Many pet lovers enjoy giving their dogs and cats occasional food treats. Pet treats can be fed along with a complete and balanced diet, however, it’s critical to ensure that treats are not used in place of food to ensure your pet is getting the right nutrition to keep him or her healthy.

Treats can be used in numerous ways to the benefit of pets and people alike.

The simple act of giving a pet a treat can strengthen the bond a person shares with his or her pet. Treats may be given as a reward for good behavior or they may be given as a snack.

Furthermore, treats are also a useful motivator and provide behavioral reinforcement during the process of training a pet. Some dog trainers have noted that particularly strong-smelling treats can be especially useful in the training and obedience process and can engage their strong sense of smell. Remember, sometimes a treat that smells delicious to your pet may not smell quite so appetizing to you, but it may help with training!

Suggested guidelines for treat feeding include:

  • Feed treats in moderation.It is recommended that no more than 10% of a pet’s caloric intake come from treats, and when feeding treats, it’s important to reduce the amount of pet food accordingly. Refer to the feeding guidelines on the package.
  • Use pet treats alongside a complete and balanced pet diet. Pets require a balance of nutrients, vitamins and minerals found in complete and balanced pet foods. While some pet treats are complete and balanced, many are not. Be sure to check the treat package information.
  • Avoid feeding table scraps. Many human foods are not recommended for a pet and can throw off a pet’s balanced diet. Some foods people eat can cause digestive upset when fed to pets, and contribute to pet obesity. Some human foods can cause serious health problems in a cat or dog (e.g., chocolate, onions, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol). Feeding pets table scraps can also encourage undesirable behaviors, such as begging or jumping up at the table.
  • Make sure your pets get plenty of exercise and fresh water. Exercise and play are not only good for your pets’ health and wellbeing, but can also help strengthen the bond you have with your pets. Many pet lovers use treats to help encourage exercise and as a training reward.