How to Feed Sensible Snacks Pets – NBC 6 South Florida

For many of us, enjoying the holidays means indulging in high-calorie treats. And since the holidays are a season of gifts, it only makes sense that we spoil our pets as well. As a result, our pets – like their human counterparts – often start the new year with a post-holiday paunch.

Whenever I suggest a pet lose weight, a common objection is often, “But what about their treats?”

When it comes to training and behavior modification, I’m a big fan of food rewards. We use them in our clinic to teach anxious animals to associate with us in more than just procedures.

When used consciously and in small portions, food rewards are a godsend. It’s the size, frequency, and wastefulness of treats that contribute to America’s pet obesity problem.

Many pet owners make a habit of mindlessly handing out commercial pet treats. The fact that pet food manufacturers are not required to list the nutritional information and calorie content of their products adds to the problem, and very few do so voluntarily.

Our Zohan Dachshund needs about 350 calories a day. Thus, a single commercial dog treat of 17 calories provides him with just under 5% of his caloric needs. And the 45 calorie treats he really tastes represent nearly 13% of his body’s needs.

Those numbers might not sound terrible, but many of my patients are around his height and eat several of these treats every day.

Dr. Ernie Ward is the founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention and the author of the book “Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs Are Getting Fatter – A Vet’s Plan To Save Their Lives”.

In his book, Dr. Ward reveals the calorie content of some of the most popular commercial dog treats and details what a human would need to eat to achieve the caloric equivalent.

Here are some of Dr. Ward’s findings:

For a 10 pound dog, a single top-selling bone-shaped treat is the calorie equivalent of a human eating two chocolate glazed donuts. A chewy bacon-shaped treat is the equivalent of a human eating a popular fast food cheeseburger.

For a 20 pound dog, a popular chewy treat for dental health, is the equivalent of drinking three 16-ounce fast food chocolate milkshakes. Another “light” variety of dental health treatment is equivalent to eating a fast food hot fudge sundae.

For a 40 pound dog, a peanut butter and apple flavored treat is the equivalent of a large order of fast food fries for a human.

For a 60 pound dog, a great “healthy” treat, is like eating four fried chicken breasts at a fast food restaurant.

Ouch! Perhaps you now think that the solution to sensible snacking is to substitute “human food” for commercial pet treats. Hill’s Pet Nutrition also collected some interesting data. Let’s see what they discovered about sharing our food with our cats:

For a 10 pound cat, a single potato chip is the caloric equivalent of half a hamburger for us. And seriously, who only eats one potato chip? My generation learned that a saucer of milk (8 ounces) was the ultimate way to show Kitty how much she was loved. That’s the calorie equivalent of a human eating FIVE giant milk chocolate bars!

Ready for some more fun facts from Dr. Ward?

For a 40 pound dog, just half a beef hot dog is the equivalent of eating an 8-ounce T-bone steak as a snack.

For an 80 pound dog, a large grade A scrambled egg is the caloric equivalent of a slice of French toast with butter for us.

Let’s face it: most of the foods we eat are far more calorie dense than we think. When we take into account the very different nutritional needs of our pets and combine them with their natural instinct to conserve energy, it’s easy to see how these empty calories become problematic.

That being said, I am regularly reminded that for pet owners, treatment is important. So let’s talk about how to mindfully give treats.

Yes, my dog ​​gets treats!

There are many situations in which treats can be your friend. Small food rewards are great motivational tools for teaching new behaviors. Such behaviors can alleviate one of the most common causes of begging and overeating: boredom.

If the behaviors you teach also burn calories, even better. We use treats to teach Zohan how to perform tricks and track scents. Each treat, however, is about the size of a pencil eraser. Crispy treats are placed in sealed bags and ruthlessly crushed into small pieces.

The focus is not on the treat itself, but rather on the treat event. Accompany every food reward with lots of praise. By doing so, you can reduce the number of rewards given, until your praise is the only reward your pet is looking for.

Although treats are allowed at Casa Kupkee, the caveat is that they must be earned. This may mean going through a repertoire of learned behaviors or standing still to cut your nails or clean your ears. Zohan never gets treats demanding them, and if you’re a new pet owner, my best advice is to nip this behavior in the bud. It gets boring fast, and it’s just too tempting to throw pets a high-calorie treat just to shut them up. It rewards behavior, and rewarded behavior is repeated behavior. Don’t give it a chance to take root. This almost always leads to tired owners and overweight pets.

If “people food” is your treat of choice, there are plenty of healthy options.

With few exceptions, small pieces of fruit can be safely enjoyed by our pets. Never give grapes or raisins, or anything with pits or seeds. That said, the flesh of these fruits is good. Apples, bananas, blueberries, and pineapple chunks seem to be popular with pets. Again, remember to keep portions small.

Unseasoned vegetables, cooked or raw, can also be given. Never give buttery flavored vegetables and avoid anything that belongs to the allium family. This includes, but is not limited to, garlic, onions, chives, scallions, and leeks. Remember that some of Miami’s most popular seasonings, sofrito and mojo, are loaded with onions and garlic, so don’t feed your pet flavored with these local favorites.

If only a “cookie” is enough, try replacing it with plain rice cakes. Avoid sweet, salty or flavored varieties. A whole rice cake contains about ten calories and only a very small piece is needed. They are always in season and cheaper than dirt. A customer recently joked that it’s because dirt is exactly what it tastes like! Fair enough, but more often than not, our pets don’t care. Why? Remember the mantra: it’s not the treat, it’s the treat event.

Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic.

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