, including:3

  • Ingredients: Make sure everything in the treat is dog-safe. Don’t give your dog CBD products for humans, as they could contain harmful ingredients like xylitol. They may also contain THC, which is toxic to dogs.2 Conversely, CBD products that contain terpenes and other substances from the cannabis plant seem to work best when it comes to pain and anxiety relief.2
  • CBD concentration: The packaging should list in milligrams how much CBD is in each serving. Aim for a dosage equal to 0.1 – 0.2 milligrams per kilogram of your dog’s weight.2 Consult your vet to make sure you’ve got the measurements right.
  • Quality: Weeding out low-quality CBD dog treats may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Just look for the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) Seal of Quality Assurance on the packaging.2

Treats for puppies   

Treats are particularly important for puppies. Growing dogs need food, plus a tasty treat can make training much easier. But, when it comes to puppies, some treats are a better fit than others. There are a few factors to pay special attention to:4

  • Ingredients: It’s always important to know what you’re feeding your dog. Puppies can be especially sensitive to low-quality ingredients or treats full of grains. Look for human-grade meat high on the ingredients list.
  • Calories: Low-calorie treats are the way to go. You’ll likely try lots of treats as you figure out what your puppy likes best. The lower the calories per serving, the more your pup can have at a time, and the less likely they are to become overweight or develop diabetes.
  • Size: Puppies are small! It’s one of the many things we love about them. Accordingly, their treats should be puppy-sized as well. Smaller treats for puppies will pose less of a choking hazard. Of course, “small” is relative to the breed of dog. A St. Bernard pup can handle treats a bit bigger than a young Pomeranian could.

Dog training treats

Like many of us, dogs are motivated by the promise of something tasty. That’s why treats are such an effective tool for training. But finding the right dog training treats might not be as cut-and-dry as you think. Consider: Are the treats high-value? A “high-value” treat is something extra special that your dog only gets as a reward during training.5 The better the treat, the more effective the training will likely be. What makes a treat high-value?

  • Smell: A dog’s sense of smell is one of its most important tools. In fact, recent studies have found that their sense of smell is directly linked to their vision.6 Our pups can actually “see” with their noses! It makes sense, then, that a strong-smelling treat will be all the more appealing to your pooch.
  • Flavor: Of course, taste is just as important. Short of trying the treats yourself, the best way to determine this is with your dog. Give them samples and see which ones they prefer.
  • Rarity: Perhaps the most important quality of a high-value treat. Make it something your dog only receives during training. Even if it’s not the best tasting or smelling, the rarity of a dog training treat can be enough to elevate it to high-value status.

Dog teeth cleaning treats

Dental health is just as important for dogs as it is for humans. The best way to give your pooch a clean mouth is with regular brushing and professional cleanings, but dental treats can help too. These chews can help reduce plaque buildup and get rid of bad breath.7 Dental chews come in many shapes and sizes. Your vet can help you get started and might even recommend a special dental diet. Here are some additional guidelines to help you find the right ones:7

  • Avoid hard treats: Pigs’ ears and rawhide are popular choices for dental chews. But if your dog has tooth disease, they could end up breaking their teeth on a too-hard treat.
  • Limit the number of treats: In addition to keeping your pup’s calories down, limiting the number of dental chews you give your dog can increase their efficacy. Too many treats and your dog might wolf them down before their teeth can benefit.
  • Know your dog’s chewing habits: If your dog is an aggressive chewer, they’re more likely to bite off large chunks of edible dental treats (or even non-edible ones). If swallowed, these pieces can become choking or obstruction hazards. Adjust your dental treat choice to meet your dog’s needs.

Treats for dogs with allergies

If your dog has allergies, you’re probably already taking steps to keep their food safe. That should also extend to their treats. Fortunately, hypoallergenic treats exist. These typically include limited ingredients, avoid common allergens like grain, and feature novel animal protein like rabbit or salmon.8 With your vet’s help, you could also make your own treats at home. Here are some common types of treats for dogs with allergies:8

  • Freeze-dried protein: These single-ingredient treats are composed of just one type of animal protein, making it easy to avoid allergens. They also use a freeze-drying technique to dehydrate the protein without compromising its nutritional value. If you have a freeze dryer this is one hypoallergenic treat you can make at home!
  • Pumpkin dog treats: Pumpkin is a popular ingredient for good reason. It can aid your dog’s digestion and is a good replacement for complex carbohydrates. Plus they taste great!
  • Potato-based treats: Potatoes are another healthy substitute for complex carbs. If your dog is allergic to grains or gluten, look for potatoes near the top of the ingredients list.
  • Single-ingredient bully sticks: This type of bully stick is made with 100% animal protein and nothing else. That makes it easy to avoid any lurking allergens. Single-ingredient bully sticks are also a great healthy alternative to rawhide, as they pose less of an obstruction risk.

Treat Your Pup Right

There’s no shortage of options in the wonderful world of dog treats. Knowing what your dog needs is an important step in picking the healthiest options for them.

As always, consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet. If, after starting a new type of treat, you notice signs of gastrointestinal distress (vomiting, diarrhea, etc.) in your dog, stop feeding them that treat immediately. Food poisoning is one of the most common types of pet emergency and can result in a difficult choice between your bank account and your pet. Make sure you and your pup are protected with a dog insurance policy from MetLife Pet Insurance.1 See how much you could save with a free quote.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

2  “Does CBD Work for Dogs?,” American Kennel Club

3 “Best CBD Dog Treats – Top Brands of 2021,” Washingtonian

4 “The 8 Best Treats for Puppies of 2022,” The Spruce Pets

5 “What Kind of Treats Should You Use to Train Your Dog,” Preventive Vet

6 “Dogs can ‘see’ with their noses, study suggests,” NBC News

7 “Dog Dental Chews & Treats: Types and Benefits,” Fetch by WebMD

8 “Hypoallergenic Dog Treats,” Rover

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