Everyone loves special treats, including our pets. When we give our furry friends food or snacks that are not part of their regular mealtime, it’s called “treating”. People often refer to treats as rewards and often use them to engage with their pet. While treating can be an important component of bonding and training, too many treats can lead to health issues.
Treats and other additions to your pet’s diet should not make up more than 10% of your pet’s daily calories. Any more than that can quickly cause your pet to become overweight and eventually obese. The following table provides an overview of the approximate daily calorie needs of spayed or neutered adult pets who are at a healthy weight. It’s important to note that calorie needs change for growing, very active or inactive pets, or those who aren’t at their ideal weight.
|Pet's weight in pounds||Pet's weight in kilograms||Approximate kcals/day||Daily food kcals||Daily treat kcals|
The treat category is wide and highly varied in type, nutritional content, and purpose. Below are some common treats and calorie ranges to help you better estimate how much your pet can indulge! Remember these are a range so what you give your pet may fall above or below these values.
Commercially prepared morsels and biscuits
All of us have bought these for our pet at one time or another. These commercially prepared treats can be everything from tasty morsels of dried meat or cheese, to biscuits, to cookies. While smaller training treats might only contain a few calories, larger treats like jerky and biscuits can reach into the hundreds of calories per serving. Fortunately, most of these treats come with feeding directions to ensure you indulge your pet wisely.
Many pet parents rely on these treats for cleaning their dog’s teeth. They’re a great and fun way of maintaining dental hygiene but don’t forget that they are a treat and contain extra calories. Mini chews come in at the lower end while giant-sized chews for larger pups can contain up to 200 or more calories. Since these can be high in calories, it’s important to factor them in when making a nutritional plan for your pet.
Rawhides and other chews
Bully sticks 10-25 kcal/inch; rawhides 80 kcal/ounce; Marrow bones 30 kcal/ounce
Many are surprised to learn that rawhides and other chews count as treats or rewards. Often, pet parents tend to think of them more like a toy. While rawhides are a great choice for gentle chewers to get their gnaw on, they are made from animal skins, which can be quite high in protein and often fat. In addition, rawhide isn’t very digestible. Large pieces of consumed rawhide can block the digestive tract of your dog. So if your pup is a super chewer, you may need to find another solution to keep their mouths busy. Once again, accounting for your dog’s chews and treats will ensure their diets are healthy and balanced.
Kitties go crazy over this herb! Whether you grow it yourself or buy it dried, catnip is a fantastic special treat. And the good news is that it doesn’t add calories to their diet.
Cheese 40-120 kcal/ounce; bacon 40-90 kcal/piece; veggies 30-140 kcal/cup; chicken 25 kcal/ounce; pumpkin puree 50 kcal/cup
Most of us are guilty of letting human food “fall” off the table when our furry friend is near. While many items, such as veggies, can add fiber and vitamins to our pet’s bowl, many table scraps are calorie bombs in disguise (we’re looking at you cheese and bacon). If human food does make an appearance in your pet’s diet, special consideration must be taken to account for calories. In general, people food should be limited as it is extremely easy to overindulge, but we understand when those begging eyes are just too sweet to handle.
Still have questions?
As we said above, the treat category is broad and highly varied in type, nutritional content and purpose. If you still have questions, or perhaps feed your pet something that isn’t listed above and want to learn more about how it impacts their nutrition, please reach out to the Freely Pet Nutrition team. We’d love to speak with you and talk through your pet’s unique nutritional needs.