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How Many Treats Can I Feed My Dog?

Published March 29, 2024
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We all give our dogs at least one meal a day, depending on their needs. But what about treats? Maybe you’ve wondered if you’re giving your pup too many, or maybe you’re worried you’re being mean and not giving them enough. Are there any guidelines on how many treats to give per day?

In this post, we’ll consider the amount, some healthy treat options, and a neat calculator you can try to get a general estimate of your pup’s overall calorie needs.

But first, a quick disclaimer: The content in this post, including the embedded calculator, is meant to be for informational purposes only, and is not a replacement for professional veterinary advice. Before introducing any new foods to your dog or changing their diet, consult with your vet first.

What are my dog’s caloric needs?

According to UC Davis, veterinary experts recommend that treats should take up no more than 10% of a dog’s overall calories. Whether your dog eats commercial dog food or a home-cooked diet, it’s recommended that 90% of their calories come from their main meals.

Of course, keeping in mind other factors, such as your dog’s breed, size, age, any medical conditions, and overall activity level are all important when determining how many treats, and what kind, to give.

With these in mind, you can look at how many calories they may have left over to enjoy some yummy snacks.

Packaged treats or all-natural treats?

Depending on the brand, packaged dog treats can have anywhere between 5 and 600 calories. While many natural “human” treats, such as green beans, are generally healthy and lower in calories, it doesn’t mean all of them are. The calories in peanut butter, for instance, can add up in a hurry, at about 96 calories per tablespoon.

How often do you give treats?

One aspect to consider is your own willpower. When your dog is staring up at you from below the dinner table, with those big brown eyes they use as a superpower…are you able to restrain yourself from giving them ‘extras’? Or do you give in more easily?

It’s understandable if you’re one that likes to give treats more frequently. Giving and sharing food is a way we humans not only bond with each other, but with our canine friends too. We love it, they love it.

However, knowing your own treat-giving tendencies can help guide you in the kinds of treats to give your pup. If you’re one to give treats more sparingly, it may be that a higher-caloric dog bone treat is just fine to give your dog.

If you do like to give several treats throughout the day, consider swapping out the higher-caloric, packaged dog treats for healthier alternatives, such as a few carrots or zucchini bites.

These treats can also be chopped up into smaller bites to extend your amount of treat-giving. Then keep them on hand for walks, at the dinner table, or in the kitchen.

Just don’t forget that any treats you do give, packaged or natural, should generally fall within 10% of your dog’s overall diet.

Some healthy treat options

If you’re looking to swap out some of your packaged dog treats for all-natural alternatives, below is a list of some ideas. These are relatively affordable and are easy to cook, cut, and/or store.

Raw baby carrots: About 4 calories per carrot, high in vitamins & beta carotene. Easy to chop into smaller pieces for more generous treat-giving.

Celery: About 16 calories per cup. Has vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. It’s recommended that celery should be chopped into smaller pieces to prevent choking.

Zucchini: About 16 calories per 1/2 cup. Zucchini is high in vitamins and minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.  It’s recommended to also cut zucchini into bite-sized pieces to prevent choking.

If you decide to cook any of these options, avoid using butter, salt, or any other kind of seasoning. Plain is best for your pup’s health.

For more ideas, check out Canine Arthritis’ list of snack ideas & their estimated calories per serving.

A fun tool to try

To see if your dog is on track with their diet & calories, we’ve embedded an interactive calculator from World Animal Foundation. This can provide a helpful estimate for your dog’s main meals, as well as treat-giving.

Powered by World Animal Foundation

Conclusion

We’d love to know: how many snacks do you tend to give your dog? What kind of treats do they enjoy?  Are there any treats you recommend? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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