Pet owners have always liked to show their animal family a little extra love with the occasional treat, but modern treats have gone way beyond slipping Rover a little turkey under the kitchen table. These days pet owners can visit pet bakeries, buy frozen dog desserts at the grocery store, or make homemade treats from a pet treat cookbook. With all these options, how do you know the right thing to feed your pet?
The good side of treats
There's nothing wrong with feeding your pet the occasional treat. Small amounts of tasty food can be great motivators if you're trying to train your pet, or rewards to positively reinforce good behavior. These kinds of rewards can increase the bond between pets and owners, and some treats can even help your pet stay healthy. Best of all, it can be a lot of fun watching your pet savor a treat she really loves.
Treats can cause a few problems, however, if they aren't given carefully.
Count those calories
One of the most dangerous problems overindulgence in treats can cause is obesity. It's a growing problem for pets - nearly half of all the pets in the United States are overweight. Obesity can contribute to a wide range of health problems, from arthritis to diabetes and heart disease.
Treats can be a hidden cause of weight gain, because you may not realize quite how many you give your pet throughout the day. And some treats, because of the extra fat and sugar that make them so desirable to your furry friend, can be jam-packed with calories. Large biscuits can contain well over 100 calories each, for example. It's hard to estimate how many calories pets use, because calorie use varies a lot based on animals' sizes and activity levels. For the sake of example, however, we can imagine that an average 20-pound dog burns about 700 calories per day. Just a few large treats and a leftover burger from the family barbecue could supply enough calories for that dog for a whole day, before she even gets to her regular food. So be aware that some snacks are packed with calories, and stick with low-cal treats or avoid treats altogether if your pet is overweight.
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