There are few things more satisfying to a dog owner than watching their beloved pooch chow down on an excellent meal. Everybody likes to indulge every now and then, and the same goes for dogs and puppies (who sometimes get tired of their dry kibble diets).
But just like how it is with humans, there are some foods that dogs should only eat in moderation—or not at all if their health is at risk. Even if your pup enjoys eating human food, your diet may not give them the nutritional benefits that they need from a canine diet. At worst, some foods may endanger them and increase their chances of getting ill from digestive problems.
There are definitely alternatives to overindulging your dog with foods that aren’t good for them. You can pamper them with a safe dog toy that’s reminiscent of your own cheat days like a customizable beer can dog toy. You can also switch out certain treats with healthy and pet-safe substitutes, which your dog can enjoy on special occasions.
What are the safest and most nutritious treats to give your dog? Here’s a list of food items, as well as some tips on how to substitute them for other foods.
Lots of dogs like eating chicken, and it’s just as well because chicken is an excellent source of protein for them. Stick to cooked chicken instead of raw chicken to protect your dog from salmonella or other bacterial infections, and choose a lean cut like chicken breast for maximum nutritional benefits. If you want to give your dog an extra treat, like on their birthday, you can sub out plain boiled chicken for tasty roast chicken. Make chicken your go-to protein for your dog instead of a fatty cut of meat like steak, as the latter may increase your dog’s risk of getting pancreatitis.
When it comes to dishes like burgers and loaded fries, you might think that a topping like bacon makes everything better—and if your dog had a taste of it, they’d likely agree with you. But apart from being very fatty, bacon is a highly processed food that contains a lot of sodium. You can avoid severe inflammation problems for your dog by switching out bacon with dried beef, chicken, or fish jerky. They’ll be treated to the same deliciously meaty taste and satisfying mouthfeel but without the high salt and fat content. Learn how to make dried jerky at home, or look for dried jerky products that are manufactured specifically for canine consumption.
You and your dog may share a love for the rich taste of cheese. But they’re better off eating a meal that contains a healthier variant of this treat. If your dog isn’t lactose-intolerant, you can add small amounts of cottage cheese to their regular diet. Because it’s fermented, cottage cheese contains less lactose than other varieties of cheese, and it is also less salty. Add it to their dog food, or feed them healthy homemade treats made out of cottage cheese and chicken broth.
Some dogs have a penchant for ice cream, but sweets aren’t very good for their diets either. Processed foods like ice cream, which contains lots of sugar and preservatives, may wreak havoc on your dog’s digestive system in the long run. A nutritious treat that will be just as refreshing as ice cream is plain yogurt. On top of being rich in protein and calcium, yogurt contains probiotics that are good for your dog’s gut health. Choose a product that doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners, as varieties like xylitol are toxic for dogs.
Peanut butter is an irresistible treat for a number of dogs, and the good news is that it’s also very nourishing to their diet. It’s a known source of vital nutrients like vitamin B, vitamin E, niacin, and healthy fats. It is definitely a better dessert treat for your dog than chocolate, whose theobromine content is actually poisonous to them. Like with other healthy foods you intend to give your dog as a dessert, ensure that the peanut butter you feed them contains no toxic artificial sweeteners. It’s wisest to buy peanut butter products that are labeled as unsalted and raw.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a sweet carb fix for your dog, ditch processed foods like cookies, muffins, or hunks of leftover cake. Your dog will be content with a naturally sweet carbohydrate like sliced bananas, which boast high fiber, potassium, and vitamin content along with low cholesterol. Bananas are a perfectly safe snack for your dog to eat, but give them in moderation as they also contain a lot of sugar. Delight your dog by slathering a little peanut butter on your banana slices or freezing banana chunks for them to eat during the hot summer months.
The best treats for your dog are the ones that supplement their health and keep them out of harm’s way. Don’t be afraid to feed any of these six items to your dog, knowing that they’ll add some interesting new tastes and textures to your dog’s meals.