Are Treats Good for Dogs? This Vet Says ‘No!’

Jennifer Coates, DVM
Published: March 11, 2016
Are Treats Good for Dogs? This Vet Says ‘No!’

I’ve made a change at my house. My family and I used to dole out the dog and cat treats at least once a day. I didn’t think it was much of a problem. We didn’t hand out too many, we picked (relatively) healthy varieties, and (most) of our animals remained slim.

But then something changed. My cat Victoria died. She had always been the chief demander of treats. She would stalk me around the kitchen, meowing and getting increasingly underfoot as evening (treat time) approached. Apollo, our dog, would soon notice her behavior and start lurking (and drooling) nearby. Eventually, someone in the house would relent and hand out the treats, in no small part just to get the beasties to leave us alone. Victoria and Apollo had trained us well.

With Victoria gone, it became much easier to ignore Apollo’s treat begging. Because of his severe inflammatory bowel disease, he can only eat one type of treat, which is essentially his regular dog food in biscuit rather than kibble form. It’s not too surprising that he’s not really all that enthused by these “treats.” I think he was begging for them mostly because he was following Victoria’s lead. As time passed, Apollo’s begging lessened, and we stopped handing out treats. I haven’t had any dog treats in the house for months now.

Then we got a new cat, Minerva. She was a stray and therefore didn’t bring any treat begging behavior with her when she moved in. At this point I made a conscious decision to remain a treat free household. I figure Minerva doesn’t know what she’s missing and Apollo doesn’t seem to care. The difference in the house is nearly miraculous.

The only times Apollo and Minerva anticipate getting food is just before we normally feed them their meals. At those times, they’ll lurk around their food bowls or come find us elsewhere in the house and give us a “haven’t you forgotten something” look. Other than that, we’re never pestered by begging behavior. It’s blissful.

Think about it, do your dogs and cats really need treats (other than in their undeniably useful role as a training aid)? We set up the scenario of them “wanting” treats because we give them in the first place. If you are using treats as a token of love, wouldn’t your pets truly appreciate a little more of your time and attention instead (once the treat habit is broken)? And dog and cat treats have a mostly negative effect on nutrition. Look at these two dog treat ingredient lists that I pulled off of the internet.

Ingredients: Rice, Glycerin, Wheat Flour, Water, Wheat Gluten, Sugar, Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn Germ Meal, Gelatin, Brewer's Dried Yeast, Hydrogenated Corn Syrup, Parsley Flakes, Animal Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Sodium Caseinate, Calcium Phosphate, Added Color, Salt, Natural and Artificial Peanut Butter Flavor, Phosphoric Acid, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Maltodextrins, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Yellow #5, Yellow #6, Blue #1, BHA (Preservative), BHT (Preservative), Calcium Carbonate and Citric Acid


Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Palm Oil, Corn Syrup, Honey, Peanut Butter, Vanilla and Baker's Sprinkles (Sugar, Corn Starch, Confectioner's Glaze, Blue 2, Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 5, Carnauba Wax

You’ve got to admit that your dog would probably be better off not eating things like this.

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