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Healthy Dog Treats

By: Dr. Amy Wolff

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Obesity in dogs is a major health concern. Just as with people, canine obesity can lead to very serious health problems. Diabetes, pancreatitis, arthritis and heart disease are just a few of the problems that can be caused by or worsened if your dog is overweight. While many pets are fortunate to stay naturally slim, there are those who seem to get fat with little effort.

And then there are those accomplished actors who have refined the business of asking for a morsel to an art form. Here are a few suggestions for offering your pet some healthy alternatives when you want to give them a treat.

If your pet has any type of weight problem (underweight as well as overweight) please check with your veterinarian to rule out possible causes. If your pet has dietary restrictions, discuss giving any new food with your vet.

Vegetables

Anyone who's ever seen a dog eat grass or greens knows there's a vegetarian side to your pet. Before domestication, when dogs hunted for their living, they ate the entrails of their prey, which contained a considerable amount of digested vegetable matter. Most animals still want some of this vegetation, but can't digest the tough fibrous components on their own. Try offering your dog some cooked green beans, carrots or peas. Many pets love them, and you can even mix them into their regular diet.

Rice, Popcorn and Pasta

Another favorite for many pets are rice, popcorn and pasta. A bit of a rice cake or some air popped popcorn is a great substitute for a high fat treat. Cooked rice can be added for bulk to a weight control diet. It's a way of giving your pet more food without adding a lot of fat calories. Cooked pasta is also great. Many pets relish a few elbow macaroni or other plain pasta.

Egg Whites, Cottage Cheese and Yogurt

A cooked egg white is a great protein treat, hard boil a few and keep them on hand. (The yolk has all the fat!) A little dab of cottage cheese or plain yogurt substitutes for licking that ice cream bowl!

Prescription Diets

If your pet has a health problem that is being controlled on a prescription diet from your veterinarian, sometimes treats have to be eliminated. Ask your veterinarian if a canned formulation of the diet is available. Most companies do make both canned and dried versions. Remove the food from the can in one large piece. Use a cheese slicer or knife to cut 1/4-inch slices and put them on a cookie sheet. Bake them at 300 degrees Fahrenheit until they are crispy, like a cracker. This gives your pet a crunchy treat that stays within the diet plan.

Food Sensitivities

Many pets have allergies or food sensitivities. Common culprits are dyes, flavorings, preservatives, carbohydrates and protein sources. If your pet is sensitive to any of these components, look for treats that are hypoallergenic, and have minimal or no dyes or preservatives. There are a number available in your local pet store.

The Last Word

If you can't resist feeding your pet little extras from the table or sharing every meal you have with him, consider carefully what you may be doing. A small dog that would normally weigh 10 to 12 pounds can gain a considerable amount of weight being given an overabundance of treats. A weight gain of one pound may not seem like much but to a small pet, one pound can be 10 percent of his body weight. That's like 15 pounds for a person! Use some healthy alternatives to help keep your pet in his best shape.

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