Pets Like Healthy Snacks, Too
Like buying candy for kids, we often think that when we give our pets snacks that have been specially made for them, we’re treating them to exactly what they want. Unfortunately, a lot of those packaged pet snacks and treats also have the nutritional value of candy. But what if we could indulge our pets by giving them something that was not only delicious but also nutritious?
Just as we encourage kids to eat their fruits and veggies rather than another piece of candy, we can also encourage a love for healthy snacks in our pets. These low calorie, low fat, vitamin and mineral-packed options are a great alternative to packaged dog and cat treats.
Can Dogs and Cats Eat Strawberries?
Is there anything more delicious than a fresh, ripe strawberry? Believe it or not, many dogs would also consider a serving of strawberries to be an irresistible treat. Thankfully, strawberries are very healthy for both pets and people. They are a great source of vitamin C, folate, potassium, and manganese, which play important roles in the body like supporting the immune system, allowing muscles to function normally, and fighting cellular damage. Flavonoids—the natural compounds that makes strawberries red—are powerful antioxidants and may help reduce inflammation and the chances that a pet will develop cancer.
Can Dogs and Cats Eat Blueberries?
Nutritionists often refer to the blueberry as a “superfood” because it is very nutrient dense and has many health benefits. Like strawberries, blueberries contain lots of vitamin C, manganese, and flavonoids, but in comparison to most fruits, blueberries are also a good source of vitamin K. Among other functions, Vitamin K plays a role in the formation of proteins that are needed for blood to clot normally and in the maintenance of healthy bones.
Can Dogs Eat Watermelon?
Watermelons are a safe and nutritious option for dogs, particularly on a hot day. Watermelons are made up of over 90 percent water, so they are a delicious way to help your dog stay hydrated. They also contain potassium, which may help with recovery from exercise. Watermelons are a rich source of vitamin A, which is especially important for eye health, and vitamins B6 and C, which promote a strong immune system, among other benefits. The lycopene found in watermelon is a powerful antioxidant.
What Other Foods Are Safe for Pets? Which Are Not?
There are some human foods that are toxic to pets, so you will want to be familiar with what to avoid. If you are unsure, check with your veterinarian to make sure that your planned treats are not going harm your pet. Also keep in mind that dogs are omnivorous and, therefore, more open to trying different kinds of foods. Cats, on the other hand, are carnivorous. They are not just picky about what they eat; they are constitutionally incapable of enjoying some types of foods. For example, cats lack the ability to taste “sweet” and are therefore less likely to be drawn to fruits and more likely to enjoy meat-based snacks.
Here is a brief list of other healthy treats that have been found to go over well with many pets, followed by a list of foods you will need to avoid.
- Apple slices, without seeds or core (Apple seeds contain chemical compounds that are poisonous, albeit in such small concentrations that they really aren’t all that dangerous.)
- Green beans
- Sweet potato, cooked, cubed, or mashed without butter or seasoning
- Popcorn, unsalted and unbuttered
- Catnip or cat grass
- Small pieces of cooked, lean meat (no skin, fat, or bones)
- Bonito flakes—thin, dried pieces of a type of tuna
- Grapes and raisins (They contain chemical compounds that are toxic to dogs.)
- Garlic and onions (Both have chemical properties that can be toxic, and even life threatening to dogs and cats.)
- Avocado pits and skin
- Wild mushrooms
- Fruits with pits, such as peaches, cherries, and plums (In some cases, the pit can be toxic, or can simply present a choking hazard.)
- Nuts (particularly macadamia nuts, which are toxic to pets)
What Is the Best Way To Feed These Types of Treats?
Treats of any type should only make up about 10 percent of your pet’s diet. Fruits and vegetables can be fed raw to maximize their nutritional value but should be thoroughly washed and cut up into bite-sized pieces. Meat, fish, and poultry should always be thoroughly cooked to limit the risk of food-borne disease. Many pets will eat vegetables and fruits by themselves, but you can mash or puree them and mix them up with their main food at mealtimes too.
Replacing packaged treats with healthier options is a simple way to improve your pet’s nutrition, but remember that the bulk of your pet’s diet should consist of a nutritionally complete and balanced, age and species-appropriate food. Good overall nutrition has many benefits including disease prevention, weight management, a better quality of life, and increased longevity.
With any change in diet, it is important to observe your pet for issues that can arise in response. If your pet begins to show behavioral, digestive, or other health problems, stop feeding the new food and consult with a veterinarian.