Knowing the Tricks to Giving Safe Pet Treats

by Dr. Barbara Lewis, Associate Veterinarian
Braden River Animal Hospital & Braden River Animal Hospital

What better way to say I LOVE YOU than with a TREAT? It can be confusing to know which treats are healthy and safe for our beloved fur babies. With the upcoming holidays and anticipated snacking for everyone, here is an abbreviated guide to highlight the main foods that can harm our pets. We want you and your pet(s) to get through the holidays safely including choosing the right treats for your dog or cat.

In general, treats should make up no more than 10% of your pets total caloric needs a day. Treats can be huge contributors to excess calories so it is important to monitor daily intake. Most treats are not complete and balanced nutritionally so if our pets eat too many treats they will fill up on empty calories and not be hungry for their food. Sound familiar?

If you have a healthy dog without any health conditions, a few great natural choices include giving baby carrots (fresh or steamed), green beans, broccoli, bananas, berries, watermelon, apple slices, air-popped popcorn with no salt or butter, and plain rice cakes broken into little pieces. The above are safe for cats too! Our kitties also like cooked zucchini, a few licks of yogurt and even canned pumpkin!

If your pet has a health condition such as kidney/bladder stones, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, food allergies, or gastrointestinal disease please talk to your veterinarian about which treats are best. Many of the prescribed diets for these conditions have treats you can either purchase or sometimes make in the oven with their canned food so you can stay compliant and still offer a “treat”.Above is a list of what treats you could be feeding your pets.

Below is a brief list of what foods you should avoid feeding your pet(s):

• Chocolate is on the top of this list!
In general, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more poisonous it is to pets. Methylxanthines, the chemicals in chocolate that are dangerous to pets, are similar to caffeine and more heavily concentrated in the darker varieties of chocolates. Chocolate toxicosis can result in tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, excess drinking, lethargy, elevated heart rate, irregular heartbeat, seizure, and death.

• Grapes and Raisins
This fruit is extremely poisonous to dogs! Very small amounts of raisins (and grapes) can cause kidney failure in dogs and, potentially, cats. Therefore, any ingestion of raisins or grapes should be considered serious.

• Xylitol
This sugar-free sweetener is found in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. Xylitol can result in a dangerous lowering of the blood sugar and cause seizures, liver failure, and death. If your pet ingests Xylitol you should contact your veterinarian immediately

• Onions, garlic, leeks and chives
These vegetables, members of the allium family, can be toxic when consumed by dogs and cats. When chewed or swallowed, the ingredients in these foods can cause anemia and gastrointestinal upset.

• Macadamia nuts
Also known as “Hawaiian nuts”, macadamias can cause lethargy, vomiting and difficulty with walking in dogs.

• Pet Jerky Treats Imported from China
For over a decade, pet owners and veterinarians from around the country have reported that pets have become sick or terminally ill after being fed jerky treats made from ingredients sourced from China. Although no determining causes have been officially stated by the FDA, it is highly recommended to feed pet treats made from companies based in the USA. Another options is to make your own pet treats. One great option is to craft homemade jerky treats using your own food dehydrator and incorporating slices of organic chicken or meats such as turkey, salmon, or beef.

Hopefully this will help guide you through the rigors of determining what treats are best for your pets. And, remember…if you really want to provide your pet companions with a good treat then take some time and go for a long walk, have some playtime or just cuddle up on the couch. Dogs and cats love spending time with you and want your attention far more than they may want a snack… well, usually! Lol!

Next month, we will discuss the controversy surrounding whether or not to offer grain-free diets to pets. Also, if you have questions about which foods to feed your pet(s) or would like more information on the pet treats we recommend or carry in our office at Braden River Animal Hospital, please don’t hesitate to call us at 941-745-1513.

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