There are hundreds of good reasons to give your dog or cat a treat or a chew. Treats and chews can be a mean to influence them during training, to keep them busy while you’re absent or to reward them for activities they may not enjoy, such as grooming, bathing, medicating and teeth brushing. Whatever the circumstances are, a treat or a chew can pose hazards we should be aware of.
There are 3 main categories. Treats used during training or as a reward, treats and chews given to keep the pet busy for some time and dental treats. The biggest questions that we come across when considering the first category are “how many treats can I give to my dog?” and “which treats are safe for their digestive system?” The answer is fairly simple. You can use treats that come packaged and only from accredited distributors. Extra calories should always be taken into account. You may always follow the 10 percent rule. “Treats should not make up more than 10 percent of your dog’s diet”. As a pet parent, in times my pit-bull gains some extra weight, I prefer to provide part of the daily recommended amount of kibbles as a treat throughout the day! As simple as that!
Treats to keep the pet busy and dental treats should be chosen even more cautiously. Most dogs love to chew. Chewing provides entertainment, and slightly decreases tartar formation. Dogs will not normally chew their food excreting their maximum masticatory forces, but when excited or playful, they can voluntarily generate forces up to 1,394N!
Many popular chews such as animal bones, antlers, cow hooves, hard plastic chews, nylon bones, rocks and large ice cubes can cause tooth fractures, block the trachea or cause digestive problems ranging from stomach upset, to constipation, to bowel rapture and peritonitis, to death. When broken to smaller pieces, they can lodge to various sites of the digestive track or airway, or severely injure them. Tennis balls are popular toys; however, they are very abrasive and will wear down the teeth.
Tooth fractures are sometimes disregarded both by pet parents and veterinarians. Do not underestimate tooth fractures… If you ever had a broken tooth, you know that the sensation ranges from sensitivity to extreme pain. The most commonly fractured teeth are the upper 4th premolars and the canines, which are important for mastication. Tooth fractures can also cause periapical abscesses with disastrous effects.
Especially for the animal bones, the FDA warns: “No bones about it: Bones are unsafe for your dog”. As rule of thumb, you should only allow treats that you are actually able to indent the surface with your fingernail. Otherwise, the object is considered too hard. Finally, about chews and treats claiming to help prevent or treat periodontal disease in dogs and cats, you should keep in mind that often these claims are made with no scientific support. If you want to treat your furry pal with “something for his teeth” seek for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal on the package. IF there is no VOHC sea, it doesn’t mean the product is no good, but it means that you have to dig deeper to determine the value of the product for your companion. A complete list of VOHC approved products can be accessed at www.vohc.org.
Dental chews and treats can be an important part of training, bonding and oral hygiene. Every time you visit the pet shop make sure that you not only buy the appropriate ones, but also choose the right ones for your pet’s size. Caution should always be exerted when you leave your companion unobserved when playing with a chew. Your dog or cat may always pick up something inappropriate to chew without you even realizing it. However, by choosing the right stuff, we can make this chance less likely.