Treating Your Dog
Dog owners show dogs their love by giving treats. While many of your everyday dog treats are basically empty calories — and should therefore be kept to a minimum — there are some special types of dog treats that will give your dog a bit of supplemental nutrition. These treats are often classified “functional dog treats”.
Enhancing dog foods and treats with “special” ingredients is certainly nothing new, but these days there are products available for many different desired results. These treats can be found in a variety of forms — including biscuits, freeze-dried, jerky, chews and more. All of these products are formulated to provide some additional benefit to the dog when given on a regular basis.
Targeting Your Dog’s Specific Needs
So, you might be thinking, what dog treats could your furry friend possibly benefit from?
Weight Control/Loss: If your dog is overweight, look for treats made to be low in fat and calories and high in fiber. Added ingredients such as L-carnitine (which has been shown to increase fat loss in dogs) can be helpful for reducing weight.
Joint Care: If your older dog is slowing down and has trouble getting up and down, providing him with some extra ingredients for joint care (i.e., glucosamine and chondroitin) is now common practice. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can also be added to dog treats to help reduce inflammation and soothe painful joints.
Dental Care/Bad Breath: Tartar build-up in the mouth can cause some serious halitosis. Dog treats in this category have special chemicals or textures designed to help break down plaque and tartar. This can help reduce the amount of bacteria in your dog’s mouth, and thus the offensive odor. Many of these special dog treats also include chlorophyll, mint, or parsley in the mix to help cover up the smell for a short time. While these ingredients might not necessarily clean the teeth, they may increase the amount of time between professional dental cleanings if given regularly.
Skin Health/Hair: Animals with dry, flaky skin and rough, brittle hair can benefit from added omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in their daily diets. These fatty acids can come from flaxseed, fish oil, or other natural sources. These ingredients work along with vitamins (such as vitamins A, E and D) to nourish the skin and hair and give a glossy shine.
Digestive Health: If your dog has issues with a touchy digestive tract (irritable bowel or colitis), providing some extra fiber and/or beneficial probiotics/prebiotics might help to balance things out. Some ingredients you might see in these kinds of dog treats include fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), yogurt, chicory, Brewer’s yeast and beet pulp.
Other: Other types of functional dog treats include ingredients for heart health (flaxseed, taurine, tumeric), immune system health (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids), and behavioral issues (chamomile and lavender).
Advantages/Disadvantages of Functional Dog Treats
While these functional ingredients can certainly provide some benefits, there’s always a chance of giving your dog too much of a good thing. Even though these dog treats are considered “healthy” and do provide added nutrition, it is best not to overdo it. Be sure to read the package to find out the correct amount to give based on your dog’s weight, and consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.