Treats are an important part of the relationship between a person and their pet. Treats can assist with training, which is an integral part of responsible pet ownership, when fed occasionally according to the feeding guidelines on the package. Treats can also provide a means for owners to express affection for their pet and may be given as a way to celebrate special occasions, and can also be used as an occasional snack or a reward.
Pets have a tendency to beg for snacks and treats, and pet owners are only too willing to oblige. While it is as gratifying for the pet owner to reward a furry companion with a nibble for basic obedience or positive reinforcement, there is a possibility of over feeding or giving human foods as treats that can be harmful to pet health. Treats should be given to pets in moderation and should not comprise more than 10 percent of a pet’s daily food intake. To reduce the risk of obesity, when feeding treats it is advisable to adjust the amount of food given accordingly.
The Well-Fed, Well-Nurtured Campaign of the United States trade association for the makers of cat and dog food, Pet Food Institute (PFI) and the Veterinary Practitioners Association of the Philippines (VPAP) offers pet owners helpful advice on healthy snacking for pets.
Pet owners may find a little challenge in identifying the correct type and amount of treats, especially if the cat or dog is under a strict diet. So, communicating with a veterinarian should be a priority to ensure that each snack does not disrupt the nutritional requirements of the pet. A thorough assessment of the pet’s age, weight, size, teeth and gums should help determine what kind of snack is most satisfying and suitable to the pet’s wellbeing.
For instance, the teeth and gums of senior cats and dogs may not be as strong as they were in the pet’s early years. Their weight and size are equally important in choosing an adequate snack that ensures the pet’s satisfaction while avoiding packing on unnecessary pounds.
Many treats are not designed to be complete and balanced, which means they do not provide the necessary nutrition that pets need to thrive. Treats can be high in protein and drive energy for daily activities. This is why it is important to review feeding instructions and nutrient content on the product label.
Apart from commercially available treats, some pet owners inappropriately give leftovers and table scraps to their pets. These may endanger the pet’s health due to ingredients found in people food that may be toxic to pets, such as onions and garlic. Pets may also develop a strong penchant for the rich flavor of people food and beg at the table, become disruptive during meal time, and even refuse to eat pet food.
Feeding snacks off the regular schedule also presents health hazards as pets tend to skip their routine meals due to being full at the wrong time. This consequently prevents the cat or dog to receive the proper amount of nutrition that it needs daily to achieve optimal growth.
Pet owners should understand that treats can become a part of a complete and balanced diet on the condition that it is timely provided in portion sizes and are appropriate for pet consumption. Veterinarians agree that if given appropriately, treats can be also be a good complement to nutritionally-balanced meals and help strengthen the bond of the canine or feline to its owner.