Dogs enjoy a snack as much as people do but finding the most appropriate one for a pet can be a headache. What are the best options out there? Where can one buy them? Are organic snacks healthier? Is it safe to give a dog a bone as a snack? These are common questions for a pet owner.
We turned to veterinarian Lloyd Kenda, of Valley Veterinary Centre (www.valleyvetcentre.com.hk) for advice.
Snacks for pets are available in most supermarkets, pet stores and veterinary clinics but, he says, "the important thing is not where it is bought but what it is made from. Check the label for ingredients, processing and where it is made".
Much like snacks for people, those for pets should ideally be made from natural ingredients, contain minimal sugar and be free of artificial ingredients and come from a reputable manufacturer. The country of origin can play a role, too: mainland China, for example, has had dog-treat scares in the past.
It can't be stressed enough that a snack is a treat, so the intake should be restricted regardless of content, as constant snacking can cause obesity and other associated health issues.
"Snacks or treats for pets are exactly that, a snack or a treat. They should be considered the same way as we would consider a snack or a treat for ourselves.
"It is not a meal or a meal substitute. What we eat affects our health."
For an adult dog, Kenda suggests giving no more than one or two small treats per day.
"Snacks or treats should be used to reward good behaviour; they should not be given unconditionally," he says.
For a natural snack he suggests a carrot and small amounts of dried liver - its strong taste and smell are good for training purposes - or dry, strong-smelling cheese.
Kenda doesn't believe organic snacks are any better than inorganic varieties.
"Organic is a buzzword. It is used very loosely with regard to manufactured pet foods/treats."
Once a common doggie treat, Kenda says, bones have become a controversial issue today.
"This has sparked a lot of controversy in the veterinary profession. I personally do recommend that dogs [and cats] be given bones to chew on as this helps their teeth and gums. It is the natural way to maintain good oral health."
The main case against giving a dog a bone is that the animal may choke on it, or it may splinter. To avoid those problems, Kenda says, the bone must be raw, as cooked bones are sharp, too hard and can damage the teeth and cause digestive problems; it also must be too big for the animal to swallow accidentally - it is for chewing and gnawing at - and it should come from a reputed supplier.
There are also hygiene and health concerns for humans when handling raw meat, but if good practices are followed this should not be an issue either.
"We forget that dogs with a backyard will often bury a big, raw meaty bone, dig it up after monthsand then eat and chew it - dogs generally have a good constitution."
However, dogs with rotten teeth and/or gum disease should not be fed bones.
"And if a pet has an allergy to meat protein [such as] beef, then don't give them beef bones - give them lamb or pork [bones] instead."
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