How Many Treats Can You Feed Your Dog Each Day?
Giving your dog treats, from special training treats to their favorite kibble or people food, is one of the great joys of pet ownership. You get to watch your dog's tail wag, their excitement obvious in every line of their bodies. However, like people, many dogs must watch their daily calories in order to avoid obesity. Excessive dog treats can increase calorie count and lead to more health problems for your dog.
Just how many treats can you give your dog each day? There's no hard and fast limit that you have to consider. However, there are several things that you may want to take into consideration when deciding how many treats you want to hand out.
The 10% rule
In general, according to the American Kennel Club, your dog should not receive more than 10% of their diet in treats. By ensuring that your dog's diet consists primarily of pet food, with treats added in to account for no more than 10% of their daily calories, you can help keep your dog healthier. Keep in mind that the 10% rule applies to the number of calories your dog consumes, not to the volume of the food: some treats may be higher-calorie than others, which means that your dog would need to consume fewer of them in order to make up the same volume.
Is your dog having any weight problems?
If your dog has been struggling with weight gain, or if you start to notice significant weight gain, you may want to decrease the number of treats that your dog gets on a regular basis. If your dog's weight is too high, your vet may recommend lowering the number of treats they get, or looking for lower-calorie treats (green beans, for example, which are a surprising, healthy treat that your pup can enjoy) that will make your dog excited without adding substantially to their daily caloric intake.
What is your dog's daily activity level?
Your dog's overall activity level may have a significant impact on the number of calories your dog can safely consume each day. If your dog goes out for regular long walks, runs, or hikes with you, spends most of their time eagerly playing and running in the backyard, or is part of an active dog training program, your dog may be able to safely consume more calories than a dog who tends to lounge about on their favorite pet bed most of the day.
How big is your dog?
Large dogs naturally need more calories just to support their bodies. A large breed dog may be able to get away with munching on more chews and treats than a small dog. Furthermore, it will take more treats to make up the same percentage of your dog's diet when you have a large breed dog than a small one. You may want to look for treats specially geared toward your dog's size.
Does your dog have any special dietary needs?
If your dog has a special diet that they need to follow, it's important to take your dog's needs into consideration before selecting a dog treat—and to help determine how many of those treats your dog can have. For example, some dogs cannot tolerate human food. Others may cheerfully scarf down table scraps and enjoy the same food as the human members of your family on a regular basis. Pet parents generally have a good idea of their dog's needs and how to ensure that they get the right amount of treats, or the right type of treats, based on any specific dietary concerns.
Does your dog eat their regular food without complaint?
Pay careful attention to your dog's overall food intake. Some dogs may stop eating their regular food when they get treats too often, or may clearly show a preference for those treats over the food you usually give them. Picky eaters may benefit more from high-value treats that are designed to meet dogs' overall nutritional needs.
Why are you handing out the treats?
In some cases, you may want to carefully consider why you're offering those treats to your dog. For example, if your dog is in training, a healthy dog can receive more treats during their training sessions to help with compliance and learning. You may also choose to hand out treats for special occasions or good behavior. On the other hand, you should ensure that your dog does not receive too many treats on a regular basis—and if your dog does start struggling with weight, you may want to try using low-calorie treats to help with weight management.
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What happens if my dog eats too many treats?
Consuming too many treats can make it harder for your dog to maintain a healthy weight. Some dogs may also have stomach problems when consuming too many treats, especially if you give them human food as a treat.
How can I tell if my dog ate too many treats?
In some cases, your dog may show immediate signs of tummy issues due to eating too many treats. Your dog may vomit or have diarrhea. In other cases, your dog may seem slow and sluggish. Eating too many treats over a longer period of time may be a different matter. You may find that, when your dog maintains a diet with too many treats, your dog grows obese, seems less comfortable, and starts to have joint issues or not play as often.
Do dogs like the TV on when you're gone?
Dogs do not perceive the TV in the same way humans do. They may see more brief impressions of images, rather than the constant stream of images or story that humans might perceive. However, leaving the TV on when you're gone can help provide a source of stimulation for your dog, and may help alleviate loneliness.