Even the most health-conscious dog parent wants to reward their pet for good behavior — or simply boost their mood with a treat. However, not all dog treats are created equal. Some are loaded with salt and other unhealthy preservatives, and others are bland and tasteless. It can be hard to decipher which treats are the best for your pup in the sea of options available in stores and online in today’s market. Additionally, all the marketing jargon on dog treat packaging can be confusing. Are dog treats labeled “organic” always the healthiest option? This article will sift through all of this and discuss what makes a dog treat healthy, which ingredients are best for your dog, and which ingredients you should avoid.
What Makes a Dog Treat Healthy?
How can you be sure of what makes a high-quality treat? When it comes to a truly healthy dog treat, you’ll want to look for brands with a lot of protein. Protein is best known for providing dogs with amino acids that keep their fur, skin, nails, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage in the best possible condition. So, a diet rich in protein will help sustain your dog’s health and ensure they can continue an active, playful lifestyle.
In addition to protein, a healthy dog treat will have more fiber than carbohydrates. Like humans, fiber helps dogs digest their food and keep their microbiome strong. (It will also benefit you when it comes time to take the pooper scooper to the backyard, if you know what we mean.)
Best Healthy Dog Treats Available: The Honest Kitchen Edition
If you’re searching for some of the best natural dog treats and pet food on the market that will keep your pup in tip-top shape, look no further than The Honest Kitchen, which has phenomenal treats. All of The Honest Kitchen’s treats are made with human grade ingredients, and with no fillers or artificial unhealthy preservatives. They are delicious for your dog, and they stay fresh long after you’ve opened the bag! Take a look at some of The Honest Kitchen’s top choices for healthy dog treats.
The Parmesan Pecks are a great option for your pup at all life stages, from puppy through their senior years. These treats incorporate whole grains and are free of wheat. Specifically, they’re made from superfoods like barley, free-range cage free chicken, rolled oats, ground flaxseed, cranberries, organic coconut oil, and real parmesan cheese, and eggs. The treats themselves are miniature — only four calories per cookie — which makes them perfect for training or taking on the go. The small size of these treats also helps with portion control, making it easier to manage over-feeding.
We all know how healthy bone broth is for people, so The Honest Kitchen adapted these health benefits for dogs in their high-quality Bone Broth Bites. These protein cookies combine savory turkey bone broth with nutrient-rich vegetables like pumpkin, sweet potato, and carrots. There’s even a touch of parsley and honey in each treat for an added boost of flavor. What’s best is these treats are hearty, grain-free, and are 14.5% protein. Bone Broth Bites are a lean treat for dogs of all ages.
Who doesn’t love the classic cookies-and-milk combination? To give dogs a chance to join in on the fun, The Honest Kitchen created its Goat’s Milk N’ Cookies slow-baked peanut butter and honey biscuits. The ingredients in these treats are simple and whole, with goat’s milk, barley, rolled oats, and peanut butter. As an added bonus, goat’s milk is full of probiotics, so your pup’s belly will be just as happy as its taste buds.
Continuing with the extremely tasty yet nutritionally-dense theme, The Honest Kitchen’s Gourmet Barbecue Liver Chips in chicken liver and cheddar are almost 40% protein and are chock full of healthy ingredients. These snacks include cage-free chicken, chickpeas, real cheddar cheese, celery juice, chicken bone broth, honey, and tomatoes.
For the fish-loving dogs out there, The Honest Kitchen came up with Crispy Codfish Skins as part of their Ocean Chews line. These alternative jerky treats are chewy, healthy, and contain one simple ingredient: dehydrated codfish skins, which are naturally gluten-free. Ocean chews can replace pet parents’ beloved rawhide — which are associated with digestive distress, choking, and intestinal blockage in dogs. These treats will keep your pup busy for longer while providing ample protein (80%) as well as being easy to digest. Codfish skins are also loaded with omega-3s, which are fatty acids that can help improve cognitive function in older dogs dealing with canine cognitive dysfunction, as well as help with canine arthritis and chronic kidney disease.
Lastly, The Honest Kitchen’s White Fish Filets are a light, crispy, and easily breakable snack your dog will love. Like codfish skins, these treats are made of one ingredient (white fish) and packed with protein and omega-3s. Because these treats are crispy, they can be broken down into small pieces for large and small dogs alike, and are easy to portion control for training purposes.
Healthy Dog Treats You Can Find in Your Fridge
The Honest Kitchen makes tons of healthy and tasty options you can spoil your dog with, but it’s also worth noting that you probably already have healthy dog treats in your fridge right now. If you’re in a pinch and can’t make it to the store, you can grab fresh cucumbers or blueberries out of the fridge to give your dog a health boost they’ll love! Just make sure to share these treats in moderation, as too many treats of any kind can cause gastrointestinal upset or weight gain. Here are a few other fridge-friendly treats you can offer your dog:
Raw Organic Cucumbers
Fresh cucumbers are great crunchy treats for dogs. They are rich in vitamin C, low in carbohydrates, and high in water content. Opt for organic cucumbers, if you have access, as organic produce is more fragrant for dogs, which can boost those drool-worthy moments. Additionally, because cucumbers are so healthy and provide a satisfying bite for dogs, they are perfect for cutting into cubes as dog training treats.
Blueberries are another great treat for dogs as they are a superfood rich in antioxidants, which can help protect their body from damage caused by free radicals. Blueberries are also a great low-calorie snack that contains fiber and vitamins C and K. The combination of these health benefits can support your dog’s overall immune system. Lastly, blueberries can make a great training snack as they are naturally in bite-sized pieces.
Because peas of all kinds are a common ingredient in dog food, snap peas are a great raw food you can share with your pup. You can give them to your dog fresh, frozen, thawed, or even boiled — just make sure they are plain and not from a can. This rule also goes for green beans. Canned vegetables can contain a lot of sodium, which is harmful to dogs. Fresh snap peas are also easy for dogs to digest (thanks to the fiber) and contain high amounts of vitamins A, K, and B, as well as iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium. These vitamins and minerals can help your dog’s vision, skin, digestion, immune system, and heart.
Another healthy snack that many dogs love is celery. The crunch is what really intrigues dogs about this vegetable, but it is also nutritious. Celery is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins A, K, and C, as well as folate and potassium. There are also dental benefits to sharing your celery snack with your pup, as the texture and high water content stimulate saliva production. This helps wash away bacteria and plaque on your dog’s teeth that could be causing bad breath. The only thing to keep in mind when feeding your dog celery is the size of the pieces. Large dogs may be able to tolerate larger pieces, but small dogs may need smaller bite-sized pieces to minimize a choking hazard.
Avoid These Dog Treats and Foods
As many great treats as there are for your dog, there are also some specific human foods and ingredients you’ll want to avoid at all costs as they can make your dog severely ill or even cause death. If your pup does ingest anything on this list, be sure to call your vet right away.
Anything With Xylitol
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that isn’t harmful to people but is extremely toxic to dogs. Many foods that can contain xylitol are common foods we often think are safe for dogs: peanut butter, yogurts, and honey are just a few. When a dog eats something containing xylitol, it can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, liver failure, or even death. Putting peanut butter in dogs’ KONG toys is extremely common and encouraged; however, it’s key to read the peanut butter label closely to ensure there isn’t xylitol in it. Better yet, you may even consider purchasing raw peanut butter or making your own. Learn more do’s and dont’s about dogs and sweeteners in our blog.
Grapes & Raisins
Grapes, raisins, and currants are next on the “avoid” list. This includes literally all kinds of grape varietals: red, green, organic, and homegrown. Grapes, raisins, and currants can cause kidney failure in dogs. It is currently not known why exactly these fruits are toxic to dogs, but there is speculation about the presence of mycotoxin or a salicylate drug that is naturally found in grapes, which results in decreased blood flow to dogs’ kidneys. Keep in mind that poisoning is more likely to happen if a dog ingests a large amount of these fruits, however, sensitivity can vary by individual dog and breed.
Avocados are a top superfood among humans, but for dogs, avocado can cause intense gastrointestinal issues. It all comes down to a fungicidal toxin that is concentrated in the leaves, pit, and skin of avocados called persin. There are lower levels of persin in the flesh of avocados as well. So, if your dog happens to get a piece of avocado flesh, it may be okay. However, avocado flesh can still cause your pup some stomach issues, which can also cause a real mess in your house. Additionally, avocados can be toxic to other animals like horses, birds, goats, and rabbits. So, keep the avocados out of reach if you have a home with many animals.
On the other hand, avocado oil doesn’t contain persin, so sharing a piece of chicken breast with your dog that has been cooked in avocado oil is safe.
As one of the most cited foods not to give your dog, macadamia nuts can lead to poisoning. This is mainly due to the high fat content in these nuts, which can lead to gastrointestinal upset in dogs, such as vomiting and diarrhea, as well as weakness in their back legs. Ingesting macadamia nuts can also lead to pancreatitis in dogs. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), if your dog ingests macadamia nuts and is experiencing mild negative effects, you should be able to manage them at home with a little assistance from your vet. But in more serious cases, such as not being able to walk, shaking constantly, or running a high fever, you should take your dog to a vet right away.
The Honest Kitchen: A Great, Healthy Option for Dog Treats
Whether store-bought or right out of the fridge, there are many options when it comes to buying healthy treats for your dog. But, when you’re looking for a really special treat, look no further than The Honest Kitchen. With 20 excellent treats to choose from, there’s something even your pickiest eater will love. From seasonal flavors to training rewards, you're bound to find something your pup will love at The Honest Kitchen. Check out all our offerings and place your first order today!