Have you ever fed your dog a whole lot of treats when training? With the increased popularity of positive dog training, people are feeding their dogs more treats. While the dogs are quite happy with this arrangement, and their people generally find it pretty fun too, some caution is necessary. It may seem completely harmless to feed your dog a piece of chicken, but if your dog is eating lots of chicken and not so much of his dog food, he will not be getting the nutrition that he needs to be healthy.
It's important to be aware that the vast majority of dog treats are not nutritionally balanced at all. The most common nutritional problems with treats are that they do not have the correct amount of fat (sometimes too high, like in all-meat treats) and they do not have the correct balance of calcium and phosphorous.
With treats that are too high in fat, the consequences can be quite serious if the dog eats too much of them. When my little dog Ollie got pancreatitis, I learned a lesson in dog nutrition that I won't forget! Dog's are actually more sensitive to having too much fat in their diets that people are. If a dog ingests to much fat, their bodies can have an extreme reaction requiring hospitalization. It is not necessary to be hyper vigilant, but it is a good idea to keep an eye on what you are feeding your dog to make sure you don't overdo the richer treats, especially with small dogs. In Ollie's case, the culprit was a raw beef marrow bone that had too much fat left on it (a topic for another article!).
Most dog treats, including ones with 100% meat and other healthy treats, have unbalanced calcium-phosphorous ratios. It's important to make sure your dog does not get too many of these treats for proper growth and maintenance of bones.
So, how can you make sure to keep your dog healthy while training with treats?
*Wondering if your dog's favorite treat is nutritionally balanced? Most of them are not, but one way to check is to see if they have calcium and phosphorous ratios that are approximately 1.2 to 1.
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