One popular dental health chew treat is the same as you drinking THREE 16-ounce, fast food, chocolate milk shakes.
Another “light” variety of dental health treat equals us eating a fast food hot fudge sundae.
For a 40-pound dog:
One peanut butter and apple flavored treat is the equivalent of a large order of fast food french fries for you.
For a 60-pound dog:
One large “wholesome” treat is like you eating FOUR fast food fried chicken breasts.
Perhaps by now you’re thinking the solution to treating sensibly is to substitute “people food” for commercial pet treats. HIll’s Pet Nutrition collected some interesting data as well. Let’s see what they discovered about sharing our food with our cats:
For a 10-pound cat:
A single potato chip is the caloric equivalent of half of a hamburger for you. And seriously, who eats just one potato chip?!
My generation was taught that a saucer of milk (8 ounces) was the ultimate way to show Kitty how much she was loved. This is the equivalent of you eating FIVE king-sized milk chocolate bars! That’s a lotta love.
Ready for a few more fun facts from Dr. Ward?
For a 40-pound dog:
Just half of a beef hot dog is equal to you eating an 8-ounce T-bone steak.
For an 80-pound dog:
A scrambled, Grade A large egg is the caloric equivalent of a slice of French toast with butter for you.
Let’s face it - most of the foods we eat are far more calorically dense than we realize. When we factor in our pet’s vastly different nutritional needs, and combine it with their natural instinct to preserve energy, it’s easy to see how those empty calories add up. That being said, I am routinely reminded that to pet parents, treating is important. Besides, I’m not a total killjoy! So let’s talk about how to give treats mindfully.
My Dogs Get Treats
Like I said, I’m not a total killjoy. And there are many times when treats can be your friend. Small food rewards are great motivational tools for teaching new, fun behaviors. Such behaviors can alleviate one of the most common causes of begging and overeating - boredom. If the behaviors you teach also burn calories, even better. We use treats to teach Zohan how to perform tricks, and Grendel how to track scents. But as I’ve mentioned before, each treat is about half the size of a pencil eraser. Crunchy treats are placed in sealed bags and mercilessly crushed into tiny pieces. Remember, it’s not the treat, it’s the treat event. Accompany each food reward with lots of praise. By doing so, you can cut back on the number of rewards given, until your praise is the only reward they seek.
While treats are allowed at Casa Kupkee, they come with strings attached. Our dogs must earn them. This might mean running through their repertoire of learned behaviors, or it might just be holding still for a nail trim or an ear cleaning. They never get treats by demanding them, and if you are a new pet owner, I strongly advise you to nip this behavior in the bud. It gets annoying quickly, and it is simply too tempting to toss your pet a high-calorie treat just to shut her up. This rewards the behavior, and a rewarded behavior is a repeated behavior. Don’t give it a chance to take root. It nearly always leads to frazzled owners and fat pets.
If “people food” is is your treat of choice, there are plenty of healthy options there as well. With some exceptions, small pieces of fruit can be safely enjoyed by our pets. Never give grapes or raisins, or anything containing pits or seeds. That being said, the flesh from these fruits is fine. Apples, bananas, blueberries and pineapple chunks seem to be popular choices. Again, remember to keep the portions small. Unseasoned vegetables, either cooked or raw, can be given as well. Never give veggies that have been flavored with butter, and avoid anything in the allium family. This includes, but is not limited to, garlic, onions, chives, scallions, and leeks.
Remember, some of Miami’s most popular go-to seasonings, sofrito and mojo, are loaded with onions and garlic, so do not give your pet anything flavored with these local favorites. If only a “cookie” will do, try substituting plain rice cakes. Let me emphasize PLAIN! Nothing sweetened, salted, or flavored. An entire rice cake consists of about 10 calories, and only a tiny morsel is needed. They are always in season and cheaper than dirt. A client recently quipped that this is because dirt is exactly what they taste like.
Fair enough, but guess what? Our pets don’t care! Let me say it one last time - it’s not the treat, it’s the treat event. When I first met my wife, she had a boxer with thyroid disease, a condition that made weight management especially challenging. Max’s rice cake treat events were the highlights of his day, and only cost him about three or four calories per event. I’ll talk about similar conditions in another article, as they often act as obstacles to weight loss. But these too are manageable.
Just stay away from the fast food equivalent biscuits.
Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic
Do you have a question for Dr. Kupkee? Send him an email by clicking here.
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