Treating your Pet
Posted November 10, 2016
Giving your pet treats can be a great way to help build a
relationship with them. However, giving your pet unhealthy treats
or too many treats can negatively impact their health. Dr.
Christine Rutter, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, offered
some advice on how to prevent your pet from biting off more than
they can chew.
Treats are an important part of the human-animal
bond, Rutter said. Rewarding your pet for desired behavior,
distracting them from stressful situations, and using food to
entertain high-energy pets are all good ways to use treats. In many
ways, treats can be used to enhance the relationship between you
and your pet. But, how much is too much?
“Just like our own snacks, treats should probably comprise no
more than 10-15 percent of your pet’s diet,” Rutter said. “If
you are training and anticipate needing to give your pet a lot of
treats, giving them bits of their own kibble diet can be just as
Additionally, Rutter said giving too many treats can lead to pet
obesity. Obesity is a problem in pets, just like it is in the human
population. Many pet treats can be packed with calories, so if
you aren’t careful, you could be giving your pet the human
equivalent of eating a piece of cake, Rutter said. She recommended
talking with your veterinarian about your pet’s caloric needs and
how to choose a healthy treat for them. Additionally, Rutter said
some “people foods” are okay to share with your pet.
“My dogs love carrots, so baby carrots are my go-to dog treat,”
she said. “Carrots, green beans, seedless watermelon, cantaloupe,
asparagus, banana, boiled or baked poultry, and baked whitefish are
safe to share with your dog in moderation.”
However, Rutter said foods such as sauces, rotisserie chicken,
gravies, grapes, raisins, onions, peppers, garlic, avocado,
macadamia nuts, fatty meats, and oily fishes can be rich and cause
upset stomach, including the risk of diarrhea and pancreatitis.
Some dogs and cats may even like low-fat yogurt, but don’t offer
these items if your pet has GI upset after enjoying them.
If you are worried about your pet’s treat intake, substituting a
mouth-watering treat for a healthier option or some kibble from
their normal diet is a great solution. “Your pet will almost never
reject a previously accepted treat in lieu of a ‘better’ one,”
Rutter said. “While cats may be a bit more finicky, even they
remain excited at the concept of treating because it is one of the
ways that we express our approval of them.”
Furthermore, shopping for healthier commercial treats from the
get-go could help decrease the guilt of giving your pets too many
treats and the possible negative side effects. Rutter said to look
for high-quality, low-fat treats made in the United States. Just
like our own treats, anything that is fatty, salty, or smells
delicious probably isn’t that healthy in large quantities.
“Don’t hesitate to read the nutrition labels, though they may
not be easy to interpret on pet foods and treats,” Rutter said.
“Your veterinarian can help you pick out a treat that is safe for
your pet and their particular needs.”
Whether you are rewarding your pet for good behavior or showing
them some love, treats can help support your relationship with your
pet. However, be sure to be mindful of your pet’s treat intake to
avoid health concerns.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be
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