It’s a complicated issue, even in our own diets. The problem comes in about how much to feed your pet. Treats serve many purposes for our pets: to assist when training, to reward behavior or as a snack. Treats are definitely okay to add to your pet’s diet. However, (this is where it gets complicated) if you allow your pet a treat — especially on a regular basis, you need to keep his overall nutrition in mind.
Treats are only to be used in moderation. Treats should equal to no more than 10% of your pet’s caloric intake each day. If you feed your pet a treat, you should then reduce the amount of regular food he receives. You should also follow the feeding guidelines on the package of treats.
Why should pet owners be limiting treats? Obesity is becoming as common a problem for our pets as it is for us humans. It’s estimated that over half of all dogs and cats are either obese or overweight. A fat pet may seem extra cute or cuddly, but that extra fat can cause a whole host of health problems including arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart or respiratory disease and lead to an increased risk of certain cancers. Suddenly that extra pudge isn’t so cute anymore! It’s been studied (Purina Lifespan Study) that obesity can take two years off a dog’s life.
To check if your pet is overweight, you should be able to easily feel your pet’s ribs without pressing into him and his stomach should be tucked in. Your veterinarian can determine whether your pet is overweight by checking out his body condition score (BCS).
So how do you serve up treats in a healthy way? Use treats (always in moderation) alongside your pet’s complete and balanced diet. Never assume that a treat is complete and balanced (like his regular food) because some treats are and some aren’t. Always check the labels on the package and only feed according to the feeding guidelines. You should never feed your pet table scraps. Many of our foods are not meant for our pets and can throw off the balance of our pet’s diet. Our food doesn’t really provide our pets with any nutritional benefit anyway, and, in fact, some foods can cause your pet digestive upset, serious health problems and even death. Any human food fed to your pet can lead to obesity. Feeding table scraps can also cause undesirable behavior, like begging or jumping on the table.
The best way to avoid obesity is to ensure your pet receives plenty of exercise and play. Not only will exercise keep your pet sleek and trim, exercise strengthens the bond between us and them. Always, always provide your pet with plenty of fresh water. Water is essential for optimal health for them (and us)!