Dog Treats: The Good and The Bad in Amesbury, MA

When strolling down the pet food aisle, the sheer volume of dog treat options available can be staggering. From organic nibbles to dental chews, the choices are endless, leaving pet owners in a dilemma: which treats are the healthiest and safest for their furry companions? This guide will help you narrow down your options, ensuring that the treats you pick are not just tasty for your dog, but also potentially beneficial for their health. 

Read on for insights into the world of dog treats and be sure to reach out to Merrimac Valley Animal Hospital at (978) 388-3074 if you have any questions or concerns!

dog treats good and bad in amesbury ma

What Makes a Good Dog Treat?

The key to selecting the right treats lies in understanding what makes them appropriate to give to your dog. 

Here are some essential factors to consider:

High-Quality Ingredients

The foundation of a good dog treat is its ingredient list. Ideally, the first ingredient should be a high-quality protein source, such as real meat, fish, or poultry. Avoid treats with ambiguous terms like “meat meal” or “animal by-product” as primary ingredients (while these are not inherently bad for your dog, you may want to avoid them). Additionally, treats made with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can offer additional nutrients and fiber, beneficial for your dog’s digestion.

Limited or No Artificial Additives

A healthy treat should be free from artificial preservatives (like BHA and BHT), colors, and flavors. These additives can cause allergic reactions or other health issues in some dogs. Natural preservatives like vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) are safer alternatives.

Appropriate Calorie Count

Treats should not contribute significantly to your dog’s daily calorie intake. This is particularly important for dogs that are overweight or have a sedentary lifestyle. Look for treats that are low in calories and fat, yet still appealing to your dog. Remember, even healthier treats should be given in moderation.

Size and Texture

The size and hardness of the treat should be appropriate for your dog’s age, size, and dental health. Smaller, softer treats are better for puppies and senior dogs with sensitive teeth. Larger, more active dogs may benefit from harder chews that promote dental health by reducing plaque and tartar buildup.

Nutritional Balance

Treats should not disrupt the balance of your dog’s main diet. If your dog has specific dietary needs or restrictions, ensure the treats align with these. For example, dogs with kidney issues may require treats lower in sodium. Similarly, if your dog is on a grain-free diet, select treats that follow this guideline.

Functional Benefits

Some treats offer additional health benefits, such as dental chews that help clean teeth and freshen breath, or hypoallergenic treats for dogs with food sensitivities. Others might include supplements like glucosamine for joint health or omega-3 fatty acids for skin and coat improvement.

Transparency of the Brand

Opt for brands that are transparent about their sourcing and manufacturing processes. Trustworthy brands often provide detailed information about where their ingredients are sourced from and how their treats are made.

Certifications and Approvals

Look for treats that have undergone rigorous quality control and have certifications from reputable organizations. Treats approved by veterinary nutritionists or that adhere to the standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) are generally considered high quality and safe.

By considering these aspects, you can choose treats that are not only delicious for your dog but also contribute positively to their overall health. Remember, treats are a supplement to your dog’s diet and should be given as part of a balanced nutritional plan recommended by your veterinarian.

Top Veterinarian-Recommended Treats

Many treats are not only tasty but also vet-approved for their quality ingredients and health benefits. Some top-recommended options include:

  • Open Farm Dehydrated Beef Treats 
  • The Honest Kitchen Beef Bone Broth Bites
  • PetLab Co. Digestive Support Bites 
  • JustFoodForDogs Treats

The Bad Side of Dog Treats

Overindulging in treats or choosing products with harmful ingredients can adversely affect your dog’s health. Here’s what to watch out for:

  • Harmful or Unhealthy  Ingredients: Steer clear of treats containing excessive sugar, salt, vegetable oils, artificial preservatives (like BHA and BHT), and unhealthy fats. These can lead to obesity, dental problems, and other health issues.
  • Allergenic Ingredients: Some dogs are sensitive to certain ingredients like wheat, corn, or specific proteins. Knowing your dog’s sensitivities is crucial when choosing treats.
  • Overfeeding: How many treats are too many for your dog? Moderation is key–treats should not exceed 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake. Going over this percentage can increase your dog’s risk of weight gain and nutritional imbalances. 

Natural Alternatives to Commercial Treats

For a healthier treat option for your dog, consider natural treats like sliced carrots, plain (unsweetened) pumpkin, apples (without seeds), bell peppers, or cooked (unbuttered and unseasoned) green beans. These not only provide a nutritious snack but also help your dog maintain a balanced diet.

Your Partner in Pet Health (and Treat Recommendations!)

Remember, while treats can be a great way to bond with your dog and reinforce good behavior, choosing the right treats is important for their health. Indulging in a less-healthy treat option once in a while may not be harmful, but you want to instill good habits in your dog so they’ll quickly learn to crave foods and treats that are healthy for them! 

At Merrimac Valley Animal Hospital, we are dedicated to the health and happiness of your pet. If you have questions about choosing the right treats or need to book an appointment, our team is here to assist. Call us at (978) 388-3074 for expert advice tailored to your pet’s unique needs! 

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About Us

Merrimac Valley Animal Hospital had humble beginnings in 1968. Dr. Walter Brown opened the animal hospital in a garage next to his home near the current hospital and operated out of this small space until the current building was built in 1969.