The first thing I look for in a treat is the number of calories it contains.
A couple of years ago, I called some of the major manufacturers of commercial dog and cat treats to find out how many calories were in their treats. I was shocked by some of what I found. One treat had over 1,000 calories!
That number of calories is almost the entire daily energy requirement for an average dog weighing 60 pounds.
I have a list of all the information I obtained from these calls on our website at http://woodridgeanimalhospital.com/Main/DogTreatCalories.html for dog treats or http://woodridgeanimalhospital.com/Main/CaloriesinCatTreats.html for cat treats.
If the treat your giving isn't listed, you can find out the number of calories in it by calling the 800 number listed on the package.
The second thing I look for in a treat are what additional benefits it has. Because 80 percent of dogs and 75 percent of cats have signs of dental disease by age 3, my favorite for most dogs and cats are the treats geared toward dental health. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) lists treats that have been shown to benefit your pet's dental health by effectively retarding plaque and tartar. You can find this list at http://vohc.org/accepted_products.htm.
One word of caution on dental treats. Be careful if your pet tends to swallow treats whole or bite off large pieces. Many dental treats are designed to be chewed thoroughly over an extended time. Because of this, they don't break down as easily as other treats and if swallowed whole or in large pieces can get stuck in the digestive tract, causing a potentially life-threatening obstruction. Choking is also a concern when large pieces are swallowed.
So... finally the answer to your question. My favorite treat available is the prescription diet T/D made by Hills for 5 main reasons.
- Calories- It's lower in calories per treat than almost all the treats I found. A regular size kibble treat has 17 calories, a small bite has 8 calories, and a cat kibble treat has under 2 calories.
- Guarantee- This food/treat is guaranteed for taste. If a pet won't eat it, an opened bag can be returned for a full refund.
- Dental Benefits- It's uniquely designed to not crumble immediately when your pet bites down on it. Instead, the teeth sink into the kibble with each chew, providing some scrubbing action to help decrease plaque build up. It's been formulated as a complete and balanced diet, but many people offer it as a treat after each meal.
- Price- Many people think that because it's a prescription diet that it's more expensive. It's actually one of the cheapest treats I've found. It works out to $3 per 100 treats for a big dog, $1.50 per 100 treats for small dogs, and under $0.50 per 100 treats for a cat.
- Safety- Most importantly, because it's formulated as a dental food, it's a safe option for pets that tend to swallow treats whole or in large pieces. Though I do recommend feeding it as a regular diet or more than a single treat at a time for these "gulpers". Having multiple kibble in the mouth at one time forces most pets to chew more.
And finally a short word on table scraps. If you decide to give table scraps as a treat for your pet, avoid carbohydrates and dairy products. My favorite choices are green beans, carrots, and apple pieces because they are high in fiber but low in calories. Don't give any sauces or spices with them and make sure your pet chews the carrots appropriately if you feed them raw, as to avoid a choking hazard.
If you have a question you'd like answered in this blog, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.