Treats are an important part of the way that we bond with our dogs, and this is especially true for the Labrador Retriever. The average Labrador is very food motivated. He’s sure to remind you when it’s time for breakfast and dinner, but he pulls out all his best tricks when it’s time for a treat!
What are some of the best treats for Labrador Retrievers and how do you know which ones to pick for your furry best friend?
Healthy Treats and Finding a Balance
Dog treats not only strengthen the bond between dogs and their owners, they can also come with some great health benefits. Knowing what to look for in a treat can be extremely important.
What To Look For
Some of the best treats are the ones that contain ingredients like omega-3 fatty acids, which have an anti-inflammatory effect and can keep your Labrador’s coat healthy and shiny.
Treats can also contain some of the ingredients commonly found in joint supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin. These ingredients lessen joint inflammation and have a protective effect on the cartilage in your dog’s joints.
Dental treats are an easy way to keep your dog’s teeth clean because the act of chewing can remove plaque from his teeth, and the enzymes that are contained within dental treats can prevent more plaque from forming.
There are many commercially available treats on the market, and it can be difficult to know which is the healthiest for your dog.
Even the lowest-calorie treats can cause weight gain if they are given in excess. It is a good idea to offer treats no more than two or three times a day.
If your dog needs to go through training where treats are used as a reward, or if your dog’s anxiety is mitigated by treats, you may need to increase your treat-giving frequency. In this case, pay close attention to your dog’s body weight and size. If he gains too much weight, it could be detrimental to his health!
Best Dog Treats
Some of the best treats available are the ones that are low in calories and soft enough that they cannot cause damage to your dog’s teeth. They can be commercially produced dog treats or can be as simple as the fruits and veggies in your kitchen!
Here are some examples of healthy treats for your canine companion.
- Natural Dog Treats
- Veterinary Dog Treats
- Commercial Dog Treats
Below is a rundown of each of these types and some tips on what to buy, and what not to buy.
Natural Dog Treats: Fruits and Vegetables
Many of the fruits and vegetables that humans eat are healthy and safe to give to your dog. Below are just a few safe options to share with your dog.
Blueberries are one of the best treats because they are small and don’t have large pits that would pose a potential choking hazard. They can be served at room temperature or even frozen for a nice treat on a hot summer day, and they are an excellent source of antioxidants.
Peeled bananas are also a sweet antioxidizing treat but have more natural sugars in them, so give these infrequently.
Apples are an excellent fiber source and can be given in small cut-up pieces, making sure to avoid the core and seeds.
Vegetables like greens beans and carrots are safe for dogs and are a great source of fiber. Because carrots are crunchy, they can also help keep your dog’s teeth clean.
Leafy greens like kale are good sources of calcium, iron, and vitamins like A and C. These can be served chopped or steamed.
Peas and cooked sweet potatoes are also great dog treats and are common components of most commercial dog foods.
Veterinary Dog Treats
Some dog treats can be purchased from your veterinarian, and most of these have a dual purpose because they are often recommended for health reasons.
C.E.T. Dental Chews
The C.E.T. dental chews from Virbac are a type of dental chew that is coated in an enzyme used to reduce plaque and tartar. They are one of my favorites because it takes several minutes for my dogs to finish them. This is important because the longer they chew on the treat, the more “brushing” time they receive!
Treats like Glycoflex chews from VetriScience are excellent sources of glucosamine and Perna or green-lipped mussel, which has an anti-inflammatory effect and contains omega-3 fatty acids.
If your dog needs to be on a strict therapeutic diet for health problems like diabetes and kidney disease, some diet companies make treats that are specially tailored to go with your dog’s therapeutic diet.
Make Your Own
You can also make your own dog treats from canned food by putting a small amount on a cookie sheet and baking them at a low temperature. This way, you can still adhere to the rules for your dog’s therapeutic diet yet give him a treat that he will love.
Commercial Dog Treats
There are almost too many different kinds of dog treats available for pet owners. It is easier to know which ones to avoid, namely rawhide treats, pig’s ears, and hard treats.
Rawhide and pig’s ear treats can be difficult for your dog to fully digest, and some can be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as Salmonella.
Hard treats like cow bones can cause damage to your dog’s teeth, and pieces of bone can splinter into small, sharp pieces. If your dog ingests them, they can cause physical damage to your dog’s digestive tract and perforate his intestines.
Soft dog treats are much safer to use, and there are many of these available on Amazon.com.
SmartBones SmartSticks treats are easy to digest and are a healthy alternative to rawhide treats. They are made from chicken and vegetables and contain peanut butter.
Bixbi Jerky Treats
Bixbi Hip & Joint chicken jerky treats contain glucosamine and chondroitin which are excellent ingredients that promote joint health.
Treats that promote dental health are important, and the best dental treats are the ones that are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC).
Treats approved by the VOHC are clinically proven to help control tartar. You can identify these treats easily because they come with a white square label that says “VOHC Accepted” on it.
Some examples are Purina’s DentalLife dog treats and MilkBone’s brushing chews, both of which can be purchased from Amazon.com.
Since there are so many treat options available for your pup, it is best to know which ones are safe and which ones you should avoid.
Some of the best treats are the ones that are low in calories and can provide healthy benefits.
Like all new foods, monitor for signs of tummy upset like diarrhea. Also, make sure that you’re not giving him too many treats because he could gain weight.
Many of the treats mentioned above are safe for your Labrador, and you should consult with your veterinarian if you’re still not sure which ones to try.