Alternate Dog Treats

Healthy Options for Fido

Have you considered giving your dog healthy treat options? Something that doesn't always come out of a box?

It can be as easy as simply opening the produce drawer in your refrigerator. Need some suggestions? Try these veterinarian-recommended goodies that are tasty and safe for your pet.

Getting Started

Fresh fruit and raw vegetables are a healthy treat option for dogs; there aren’t any added chemicals, artificial flavors or coloring and your pet benefits from the extra vitamins and minerals.

However, just like kids, dogs can be picky eaters. You may discover that while one particular fruit or vegetable suits your pet’s palate, another may have him disdainfully turning his nose away.

Don’t bombard your dog with an assortment of fresh goodies when first introducing a new food group; start by treating your dog to one particular fruit or vegetable at a time for a few days. By doing so, you can pinpoint whether or not the treat du jour is causing an upset stomach or diarrhea.

It’s important not to feed your dog toxic fruit or vegetables, warns Dr. Tony Buffington, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition.

Buffington has a PhD in animal nutrition, was a resident clinical nutritionist at the Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital at UC Davis, and has been a professor of veterinary clinical sciences at Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine since 1987.

“With regard to alternative treats, we recommend small amounts of fruits and veggies all the time,” advises Buffington.

Before stocking your fridge, take note of which fruits and vegetables are safe to feed your dog.

Safe Fruits to Feed Dogs

With the exception of citric fruits, which may upset your dog’s stomach, most fruits are safe to feed to your pet.

Importantly, never feed your pet a whole fruit with a pit or seeds intact. The pit is a choking hazard, and seeds can lead to gastric issues and be a choking hazard as well. Clean the fruit, then slice it in pieces and give to your pet as a treat.

Strawberries and blueberries
  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Mangos
  • Pears
  • Pineapples
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

Fruits to Avoid Feeding Your Dog

Fruits to avoid feeding your dog include grapes and raisins, peaches, plums and persimmons.

The specific problem with persimmons, peaches, and plums are the seeds or pits. The seeds from persimmons can cause inflammation of the small intestine in dogs. They can also cause intestinal obstruction, a good possibility if a dog eats the pit from a peach or plum. Plus, peach and plum pits contain cyanide, which is poisonous to both humans and dogs should the pit be broken open and consumed.

According to Pet Poison Helpline, grapes and raisins have been known to cause acute renal (kidney) failure in dogs. With kidney failure, a pet’s ability to produce urine decreases, which means they are unable to filter toxins out of their system.

Unfortunately, the reason for kidney failure and the amount of grapes/raisins necessary to be toxic to pets is unknown, so all cases of ingestion have the potential to be grave. Depending on the size of the dog, as little as four grapes/raisins can have an adverse effect on your fuzzy friend.

Safe Vegetables to Feed Your Dog

Your dog may have his own preferences when it comes to vegetables, so don’t be deterred if he abandons your first veggie snack on the floor.

Try some of these more savory vegetables:

Broccoli
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Lettuce
  • Zucchini

Keep in mind that cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli may cause gas in your dog. Try feeding your dog sliced pieces of the cauliflower and broccoli stems rather than a floret; not only will the stem satisfy your dog’s crunchy craving, but he may appreciate not having to deal with the tiny floral buds that become lodged in his teeth or tickle his throat.

Vegetables to Avoid Feeding Your Dog

There are a few vegetables to avoid feeding your dog at all times. Onions, garlic, wild mushrooms and rhubarb can be extremely toxic to your pet.

Onions contain an ingredient called thiosulphate which is toxic to cats and dogs. The ingestion of onions, onion powder, or even cooked onion causes a condition called hemolytic anemia, which is characterized by damage to the red blood cells. In other words, onion toxicity can cause the red blood cells circulating through your pet’s body to burst. A small amount can be toxic to your dog or cat.

Wild mushrooms — which may be found growing in your backyard or on the nature trail where you walk your dog — contain toxins that will trigger numerous organ systems, including the kidneys, liver and brain. Nervous system abnormalities, seizures, coma, vomiting, and death can all result when a dog consumes mushrooms.

Rhubarb contains oxalates which trigger abnormalities with the nervous system, kidneys and digestive tract. The vegetable is also commonly used in recipes for pies, jams, jellies, sauces and juice.

Smart Choices for a Healthy Pet

It’s important that you be aware of your dog’s unique dietary needs in order to ensure his lifelong health. Make smart choices about feeding treats to your pets, recommends Buffington.

“From a nutritional point of view, we don’t recommend feeding so much that the treats make any significant contribution to the pet’s nutrient intake, or dilute or imbalance their regular diet.

“We also remind owners that there are plenty of non-food treats from their pet’s point of view; play treats, walk treats, ‘teach me a trick’ treats, grooming treats,” says Buffington “All of these contribute to a positive human-animal relationship without adding calories.”

If you are unsure of which alternate treat to feed your pet, discuss your concerns with your family veterinarian before introducing a new type of food to your dog.