I can't tell you how many times I've been told, "Oh, I NEVER give my dog table scraps as treats." Every time I hear this, I always think the same thought: "I bet your table scraps are far more nutritious than most dog treats you find at your local pet supply store!"
As sad as it sounds, plenty of dog treat manufacturers do not have a dog's health in mind. Instead, they create canine junk food made of non-nutritious, cheap ingredients that might look tasty, but offer little else. Many treats include by-products: "waste" from a butcher that can include bones, blood, intestines, ligaments, heads, feet, and feathers - yes, we said feathers!; corn or wheat are notorious for being highly indigestible to dogs; chemical preservatives like BHA and BHT, which are potential cancer-causers; or animal fat, rendered animal fat, restaurant grease, or other oils too rancid or deemed inedible for humans.
Dogs are carnivores, and as such, not only do they naturally crave meat, but it is also the most nutritious food group for them. When choosing food, be sure that it is a heavily meat-based selection (avoiding the above-mentioned no-no additives). When it comes to treats, a meat-based one would also be best for your small dog. From freeze-dried liver bits, to dehydrated beef or chicken pieces, there are many "smart treats" available, although you may have to seek out a higher-quality pet supply store rather than just shopping at your local retail pet food chain.
In small amounts, treats containing non-meat ingredients are fine, as long as you select wisely. For a chew-treat, instead of rawhide which can irritate the stomach lining, try an edible bone made of ingredients that are more easily digestible (Zuke's Edible Dental Chew Bones, for example, made from a potato starch base). Biscuit-type treats should preferably be wheat-free and corn-free, and use only fresh, all-natural ingredients, like organic brown rice flour in Robbie Dawg Biscuits.
Another easy treat option - and maybe the best one for your small dog - is simply pure cooked meat, avoiding all deli cold cuts, since they contain chemical preservatives. Slice off a small bite of cooked chicken breast, or let your little one nibble on a piece of hamburger. Your pooch will go wild with snacking delight, as you thoughtfully - and nutritiously - cater to the carnivore in them!
- S. Athanasiou