Are Treats Good for Dogs? How to Find Healthy Dog Treats

Brittany Kleszynski, DVM
By Brittany Kleszynski, DVM on Sep. 25, 2023
A dog balances a treat on their nose.

As pet parents, we give treats to our canine companions to show them love or to reward them for good behavior.

However, there’s such a thing as too many treats.

Overfeeding your pup can lead to health issues, so it is important for pet parents to learn how many and what type of treats are best to offer their furry companion.

Key Takeaways

  • Feeding your dog treats in moderation is OK.
  • Too many treats or overfeeding your dog can lead to potential health problems and obesity.
  • If you are ever unsure if a specific treat is appropriate, speak with your veterinarian for guidance.

Is It Healthy To Give Dogs Treats?

Treats can be healthy for dogs if given in moderation.

They can help strengthen the bond between animals and humans and allow pet parents to show affection to their furry family members. In specific situations, it’s appropriate to offer treats to your dog, especially since they are highly food-motivated.

For example, when obedience or potty training your puppy, giving treats as a reward is acceptable.

However, pet parents should be mindful of the number of treats given during each training session. Using small treats while training can be helpful.

Some recommended treats include:

On training days, it’s also reasonable to reduce the amount of food at each meal to ensure daily caloric intake stays consistent. This means if you have given 200 calories of treats during the day, breakfast or dinner for your dog should be reduced by 200 calories to avoid unintended weight gain.

Giving too many treats can lead to obesity in dogs, especially those who lead inactive lifestyles. Obesity can cause strain on a dog’s joints, which can worsen arthritis and cause significant pain, especially in senior dogs.

Excessive treat intake may also contribute to the development of serious health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and pancreatitis.

How Often Can You Give Dogs Treats?

Different types of dog treats can be offered at different times. Treats should make up no more than 10% of the dog’s recommended daily calories.

Over the course of a training session, it’s OK to offer a small handful of training treats as incentives and rewards.

Because puppies are growing and have a high caloric need, they’re less likely to experience the negative effects of overeating compared to adult or senior dogs.

Dental treats and chews are great for dogs and help to reduce plaque buildup on their teeth.

Always be sure to supervise your dog if he receives a dental chew to ensure he is not swallowing large pieces. Here are a few recommended dental chews:

Ideally, these should be given only three times per week, but dogs at risk of dental disease may benefit from one dental chew per day.

Speak to your veterinarian—they can tell you how much and how often to give your pup a chew after performing an oral health exam.

Healthy Dog Treats

Pet parents should look for dog treats that are healthy and contain as few ingredients in them as possible

This means that treats won’t have unhealthy fillers (components made to make your pet feel full) that don’t add nutritional value.

Biscuit-derived treats are preferred because they are lower in salt and fat content compared to the meaty varieties.

Treat options serve different purposes.

For example, training treats are typically small, similar in size to a pencil eraser. They tend to be lower in calories because the manufacturers know that pet parents will have to use many at a single time.

On the other hand, dental treats are usually hard and intended for chewing. They range from small treats to larger dental chews like Greenies.

Let’s look at a few healthy dog treat options you can choose for your pooch.

Healthy Dog Treats for Puppies

Puppies need to learn obedience, so training treats are helpful for this age group. There are numerous treats available for puppies, but a couple options to consider include:

These treats are natural and don’t contain preservatives or artificial colors.

They have many beneficial vitamins and minerals, as well as omega fatty acids to promote a healthy coat and normal development in puppies.

These all-natural biscuits contain healthy ingredients to support development in puppies.

Ingredients like chicken, carrots, oatmeal, and apples provide a great source of important vitamins and minerals.

Healthy Dog Treats for Adult Dogs

Adult dogs mainly receive treats as rewards for good behavior or just because we love them.

This age group does best with biscuit-derived treats, such as:

These biscuits contain only four ingredients and are free of fillers. They’re a great source of protein because they contain peanut butter.

Buddy Biscuits come in several flavors, so pet parents can offer their furry friends different choices.

These treats are biscuit-based and contain essential vitamins and minerals. They have a hard texture, which reduces plaque buildup on teeth.

They come in a several sizes, including mini, small, medium, and large, offering something for every dog breed. 

Healthy Dog Treats for Seniors

Senior dogs do well with treats that are easy on their teeth and joints.

Pet parents can offer the following options to their aging companions:

Kong toys are a fun way to incorporate a special treat into a dog’s day while encouraging mental stimulation.

Stuffing a Kong toy with healthy treat alternatives, such as frozen banana chunks or blueberries, is a great way to show your pup love.

Greenies can be given up to once a day to promote healthy teeth and gums.

This special formulation is ideal for senior dogs because they are softer than the adult version and easier on sensitive teeth. They are also easy to digest and support healthy joints.

Alternatives to Dog Treats

Pet parents can substitute a variety of healthy alternatives for dog treats, such as:

Any food outside of a dog’s normal diet should still be given in moderation regardless of whether they are dog treats or healthy alternatives.

It’s typically recommended that no more than 10% of a dog’s daily caloric needs be satisfied by food other than their regular meals.

Some dogs may accept their regular dog food as treats throughout the day.

This may be the healthiest dog treat option for them. When doing this, pet parents should reduce the amount of kibble being offered at mealtimes.

For example, if you give ¼ cup of kibble throughout the day as treats, then reduce breakfast or dinner by ¼ cup.

Any food outside of a dog’s normal diet should still be given in moderation regardless of whether they are dog treats or healthy alternatives.

Dog Treats To Avoid

Avoid treats that are high in fat or sodium, including jerky treats and meat-like treats.

Cookies and cupcakes specifically baked for dogs are OK for a birthday or celebration, but they should not be given regularly as a treat due to their high sugar and fat contents.

Pet parents should also refrain from offering dogs table scraps as treats, as they may be toxic or highly fattening.

Foods containing garlic, onion, chocolate, grapes, and raisins should never be given to dogs.

These foods are life-threatening to dogs and can cause serious issues. Additionally, fried foods, bread, and baked goods should never be offered due to their high sugar and fat content.

Dog treats, when used in moderation, are a great way to show your pet love and praise . Bite-sized treats are especially beneficial during obedience training sessions and when you’re potty training your puppy.

As dogs age, they benefit from treats that support their joints and dental health.

If you are ever unsure if a specific treat is appropriate, speak with your veterinarian for guidance. They’ll be happy to provide recommendations to meet the specific needs of your pup!

Featured Image:

Brittany Kleszynski, DVM


Brittany Kleszynski, DVM


Dr. Brittany Kleszynski is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer who specializes in creating meaningful content that engages readers...

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