It’s nice to treat our four-legged pals once in a while with a little something special, but when it comes to dog treats and chews, what’s good for one dog isn’t always so good for another. Without any “one size fits all” option, how are you, as a pet parent, to know which treats and chews are the best choice for your dog? This handy guide will walk you through the ins and outs of each type and help you choose the one that’s right for your best friend.
What they are: Biscuits are baked, crunchy dog treats that come in various flavors, sizes and age-formulations.
Feeding guidelines: Biscuits should not replace your dog’s regular food and should make up less than 10% of his/her daily food intake. Biscuits may be high in calories, so use very sparingly with dogs who are overweight or look for biscuits labeled as low-calorie.
Best for: training, occasional treats
Example: Oven Fresh Quacks Treats
What they are: Moist treats are usually meat-based with a strong scent and a moist texture.
Feeding guidelines: Moist treats should not replace your dog’s regular food and should make up less than 10% of his/her daily food intake. If being used for training purposes, break large treats into smaller pieces to prevent over-treating.
Best for: high-reward activities (agility, tracking, etc.), training
Example: Tetraflex Treats
What they are: Jerky treats are dehydrated strips or bits of meat, usually chicken, duck or beef, but some varieties are made from sweet potato or other vegetables.
Feeding guidelines: Jerky treats should not replace your dog’s regular food and should make up less than 10% of his/her daily food intake. Check specific product packaging for recommended feeding guidelines.
Warnings: There have been many recalls recently that include jerky treats, most of which were manufactured in China. Make sure to check for country of origin on the product packaging and refer to the most recent recall lists before buying these types of treats for your dogs. You can also make your own jerky, so you know exactly what is and isn’t in your dog’s treats.
Best for: occasional treating
Example: Barkworthies Beef Jerky
What they are: Dental chews are hard, but digestible treats that help to keep dogs’ teeth clean through the mechanical process of chewing. Some are formulated with oils and enzymes to help with breath freshening and tartar control. Most brands offer a variety of sizes.
Feeding guidelines: Feed the size and number of chews as recommended on the product package. Most of the time, dental chews are okay for everyday use, however, dental chews should not replace regular brushing or recommended dental cleanings by your veterinarian.
Best for: daily treats
Example: Dog Breath Dental Treats
What they are: Rawhide chews are the dried inner layer of cow or horse hides. They come in natural and granulated forms and are often flavored to make them more appealing to dogs.
Feeding guidelines: Rawhides can be used as an occasional special treat for your dog. They can satisfy their natural instinct to chew and may help with tartar control.
Warnings: Rawhides can pose several threats to your pet through bacterial contamination, digestive irritation and choking or blockages. Closely monitor your pet while they are chewing and take rawhides away from pet if he/she chews off small pieces. Monitor your pet for any changes after use and notify your veterinarian if you think there may be a problem.
Best for: heavy chewers, occasional use
Example: Digest-eeze Natural Bones
Prime Cut Chews (Ears, Tracheas, Hooves, Bully Sticks, etc.)
What they are: These items are natural cuts from animals which are then dried, resulting in a hard chew. (more on bully sticks)
Feeding guidelines: Use these items as an occasional treat for your dog. They should last a bit longer than some other types of treats or chews but should not be fed every day.
Warnings: Monitor your dog while they chew and take away from pet if he/she chews off small pieces. Pig ears are high in fat, so they should not be given to pets that are overweight. These types of chews can cause diarrhea or digestive upset if consumed too often. Hooves, occasionally, can splinter and cause problems. Immediately take away and discard if splintering should occur.
Best for: occasional treating
Example: Doggyloot Bully Sticks
What they are: These chews are actually an extremely hard form of cheese made from yak milk, cow milk, salt and lime juice and most brands contain no added chemicals or preservatives. They are long-lasting and completely digestible.
Feeding guidelines: Himalayan chews will last a long time but pets’ time with them should be limited to a few hours each day. Their high protein content may cause digestive upset in some dogs, so supervision is recommended.
Best for: boredom busters, heavy chewers, occasional use
Example: Himalayan Dog Chews
What they are: Antlers are, as their name suggests, natural antlers from elk, deer or moose that are cut into sizes that are safe for dogs to chew.
Feeding guidelines: Antlers should last for a long time and are not intended to be consumed. They are good boredom busters because they last so much longer than other types of chews and they may help with tartar control through mechanical abrasion from chewing. They also contain nutrient-rich marrow that may be beneficial to your dog’s health.
Warnings: Make sure the antler you select for your dog is large enough that there is no risk of him/her choking on it. Also be sure to supervise while chewing to make sure they are not chewing off pieces of the antler. Because of the hardness of the antler, there is a risk of tooth breakage.
Best for: boredom busters, heavy chewers
Example: Doggyloot Antlers
Fruits & Veggies
Feeding guidelines: Raw fruits and veggies can be a great, low-calorie option for treating dogs. Carrots, broccoli, green beans, zucchini, sweet potato, apple slices and blueberries are excellent additions to any dog’s diet.
Warnings: Be sure to never feed your dog onions, avocado, grapes, raisins or any of the other foods listed here. They can be toxic to dogs and some are even life-threatening.
Best for: everyday treating, all stages of life
Whew!! Is your mind boggled yet?! As you can see, the options for chews and treats for your dog are quite vast. There is a treat out there to meet just about every size, age and chew level and we hope this guide will help you to decide which one is the best choice for your dog, however, as always, we recommend discussing specific questions and concerns with your veterinarian.
Happy treating (& chewing)!!
Help Rescue Animals
Provide food and vital supplies to shelter pets at The Animal Rescue Site for free! →