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essential nutrition advice for your pet.

8 Common Snacks That Will Prompt a Portly Pet

The Human Equivalent of Feeding Your Pet Snacks

By Amanda Baltazar 

You hear a whine from under the dinner table and there sits your poor dog waiting for you to toss him a metaphorical bone — or maybe even a real one. But what you have is a cookie, so you toss him that instead. No harm done, right, it’s only a cookie?


In fact, given the size difference of humans and animals, a small portion of something for us can almost constitute a meal for your dog or cat. Our pets need remarkably few calories compared to our own caloric needs. Read on to see what different snacks mean in human terms when you feed them to your pet.


WARNING: Consult your vet before providing any "human food" as some may be dangerous for pets.

1. Oatmeal Cookie

One small oatmeal cookie for a 20 pound dog is the caloric equivalent of an entire hamburger for a person. For a human, that’s around 300 calories, or almost a sixth of the average woman’s recommended daily calories and an eighth of man’s daily calorie intake. It could be worse, though: An oatmeal cookie at least provides some fiber — chocolate chip cookies, meanwhile, are a definite no-no since chocolate is harmful, and even toxic, to dogs.

2. Hot Dog

One hot dog for a 20 pound puppy is the caloric equivalent of three hamburgers for a person. That single hot dog may not look like much but it has around 175 calories, which is a third of what a 20 pound dog should be consuming. “I think people get gratification out of their pet eating and being happy about it, but they don’t think about the long-term consequences,” says Dr. James Darden, DVM, chief of staff at Banfield Pet Hospital in East Houston, Texas.

3. Cheese

One ounce of cheese for a 20 pound dog is the caloric equivalent of 1 ½ chocolate bars for a person. Cheese is loaded with fat — a single 1 oz. slice of American cheese packs 105 calories and 5.5 grams of saturated fat, while Cheddar is even worse: 114 calories and 6 grams of fat. That ounce of cheese constitutes about a third of a small dog’s daily required calories, says Dr. Darden. “And for a cat it’s worse — it’s about half his daily caloric intake, so two slices of cheese for a cat is all it needs in a day.”

4. Potato Chip

One potato chip for a 10 pound cat is the caloric equivalent of half a hamburger for a person. You may think that a thin potato chip is lighter than air, but don’t forget that it’s been fried in saturated fat and coated in sodium. For your small cat, you’re almost providing lunch with a potato chip. A superior option, says Dr. Darden, is a small handful of kibble. He suggests you subtract whatever you feed your cat as a snack from her evening meal so she doesn’t overeat.

5. Cup of Milk

One cup of milk for a 10 pound cat is the caloric equivalent of five chocolate bars for a person. Besides the fact that whole milk provides 122 calories per cup — and even skim clocks in at 86 calories — neither dogs nor cats should drink it because it can upset their stomach, says Dr. Darden. A good alternative is fruits or vegetables, especially frozen, such as green beans, peas, and apples. (Ed. Note: Consult your vet before providing any "human food," as some fruits and vegetables are dangerous for pets.)

6. Peanut Butter

A single ounce of peanut butter (about a tablespoon) is close to cheese in calories, packing around 94 calories. It also contains around 8 grams of saturated fat, which is 12% of what a human needs, and of course far higher for a dog or cat. Just 8 to 10 tablespoons of seemingly innocuous peanut butter may be delicious, but it would provide all the calories a 30 pound dog should eat in a single day. And for a 10 pound dog, just three tablespoons would fulfill his daily caloric requirements.

7. Jerky Strips

Jerky strips are beloved by dog owners because they’re easy and make no mess, but a single jerky strip provides around 88 calories. “So three of them for a small dog provides most of his caloric needs without any [significant nutritional value],” says Dr. Darden. “Every time you give one of these treats you’re filling him up with extra calories and making our obesity numbers increase.” Jerky strips are also very high in sodium (providing around 12% of a human’s daily sodium needs), which can lead to high blood pressure in both dogs and cats.

8. Tuna

Almost every cat loves tuna, but at 36 calories per ounce she shouldn’t be eating much of it, if at all. Despite the fact that tuna is a good lean protein source, it’s not providing a balanced diet, says Darden. An ounce of tuna provides about 16% of the daily calories required for a 10 pound cat, he adds. “I’d stick with premium [pet food] brands rather than getting tuna off the shelf and preparing it myself.”

What About Pet Treats?

Commercial pet treats are okay in moderation and if they are of high quality. Ask your veterinarian for some recommendations and don't forget to subtract the treat's calories from your pet's overall daily calorie consumption so he or she doesn't inadvertently become overweight.


Comments  3

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  • Calories
    04/10/2014 10:32pm

    Hi, I have to admit that i feed my dog too much. I don't really know how many calories she should eat per day; she's overweight and 9 yrs. old.
    The vet has told us to cut back, but she has built up a ferocious appetite!
    We give her half a can of "Mighty Dog" in the morning and the other half at night and some treats in-between and when she "makes" outside, (she doesn't make in the house lol). i love her and really want to help her lose weight :( She's half miniature doberman pinscher and half dachshund and she's adorable, it's just that her head is so much smaller than her body :(

  • 05/10/2014 10:10am

    Switch Mighty Dog to a high quality diet food and make sure those treats are TINY. The dog is happy because you are giving her a treat, not because it is big. Consider slicing some carrots or apples into small pieces and having them handy. Frozen peas can also be a great treat. And do not give up if your dog immediately turns up her nose at the diet food. You are weaning her from the equivalent of McD's to a healthy weight-control diet and it may take some time. A dog will not starve itself to death. Continue to offer NOTHING but the new food and she will cave and eat it within 2-3 days. A little tough-love is important sometimes. Dividing the same amount of food into 3 daily feedings instead of 2 can also help. Few things will help your pet live longer, healthier, happier lives than being at a lean body weight. It will also save you vet bills down the road. Google "Purina Life Span Study" to learn more. Good luck!

  • 05/10/2014 01:05pm

    Thanks so much kia185, for this info, it sounds very doable and I'm going to give it a try, starting today! Madison thanks you too :)