By Helen Anne Travis
Nothing screams summer like corn on the cob, fresh strawberries, and trying to lap up an ice cream cone before it drips down your arm.
We two-legged folks have plenty of foods to look forward to when the weather heats up. But what about our dogs?
Can we serve them something special to mark the season?
Here are 18 vet-approved dog treats for the dog days. Remember, it’s always best to check with your veterinarian before introducing new foods into your dog’s diet.
Seedless watermelons and honeydew are high in moisture and cool the body from the inside, says Dr. Judy Morgan, a holistic veterinarian and author who specializes in food therapy.
For a refreshing treat, mix watermelon juice with fresh ground ginger root and freeze in an ice tray. “The ginger soothes upset stomachs and is a great anti-inflammatory agent,“ says Morgan. “You can even feed this to a diabetic dog.”
These make a great summer chew toy, says Morgan. Just don’t leave your dog unattended while she’s on the gnaw. Like bones, they could become a choking hazard.
These crunchy treats are an excellent source of fiber. “Even though dogs are meat-o-sauruses, they still enjoy their veggies,” says Morgan.
Coconuts and their milk are safe for dogs, just be sure to throw away the husks. This is one of the foods you want to introduce slowly as some puppy tummies can be sensitive to coconut, says Morgan.
In Chinese medicine, radishes are cooling and draining, perfect for easing the heat of summer and releasing stuck energy. “Radishes help move things along and get the system going again,” says Morgan.
“One of the most potentially overlooked summer treats is water,” says Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, veterinarian at Animal Medical Center in New York City. Tap water is more than fine. You can also make a thin, ice “pancake” by putting water in a plastic bag and freezing it flat. Offer it to your dog to chew on when the temperatures get really hot.
Regular ice cream can wreak havoc on your dog’s tummy. But several brands, including Frosty Paws and Puppy Scoops, make lactose-free frozen treats for pups. Just be mindful of calories. “Give him a Frosty Paws everyday and your Chihuahua will look like a footstool,” says Hohenhaus.
While barbecuing in the backyard, why not grill up a little chicken, beef or pork for your pup? Just watch out for onions, garlic and scallions, which are toxic to pets. Keep the meat plain—don’t add sugary sauces. Also avoid skewers and bones, which can become choking hazards or puncture your dog’s intestines.
For humans corn on the cob is a summer rite of passage. Your dog can get in on the fun—minus the cob. These are a choking hazard. Scrape a bit of the corn off the cob and mix it in with your dog’s dinner for a special treat.
Fill a popsicle mold with canned dog food. Stick a dog biscuit in it for a handle and voila, dog popsicles! “You just have to remember to decrease their lunch by a bit,” says Hohenhaus.
Fresh cauliflower chilled in the fridge is a cooling and crunchy treat, says Dr. Jennifer Adolphe, senior pet nutritionist for Petcurean, a Canadian pet food brand.
Put fresh blueberries and strawberries in the freezer; then blend together for a sweet doggie treat. Only offer your pup a small portion, since blueberries and strawberries contain sugar.
“The peel is fine for dogs and is a great source of fiber, essential nutrients and antioxidants,” says Adolphe. But remove the core and seeds. They can be toxic in large quantities. While we’re on the subject of fruit, never feed your pup grapes or raisins. These can cause life threatening kidney failure.
Dr. Michelle Newfield, a veterinarian and owner of Gause Boulevard Veterinary Hospital in Los Angeles, recommends peanut butter and yogurt “pupsicles.” Layer the ingredients in a small cup, using a milk bone as a stick. Freeze and serve. But don’t use sugar free yogurt or some types of peanut butter. “Xylitol, a sugar substitute, is toxic to dogs, and can cause life-threatening hypoglycemia,” says Newfield.
Whatever summer treat you pick for your dog, remember that it is exactly that – a treat. “Extras” should never make up more than 10% of your dog’s total diet, and adjust your dog’s meal size to avoid an excess of calories and the weight gain that follows.