Your Healthy Pet Treat Buying Guide
Written by: Richard Rowlands, Pet Health Expert
A proper, balanced diet is key to maintaining your pet's health. And nothing will keep them healthier than ensuring not just the food, but also the treats you give them are high quality, biologically appropriate, and work to meet their needs. Don't undo all the good you've done in selecting a great pet food by supplementing with puppy or kitty junk food!
Treats that will complement and complete their diet do exist. In this article, we'll give you tips on how to select healthy treats as well as introduce you to different options that you'll find when shopping. By the end, you'll have enough knowledge to choose the perfect treats for your furry friend.
Tips for Choosing Healthy Pet Treats
Anyone who’s set foot in the treat aisle of a pet store will realize there are an overwhelming number of options available for both dogs and cats. This makes it difficult to choose healthy treats that are nutritionally balanced and free of low-quality ingredients. But don't worry, we’ve got you covered.
The best place to start with any treat is its ingredient list. Treats that are meat-based, minimally processed, and low in calories often make good options, especially if you intend to use them for rewards or training. Your pet will love them, and they won't add as much to their daily caloric intake.
Another recommendation is to avoid treats that have added sugar, low-quality fillers, and artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. If you find yourself doing Google searches for multiple ingredients trying to figure out what they are, it might be best to avoid that treat option.
There are also some treats that claim to be "natural" or "organic" on their labels, but this doesn't always indicate that a treat is healthy. It may still be too high in calories, fat, or inappropriate fillers to make it a good choice. Again, read the ingredient list and look for a nutritional breakdown of the treat either on the packaging or the manufacturer's website.
The country where a treat is made can also play a big role in its quality and safety. We recommend selecting treats with ingredients sourced and produced in the US, or other countries with strictly enforced food regulations for pets. If they meet the requirements of human-grade quality and labeling, even better!
Types of Healthy Pet Treats
A wide variety of healthy and organic dog treats and cat treats are available commercially. Knowing their differences will guarantee you select one that’s appropriate for your pet and their nutritional needs.
Some of the most popular include functional treats, jerky treats, freeze-dried treats, and biscuits or crunchy treats. The list doesn't stop there! Keep reading to find out more about what these various options can do to ensure your dog or cat's health.
These are possibly the most important treats you could add to your pet's diet. They are designed to provide specific health benefits and we'll bet you've seen some before. Popular examples include dental chews as well as treats that contain added ingredients to support digestion, joint health, or the immune system.
It's important to consult your holistic veterinarian before feeding functional treats. You want to make sure they are appropriate for your pet's unique nutritional and health needs. Your vet may even have some great suggestions on options to choose from, but never be afraid to suggest alternatives you've found in your search of the treat aisle.
These kinds of treats are a big win with almost every pet because high-quality jerky treats balance taste and texture in a paleo-inspired, grain-free snack. Always choose treats made with a limited number of natural, minimally processed, and reliably sourced ingredients. There's no reason for fillers or an excess of chemical preservatives with this style of treat.
You'll want to avoid low-quality jerky treats manufactured in China, as several brands have been suspected of causing sickness and death in pets in recent years. If you're ever in doubt about where the treat was manufactured or where the ingredients were sourced from, just avoid it and choose something else you can have confidence in. There are enough reliable options available that there's no need to take a gamble with your pet's health.
Freeze-dried treats with healthy, raw ingredients are a fantastic option as they lock in natural flavors and valuable nutritional components that may be lost in other manufacturing processes.
This kind of treat is usually made with different types of meat or fish. Sometimes, especially in the case of fish, the treat will heavily retain or perfectly keep the natural shape and appearance of what it's made from. This is great, as you're looking for a minimal number of ingredients and no fillers or preservatives.
Biscuits & Crunchy Treats
One of the most popular and classic pet treats are biscuits or crunchy treats. They come in a variety of flavors, shapes, and sizes which makes them appropriate and appealing to a wide array of pets, regardless of size or life stage. They are also convenient, easy to store, and perfect for use as training rewards.
When choosing the right kind, you want to make sure it's a treat that's an appropriate size for your pet. And perhaps out of all the treats, it is most important here to check the ingredient list. Make sure the product contains high-quality, human-grade ingredients with no added chemicals or fillers. Since the manufacturing of these treats changes their shape and appearance, it's easy to hide those undesirable ingredients. As always, when unsure, pass and grab something else you can have confidence in.
Alternatives & Innovations
Like any list, this one isn't entirely exhaustive. There are even more options for healthy pet treats out there like natural food toppers and dehydrated treats.
Natural food toppers are an excellent way to add extra, high-quality ingredients to a pet's meal to boost their health and create a complete diet. It is also a way to help picky eaters eat more by making mealtime into treat time!
Dehydrated dog treats are similar to freeze-dried. You will find some vegetable options in this category, which will be great to add to a dog's diet, or some meaty ones for your cat.
We hope that you now have a clear idea of how high-quality treats can be a great addition to your pet's diet and contribute positively to their health. It should also be easier for you to identify which are better quality and what kind is a proper choice for your pet's unique needs and tastes.
Just remember that treats are just that – treats. Avoid overfeeding them to prevent weight gain or obesity. Either consult the packaging of the treat or better yet your veterinarian if you're ever in doubt.