The first 5 ingredients are pea flour, tapioca starch, chickpea flour, flaxseed, and pumpkin. Crunchy, cookie-like texture. Limited-ingredient recipe. Easy to digest. Grain-free.
More biscuits break during shipment in the bag, as opposed to the box.
The first 4 ingredients are ground wheat, wheat flour, meat and bone meal, and poultry by-product meal. Flavorful. Affordable. Texture cleans teeth. Includes 12 vitamins and minerals.
Does not contain actual peanut butter, just artificial flavoring.
The first 4 ingredients are deboned beef, potatoes, peas, and potato protein. Soft. Made with superfoods like blueberries and carrots. Gluten-free. Grain-free. High-protein treat.
Not small enough to be used as training treats.
Its ingredients are cheese, salt, and lime juice. Lasts an extremely long time. Holds a dog’s attention. Easy to digest. Gluten, soy, grain, and corn-free. Includes 3 pieces per pack.
A pack of Himalayan Dog Chews is a pricey up-front investment.
The first 4 ingredients are beef, venison, dried chicory root, and lecithin. Easy to tear into bite-sized pieces for training. Quality animal-based proteins. Low-calorie treat.
May be a little tough for an extra-small dog.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
To a dog, nothing says “great job” like a tasty treat. Whether he’s earned a reward for obeying commands, being a good boy, or simply being his lovable self, your pooch deserves the best.
While many dog treats taste great, not all are healthy. As a daily part of your dog’s diet, choosing treats with a good balance of flavor and nutrition is essential, but with endless treats available, knowing where to start can be difficult. Does size matter? Is texture important? Which ingredients should you look for and which should you avoid?
Your dog’s wagging tail and adoring eyes may be motivation enough to always have her favorite munchies on hand, but there are other great reasons to give your pooch treats as well.
Training: Most dogs would turn cartwheels for their favorite treat if they could. Using treats during training will not only give your dog extra incentive to cooperate, but she will stay attentive longer, too.
Rewarding Good Behavior: Treats are a great way to reinforce good behavior. Giving Fido a yummy snack for remaining calm while you pet him or not jumping on visitors when they walk through the door, lets him know he’s on the right track.
Dental Health: Dogs are every bit as susceptible to plaque and tartar buildup as we are, and proper dental care is essential. Some treats are designed to boost oral hygiene. These help keep your pup’s teeth and gums healthy, and certain varieties actively work to freshen breath – a huge plus for any dog owner!
With a long list of essential nutrients to look for and an even longer list of artificial ingredients to avoid, treating your best friend can get complicated. Here’s what you need to know about dog treat nutrition labels.
Just because a dog treat has a high percentage of protein doesn’t mean it’s good protein. Sometimes high-protein grains and vegetables are added to dog treats to boost protein percentages. These proteins aren’t nearly as beneficial to dogs as quality meat proteins. Similarly, “meat proteins” or “meat derivatives” may be listed as the first ingredient, but these ambiguous terms are often used to mask inferior protein sources.
Easily identifiable proteins should come first and be listed clearly. These may include:
Meat Meal (should be specified: chicken/beef/lamb/turkey, etc.)
Fish Meal (should be specified: wild salmon/mackerel, etc.)
Whether the main protein consists of a single meat or a hearty combination, the nutrition label should never leave you wondering about the animal source.
The following ingredients aren’t necessarily red flags, but they shouldn’t appear in large quantities, and some may not agree with all dogs. If you notice any of these in your dog’s treats, remember that moderation is key, and keep an eye out for adverse effects.
Sugar: Too much sugar isn’t good for anyone, and the same applies to dogs. Chances are your pup gets plenty of natural sugar from other sources like fruits, vegetables, and grains. Adding unnecessary, highly processed sugars to the mix could lead to weight gain, tooth decay, hypoglycemia, cataracts, allergies, and numerous other conditions. Added sugar isn’t always obvious and may be listed as sucrose, caramel, or corn syrup.
Salt: Many dog treats use salt as a natural preservative and flavor enhancer. While salt is an essential part of every dog’s diet, it should be consumed in appropriate amounts. Too much salt can lead to increased water intake and frequent urination, placing the kidneys under strain. A higher heart rate and dry mucous membranes are also commonly observed in canines that consume too much salt. As a rule of thumb, salt, sometimes listed as sodium, shouldn’t be one of the first five ingredients.
Soy: A common allergen with questionable nutritional benefits, soy is sometimes used as an affordable meat substitute. However, due to its reputation for causing gas and bloating, this is one filler you may want to avoid.
Corn: Corn is another grain that is frequently used to boost the protein content in cheaper dog treats and food. Aside from the fact that many dogs find corn difficult to digest, corn is not a complete protein and lacks essential amino acids. When used extensively as a protein substitute, some dogs may experience muscle loss.
Grains: While most dogs do just fine with the inclusion of healthy grains like oats and brown rice, grains aren’t a natural part of a dog’s diet. As such, they shouldn’t account for the bulk of any dog treat or food.
When it comes to preservatives and sweeteners, try to keep it as natural as possible. Some artificial ingredients added to dog treats to extend shelf life and boost palatability can be harmful.
Harmful Artificial Preservatives to Avoid
BHA and BHT are suspected carcinogens.
Ethoxyquin, also used as a pesticide, may cause blood and liver disorders.
Propyl gallate, used as a stabilizer in cosmetics and food packaging, may be linked to cancer and liver disease in dogs.
Propylene glycol, sometimes used to keep dog treats moist, is a common chemical component of antifreeze.
TBHQ is linked to stomach tumors in dogs.
Harmful Processed Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners to Avoid
Corn syrup, caramel, sucrose, fructose, and other processed sugars can cause a spike in blood sugar and may lead to weight gain and other health issues.
Sorbitol, malitol, and other artificial sweeteners can cause low blood sugar.
Vitamin C, vitamin E (often listed as “mixed tocopherols”), and certain essential oils (clove, sage, and rosemary) are preferable natural preservatives.
Applesauce, honey, or molasses are healthier sweeteners if your dog already has a well-developed sweet tooth.
There’s a dog treat for every taste. Experiment with different textures and flavors to find your dog’s favorite.
Biscuits: These traditional baked dog treats are usually hard and dry, making them perfect for dogs who crave a good crunch.
Soft: If you have a puppy or an older dog who has trouble chewing hard biscuits, opt for soft treats.
Freeze dried: If you’re concerned about preservatives and harmful chemicals, freeze dried dog treats are a great option. Most consist of a single meat, which is freeze dried to preserve freshness and flavor. These treats tend to be a bit chewy but can be softened with water.
Jerky: Most dogs love the meaty flavor of jerky treats. These can be soft or extra chewy.
Dental treats: These treats come in the form of chews, bones, or biscuits and are specially formulated to reduce plaque and tartar buildup.
Don’t forget to consider these factors when choosing a treat for your dog.
Some dogs are happy to eat just about anything, while others have more discerning palates. For training purposes, finding a treat that your dog can’t resist will boost the productivity levels of each session.
If you don’t keep careful track of the number of treats you’re giving your dog, calories can quickly add up. Choosing a low-calorie treat will prevent unwanted weight gain.
Smaller treats aren’t just for pint-sized pups or toy breeds. Small treats often contain fewer calories, making them perfect for training or rewards. If you just can’t resist giving your dog an extra treat (or two!), keep a stash of mini treats on hand.
However, larger dogs who receive a limited number of treats per day will likely appreciate more substantial treats.
It may be tempting to reach for a bulk pack of budget treats, but check out the label before you do. Quality ingredients tend to cost a bit more, and treats at the lowest end of the price spectrum are usually full of cheap fillers and undesirable additives.
Biscuits: Budget dog biscuits typically cost $3 to $5 per 20-ounce bag, but many within this price range are packed with undesirable ingredients. Natural dog biscuits are generally healthier and tend to be priced around $5 to $15 per eight-ounce bag, depending on the ingredients.
Soft treats: Soft dog treats range anywhere from $3 to $10 for an eight-ounce bag, depending on the quality of the ingredients.
Freeze dried treats: Freeze dried treats are the most expensive, averaging between $20 and $30 for a 10-ounce package.
Jerky: Jerky treats tend to cost between $6 and $15 for a 10-ounce package, with prices increasing with higher-quality cuts of meat and fewer preservatives.
Dental treats: Dental treats that are specifically designed to clean teeth usually cost between $20 and $30 for a pack of 30 regular chews or 60 small chews.
Q. How many treats can I give my dog per day?
A. This depends on a number of factors, including your dog’s size, her level of activity, and the number of calories per treat. As a general guideline, treats should account for no more than 10% of your dog’s diet.
Q. Can I still give my overweight dog a treat?
A. With so many low-calorie options on the market, some containing as little as three calories per treat, there’s no reason an overweight dog can’t enjoy the occasional indulgence. However, you’ll need to take extra care to ensure that treating your pal doesn’t interfere with his weight loss efforts. When in doubt, it's best to consult your veterinarian.