Treats aren't just a welcome snack or special surprise; given incorrectly, some can be dangerous to puppies.
Choosing treats that are the wrong size or type can create serious problems for your dog.
If you give them a treat that is too small, for example, your dog might not chew it properly. The swallowed food could become lodged in their mouth, esophagus (windpipe), or even their lungs. Treats that are too big can also be dangerous for the same reason.
Here are some tips on how to choose the safest treats for your puppy:
- The ideal dog treat is one made of good quality ingredients, moderate to low in calories, consistent in ingredients (thus unlikely to cause stomach upset from bag to bag), very appealing to your dog, and safe. Higher-quality treats tend to be more consistently produced, so avoid discount and supermarket brands if possible.
- A great guideline is to look at the sizes based on the manufacturer's recommendations. Most often, these are based on the dog's body weight. For example, some treats are recommended for dogs less than 20 pounds, other for dogs 21 to 40 pounds, and so on.
- Monitor how your dog eats his treats. If your dog chews off big chunks quickly, you might be in for a problem if the pieces get caught in their esophagus. If your dog is one that eats quickly and doesn't chew their treats well, snacks which have a crumbly texture that breaks apart more easily are a better choice.
- Look for the seal of approval from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which publishes feed regulations and ingredient definitions. If the dog food or treat follows their guidelines, the label will include a statement that proclaims it "formulated to meet the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profile for Puppies/Adults/Senior.” Some companies create treats specifically to be compliant with the AAFCO standards. It is not a requirement to meet AAFCO standards in order to sell pet food, so buyers beware: your dog's current treats could be lacking in this department.
- Good nutrition may be the most important factor affecting your dog's health. This is especially true in growing puppies. Feed the best quality food you can afford and remember that treats are like candy bars for dogs: not something they need, but something they may like. Treats are never a replacement for a good quality core dog food.
- Consider low-calorie treats for dogs with weight control problems. Another alternative is to break up treats into small pieces to make them last longer, thus giving less food (and fewer calories). Not all treats are created equal; always read the labels for caloric content before purchasing if this is a concern.
Remember, treats can go bad and become stale. No one wants to eat spoiled food, even dogs that seem to eat anything they come across. Check your dog's treats regularly and toss them in the trash if it is past their expiration date or if the treats smell or look rancid or unpalatable.