Today is International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day, though I’m sure most dogs don’t need much of an excuse to appreciate a snack or three!
We all know that having a treat now and again is harmless, and can just be a nice little way to improve your day. A square of chocolate or the odd packet of crisps is not going to do us any damage as long as we balance it out with the rest of our nutrition and make sure we don’t overindulge, right? Well, it’s the same with our pets.
The PDSA warns that around a third of all dogs are obese. Obesity can cause or exacerbate a whole host of medical issues and ailments and managing your pet’s weight is of vital importance. One of the worst culprits for pet weight gain is over-treating them, or not knowing how to manage their diet effectively. With a bit of know-how and a few special tricks up your sleeve you can give your pets treats they’ll love without affecting their waistlines.
Adding it all up
Imagine a dripping tap. It might not seem like it’s losing a lot of water. However, if you place a glass under it and return later, you’ll find it fills up remarkably quickly. It’s the same with snacking; even small treats add up in calories over time. Having a good idea of how many treats you generally give your pet will help as you can then deduct the rough value from their regular food. This way you can avoid unintentionally piling extra calories into your pet’s daily diet. It’s been suggested that treats should make up a maximum of 10% of a pet’s daily calorie intake, not be additional calories on top of their usual diet.
Homemade is best
Commercial pet treats can be a bit of a minefield, not to mention confusing. With incomprehensible ingredients and conflicting opinions over what is and isn’t safe, it can be difficult to know what is the right choice. Luckily it’s really easy to make cheap, delicious, healthy treats at home! Animal liver is cheap and will last for a long time if you cut it into small pieces before drying it out in the oven at a low temperature over several hours. You don’t need to add any preservatives, salt or herbs, they’ll love it on its own! Liver is great as it’s full of vitamins and low in fat. You can also try raw carrot batons, peas and cubes of dried out beef (cheap cuts like stewing steak will work nicely). If you find that you really enjoy making treats at home you could always invest in a food dehydrator which will take a lot of the hard work out of making dried meat treats.
Make it a challenge
Using puzzle toys is a great way to let your pets have a snack while also encouraging them to keep their brains and bodies active. KONG toys are great and come in a number of sizes, shapes and strengths to suit pets of any size. You can also play games like Hide and Seek. Additionally, only treating as a reward for good behaviour, rather than just out of habit, will help you keep track of what your pets have had to munch on during the day.