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by Marko H. Wittich December 09, 2019 9 min read 0 Comments
Finding the best low-fat treats for your dog can seem like a daunting and overwhelming task. Fortunately, it is less complicated than it may appear at first sight. This guide will help you make the right choices.
The intersection of these three elements represents the ideal low-fat dog treats for your dog, and the purpose you need the treats for.
The 3 Elements of an Ideal Dog Treat
Let's look at these elements step-by-step.
It is important that a treat is the right size for your dog. While a treat (other than a dog chew) cannot be too small, it may be too large for your furry friend. Especially if you own a (very) small dog, always ensure that you only select treats, which can easily be eaten by your dog.
Are you looking for a healthy, low-fat in-between snack, or do you need the treat as a reward for your pup to learn a new trick?
If you just want to spoil your canine companion with a healthy low-fat snack, you can skip this step.
For dog training, there is one more thing to consider.
When selecting a dog training treat, it is important to make sure that the treat itself does not distract your dog from what you want to teach them.
Let me explain this using two examples:
In the case that you would like to get your dog comfortable with a new crate, you may want to give your pup a slice of dehydrated beef liver every time you ask your dog to get into the crate. Depending on the size of the treat and the size of your dog, your dog might happily chew on the treat between a few seconds, or maybe a minute or two. Your dog will learn, whenever mom or dad asks me to get into my crate, I’ll get a treat. Getting into the crate is great! It will not take long before the crate becomes a happy place for your dog.
Let’s assume you would like to teach your dog to sit on command and stay in this position until you give a release signal. A slice of beef liver, which works well for crate training, might not be the best choice. Why? The answer is simple. If the slice of liver is too big for your dog to swallow right away, he or she might stand up or lay down to get in a better position to chew on it. This defeats the purpose. The treat being too big, “forces” your dog out of a position you want them to get into and stay in. For this kind of training, you want to select a dog treat that is small, and can be swallowed in one gulp without any effort and distraction.
After having considered the needs of your dog, and you are clear what you want to use the treats for, it’s time to have a look at the treats themselves.
The differences between premium treats and poor dog treats are found in the quality and the source of the ingredients. The challenge is that both treats may have identical values for protein and fat printed on the label. Consequently, both treats may appear equally good at first sight. But in reality, one treat might be made of highly nutritious and easily digestible ingredients, while the other treat may contain additives, fillers, preservatives and little to none digestible nutrients.
To truly understand what is in a dog treat, you need to evaluate the information provided on different sections of the label.
Some manufacturers might voluntarily provide additional information to help their customers better understand their products.
Example of a dog treat label: Dehydrated beef liver
The ingredients in dog food and treats are listed in descending order by weight, starting with the ingredient which makes up the largest amount.
Look to select treats with real, recognizable, whole-food ingredients such as beef muscle meat, chicken breast, etc. Treats, like dog food, should not contain any additives, fillers or preservatives, nor should they contain salt, sugar or other spices. These substances are not contributing to the health of your dog, and worse, can negatively affect their wellbeing. If the listed ingredients are unfamiliar to you, or even worse, read like an excerpt from a science book, find another treat.
Because dogs cannot digest all carbohydrates equally well, poultry, meat or fish are preferable over plant-based ingredients.
Another indicator for quality is the number of ingredients. Typically, better treats have less ingredients. The best dog treats are made of just one single ingredient: premium quality poultry, meat or fish.
As you can see on the above label for dehydrated beef liver, the guaranteed analysis states information as either minimum or maximum percentages. This means that the actual content of protein and fat may be slightly higher, while the content of moisture and fiber may be slightly lower than printed on the label.
Nevertheless, the guaranteed analysis will provide you with a good orientation if a treat is low in fat.
The calorie count will not tell you if a treat is healthy for your dog or not. Nor will it provide you with any information on how much fat a treat contains.
The value of this statement is that it gives you a good orientation of how many treats you can give to your dog without adding too many calories to their diet.
The product label will also tell you if a company actually makes the dog treats themselves, or if the treats are made by a third party for them. If the information on the label reads “manufactured for”, the treats are not manufactured by the company selling the product. This is not per se a sign of poor quality, but in case the company is otherwise talking about that they make the treats themselves, caution might be advised.
In case a treat is made in the USA, you would typically find “made in the USA” printed on the label. This, however, does not necessarily mean that the ingredients used are also coming from the United States. Should a treat be made from US sourced ingredients and manufactured in the United States, you would typically find “sourced and made in the USA” printed on the label. In case you can’t find the information on the label, reach out to the manufacturer and ask for further information.
It’s important to avoid dog treats made in China or low-cost countries with questionable quality standards. Between August 2007, and December 2015, more than 6,200 dogs, 26 cats and three people became severely ill in what is now known as the “melamine scandal”. More than 1,140 of those dogs died. Even though the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has never been able to fully identify the exact root-cause of the illnesses, it was highly associated with the consumption of pet jerky treats imported from China.²
These treats are our top recommendations for premium quality low-fat dog treats.
Common to all treats is that they are:
Dehydrated Beef Heart
Dehydrated Beef Liver
Beef Liver Bites
Chicken Jerky Bites
Selecting a truly healthy low-fat dog treat, which is just perfect for your canine, is not complicated. It just takes three elements to consider: (1) your dog’s needs; (2) the purpose you need the treats for; and (3) the characteristics of the treats themselves. If you include these criteria into your selection process, you’ll find it easy to pick the ideal low-fat treats for your canine companion.
Do you find this guide helpful for selecting the right low-fat treats for your dog? We’d love to hear from you! Please comment below.
¹ Association of American Feed Control Officials Inc.: AAFCO Pet Food and Speciality Pet Food Labeling Guide. Revised May 2016.
² FDA Investigates Animal Illnesses Linked to Jerky Pet Treats
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