Man’s best friend. The age-old saying perhaps gained more credibility during the lockdown. With plenty of time to spare, dogs were showered with extra attention during this period and the indulgences increased manifold. 

You might have found you were treating your dog as much as you treated yourself with titbits and snacks. And let's face it. There is a glut of choices available today-chews, biscuits, bones and what not. Chances are that these treats were bought online, on impulse and that your pet also got to enjoy table scraps once in a while. But the important questions now are about what you should be giving them, how much and when, because not all food is good food. Foods not prepared and meant for dogs can lead to minor and serious illnesses. 

Pick The Right Treat

Veterinarians the world over recommend that treats should make up only about 10% of your dog's food intake. Now while this may sound good in terms of a straight percentage of the weight of food that the dog receives, it can be a bit tricky to gauge how much the pooch should be fed. What is the calorific and nutritional value of those treats; do they aid skeletal and muscular growth, promote good digestion or help maintain their coat and dental hygiene? Or are you feeding them the canine equivalent of human junk food and adding up those kilograms? An extremely important fact to remember is that if your dog is to live a healthy life, table scraps, (which always contain spices, cooking oil) and sugared & salted foods are a definite no-no. 

Watch That Figure (And The Calories)

Counting calories is an integral part of deciding your pet’s menu and its treats as a consequence. We have established that snacks can comprise only 10% of its diet. So how do you figure out the caloric needs? As a rule of thumb this formula can be used: Weight (in kg) x 30 + 70 = daily caloric intake.

In the same breath, the lifestyle of your dog will play a crucial part in making this decision. An exercise and activity filled day will require more calorie intake than sedentary ones. If you feed the dog a packed dry food diet or wet food diet, they usually have the calorie values mentioned on the label. However, if you prefer feeding them cooked meals, an Internet search can easily give you those values of a cup of rice, curd or a few hundred grams of protein. A broad intake requirement chart would read this way: 

4-5 Kg.  200 to 275 calories
9-10 kg. 325 to 400 calories
22-23 Kg. 700 to 900 calories
30-32 Kg. 900 to 1050 calories
40-42 Kg. 1100 to 1350 calories

Please consult the pet nutritionist  before closing in on a diet plan and be mindful of the breed, lifestyle and age. 

What’s The Occasion?

Treats for pets shouldn’t be handed out at random. There’s always the right time and a titbit to go with it. You can use either “off the shelf” prepared products or wedges of carrot or cucumber. Broadly speaking, bites can be handed out as a reward during training, for oral hygiene, a designated day of the week, essential growth & nutritional supplements but seldom for recreation, just because you’re bored. 

Training Treats

As a pet parent of a puppy, use one or two thumbnails to finger sized bits as rewards when the pooch learns basic, intermediate or advanced commands. Do not overdo the amount of treats you feed them. These Bite-sized treats can be stored in a pouch hanging off your waist to dispense after obeying each command. 

Larger treats can be hidden across your home especially if you’re training a dog to “seek”. Smaller sized bites should be fed on “fetch”, “stay” “heel” and “come”. 

Dental or Oral Health and Special Occasions

If you’re puzzled why your pooch has bad breath, the answer is simple. Canines also have a need for dental hygiene and a great way to deliver these are with bones, Chews and Jerkies. The chewing process ensures that the plaque does not accumulate and build up to tartar formation. These treats are flavoursome and loaded with vitamins, minerals and cartilage as nutritional supplements.  

Pups in the teething stage benefit immensely with these products as it helps to develop strong teeth, healthy gums and alleviates the pain that is associated with the process. Not to mention saving your footwear and furniture from being destroyed! Inevitably oral health treats end up as special occasion indulgences if they are given once every fortnight or so.

Bone and Cartilage Treats

Dogs can suffer from conditions like hip dysplasia from a very early age especially if their diets and exercise are ignored. Adding calcium, phosphorus, potassium, chondroitin and glucosamine help to develop a robust skeletal system. One of the best hip and joint treats comes in the form of bones. Chicken bones are definitely not recommended in any part of a dog's diet, but specifically made jellies can be served up. 

If you are disinclined to animal proteins or have a vegetarian household, there are vegetarian supplements to help you and your pet to deal with the condition. Following a veterinarian prescription, your dog might need to undergo a short course or include these supplements in its regular diet, depending on the severity of the condition. 

A morsel of general information

Treats are a great way of rewarding and being engaged with your dog. The risk always is to overfeed and under-nourish them with foods that aren’t appropriate for the species. Candies and sweets that contain xylitol cause a drop in blood sugar and lead to liver failure, avocado has allergens, alcohol even in small quantities can lead to liver complications, onions, garlic and tomatoes cause anaemia and blood poisoning, chocolate, coffee and tea, grapes and raisins lead to a variety of potential life threatening situations.

Dogs, like humans, are predominantly omnivores. Put simply they rely on animal and plant based proteins and carbohydrates as their primary source of nutrition. The difference is how these ingredients are prepared and processed for their digestion.

Dogs’ digestive tracts have evolved over the years to process cooked food as they came to be increasingly domesticated. Boiling carbs, vegetables, lentils, eggs and protein added to dry food diet or wet food diet packs go a long way. Many pet parents overlook the fact that fish based and leafy greens based treats are available and fantastic for their cardiac and digestive wellness. For a variation, eggs can also be poached.  

There are breeds that are gluten and lactose intolerant. But that shouldn’t worry you too much. There are excellent substitutes available in millets & oats. If your dog is fussy about drinking water, you can use this opportunity to put in a few glasses of boiled stock or plain unsalted buttermilk or whey water in their bowls to hydrate them. Sometimes even just changing the placement of the bowl in your home can make a big difference. 

Read up as much as you can and take inputs from vets concerning your canine’s diet and treats. Finally, enjoy your dog's company as much as it enjoys yours.