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There are plenty of ways to shower your four-legged best friend with love: long walks outside, belly rubs, and of course—treats! One way to some dogs’ hearts is through their stomach, and while they’d probably prefer if you give them endless nibbles, it’s important to practice treat-giving in moderation. And when you can, only choose the highest quality of ingredients for your doggo. Here, we talked with veterinarians to better understand what makes a healthy snack for canines, along with their top recommendations for fruits, veggies, grains, and meats.
What is a Healthy Snack for Dogs?
The best way to think about snacks for dogs is to compare them to your own nutrition approach. Healthy snacks for dogs provide added vitamins, nutrients, and/or hydration to supplement your pup’s whole health, says Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, DACVPM, the chief veterinarian at Petco. “It’s always best for your pet to have foods and treats formulated specifically for their needs; however, they can indulge in pet-friendly human-food treats in moderation,” she explains.
However, no matter how healthy the snack is, ensure it doesn’t make up more than 10 percent of your dog’s diet to avoid weight gain or other health issues.
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When you’re considering giving your pup a snack from human food, try to keep three considerations in mind: treats should be low-calorie and low-fat, made of high-quality ingredients, and provide a functional benefit, says Danielle Bernal, DVM with Wellness Pet Company. “Giving our dogs a snack makes them happy and makes us happy,” she continues. “But in addition to a tasty reward, giving a treat that delivers a health benefit to improve a dog’s well-being is an opportunity that truly makes a treat a healthy snack.”
Healthy Snack Recipes for Dogs
These three nutrition-packed treats will make your pup lick their lips and wag their tail in delight. Try one (or all!) of them.
Peanut Butter Banana Dog Ice Cream
With just three ingredients, this peanut butter banana dog ice cream is so easy that you can have it frozen and ready at any time. Consider adding bacon crumbles on top for an added crunch for your favorite floof. Just don’t go overboard because bacon is high in fat.
RELATED: 8 Frozen Dog Treats for Summer Snackin’
Frozen Peanut Butter Coconut Oil Dog Treats
Creamy peanut butter, canned pumpkin, coconut oil, and some dog-friendly spices make these frozen peanut butter coconut oil dog treats a win-win for nutrition and taste. Best of all, you can make a batch to keep in the freezer and give your pup a nibble when they’re an extra-good dog.
Peanut Butter Banana Grain-Free Dog Treats
This peanut butter banana grain-free dog treat recipe features peanut butter and banana as well as almond and coconut flours to give your four-legged pal exposure to new (and tasty!) ingredients.
Healthy Fruit Snacks for Dogs
Bernal says fruits as snacks help deliver a healthy and nutritious reward that supports well-being when correctly chosen and given in moderation. These are the top ones to introduce your pup to:
Apples: Chewy, crunchy and satisfying with each bite, apples serve as a source of dietary fiber that supports your pup’s digestive system. Bernal says apples also add vitamin A and C to their diet, but they need to be served without the seeds and core to avoid choking hazards.
Blueberries: An antioxidant powerhouse, blueberries provide immune system and digestive support for your pup. Bernal says they also are low in calories, so they’re ideal as a training treat or a topper for kibble.
Bananas: As a lower-calorie treat, bananas are also high in potassium, vitamins, biotin, fiber, and copper, Bernal raves. However, keep the total serving size low, since they have a higher sugar content than other fruit varieties.
Strawberries: Because of their high water content, Miller says strawberries can contribute to your pup’s hydration, which is important during the hot summer weather. Your pup may even like them frozen! Make sure to cut off the leaves and quarter them to prevent choking.
Watermelon: As a hydrating snack, your pup will enjoy the fresh taste of watermelon, all while getting vitamins A, B6, and C. “When serving your dog watermelon, make sure you remove the rind and seeds, which your dog could have trouble digesting,” Miller adds.
RELATED: Watermelon Mint Dog Popsicles
Healthy Veggie Snacks for Dogs
Just like us, doggos need vegetables in their diet to create balance and offer nutritional support. But they may not like the same ones you do. Here, the best picks.
Carrots: Bernal says this orange veggie is a great, low-calorie snack high in beta carotene, an essential antioxidant that helps protect against cataracts and heart disease and supports a healthy immune system. “Carrots can be fed raw or cooked, delivering an additional benefit of a crunchy texture that helps support dental health while a dog chews,” she adds.
Cucumbers: If your doggo is a little overweight, but you still want to give them a human treat, try some sliced cucumber. It’s low in calories but packed with vitamins K, C, and B1, as well as potassium, copper, magnesium, and biotin, Bernal says.
Pumpkin: There’s a reason pumpkin is in so many healthy dog treat recipes: it’s a fantastic source of vitamin A beta-carotene and vitamin C. “Rich in natural fibers, pumpkin is great for digestion, is gentle on the stomach, and supports healthy stools,” Bernal says. Just remember that pumpkin should be gently cooked or steamed with no added salt, sugar, or butter.
Sweet potatoes: Another orange goodie that’s excellent for your doggo, sweet potatoes are full of vitamins and minerals like Vitamins C, B5, B6, fiber, potassium, and manganese. Miller explains these vitamins support the health of your dog’s skin, coat, eyes, muscles, and nerves.
Healthy Meat and Fish Snacks for Dogs
You don’t need to pull your pup’s tail to entice them to eat their favorite food group: meat and fish. However, there are ones that are a tad healthier than others.
Lean mets: Bernal says plain, cooked chicken, turkey, and lean beef are a great source of additional protein. “Cooking the meats first will help eliminate bacteria that is often found in raw food but don’t forget, cooked bones must never be given to dogs. These can shatter easily and cause damage to a dog’s digestive tract,” she adds.
Eggs: If fully cooked, eggs are a great source of protein that delivers a nutrient-rich protein snack and provides high digestibility for optimal nutrient absorption. “Never feed your pup raw eggs, as the egg whites over time can lead to a biotin deficiency,” Bernal says.
Fish: Cooked fish, like salmon and tuna, is packed with amino acids, omega 3s, and protein. “If you’re feeding fish, make sure that it is completely deboned as bones can cause digestive issues,” Bernal says. She also recommends limiting fish treats to once or twice a week.
Lamb: This meat is growing in popularity for humans and doggos, and for a good reason, Miller says. It’s low in calories, high in protein, and dogs tend to love it. “Compared to beef, it also has more protein,” she adds.
Healthy Grain Snacks for Dogs
If your dog loves starches, these are the best options to add to their bowl.
Rice: A common ingredient in many commercial pet foods, rice delivers an important source of vitamins and a good source of energy for dogs. Bernal says rice is best prepared and cooked plain with no added spices, oils, or flavors. “Rice is a highly digestible carbohydrate that is gentle on digestion and often recommended by veterinarians to help calm digestive upsets,” she says.
Quinoa: Chosen for its hypoallergenic properties and high digestibility, Bernal says plain, cooked quinoa is a high-quality grain option for dogs.
Oatmeal: Bernal explains plain, cooked oats are a healthy grain that when combined with a complete and balanced meal, delivers a good source of nutrition for dogs. “Rich in nutrients like linoleic acid, minerals, vitamin B, starch for their daily energy, and natural fiber for supporting a healthy digestion and regular, healthy stools,” she says.
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