Pet Obesity, part 3 The Role of Treats and Exercise in Obesity

Pet Obesity, part 3 The Role of Treats and Exercise in Obesity

In addition to feeding our dogs daily, most of us also give our dogs treats. Treats are typically used for training because research indicates treats are the best reward for a dog. Sometimes, we also give dogs treats to satisfy their need to chew and or to keep them busy so we can get stuff done. Lastly, I expect every dog to receive treats for being cute, sweet, and wonderful.
I am not opposed to anyone treating their dogs for any of the reasons above; however, they must understand that those treats contain calories. If your dog is overweight or obese and you want him to live a long life, you need to cut back on the treats. As I noted in the first part of this series, dogs fed less than 25% of the manufacturer's recommended amounts did not starve to death; they lived longer and healthier lives. To give an obese dog a treat is potentially killing him with kindness.
I recommend you consider the following when evaluating any treat for your dog:
•    Determine the calories per treat from the package or a Google search before giving it to your pet.

•    If the caloric content per treat is high, the treats must be soft so you can easily break them up into pea-sized pieces.

•    The ingredients panel must not contain any artificial ingredients or colors.

•    If you give a treat equivalent to 10% or more of your dog's recommended daily calories, reduce what you feed him that day.
Here are my thoughts on various treats.

•    Training treats – In a 30-minute training session with a dog, you could easily go through 60 treats. One of my favorite  training treats is five calories per treat, so if I went through 60, it would account for 300 calories. That exceeds the recommended daily calories for a 20-pound dog. However, because that treat is soft, I can break a single treat into eight pea-sized pieces. Sixty of those tiny pieces only amount to 37.5 calories.

•    Dental treats – These treats help keep your dog’s teeth clean. They are made for those who are not good at brushing the dog's teeth at least thrice weekly. Unfortunately, dental treats are often high in calories and have less than desirable ingredients. The large size of one dental treat is 139 calories, 13.6% of the caloric requirement for a 70lb dog! Other alternatives have better ingredients and fewer calories to keep your dog's teeth clean.

•    Chewable & Consumable Treats – This category of treats is meant to be chewed and will often keep a dog busy for a few minutes or maybe more than an hour. Many treats, such as freeze-dried chicken necks and cod skins, have nutritional value. Because many of the treats are not man-made, their size and, thus, caloric content may vary.
•    Bully Stick, 6in, 88 calories on average.
•    No-Hide, large, 301 calories.
•    Turkey Neck, freeze-dried, 133 calories, on average.
•    Dog biscuits – Dog biscuits are the universal dog treat. The large size of a famous brand accounts for 125 calories, 12.8% of the caloric needs of a 70lb dog. The ingredient lists for most treats in this category are filled with carbohydrates and other things we would classify as junk food. In other words, there’s nothing good here, especially for an
 overweight dog.

Exercise Matters
Typically, weight loss requires more than a change in diet. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention states that dogs need a minimum of 20-30 minutes of daily aerobic activity or exercise. If you suspect your dog is overweight or obese, I encourage you to have your veterinarian give your dog a complete physical evaluation before beginning an exercise program. FMI –

In Memory of ‘B’
In 2000, a client brought his mother’s dog, ‘B,’ to us for boarding. His mom was having surgery and would then be spending a couple of months in rehab, and ‘B’ needed a place to stay.
We were immediately taken with ‘B’s sweet nature but were very concerned about his weight. A normal weight for his breed would have been 15 to 20 lbs. ‘B’ weighed over twice that. His legs bowed outward, and he waddled when he walked, which was clearly a struggle. There was no smile on this poor dog's face as he was suffering. We asked for and were granted permission to see if we could slowly get him to a healthier weight.
I still vividly recall the day I saw ‘B’ running to greet me, his tongue lolling out of his mouth and his ability to jump up on my legs. It was a beautiful sight.

Don Hanson lives in Bangor, Maine, where he is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( and the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. He is a Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (PCBC-A) accredited by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB)and a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP). Don is a member of thePet Professional Guild (PPG), where he serves on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairs the Advocacy Committee. He is also a founding director of Pet Advocacy International (PIAI). In addition, Don produces and co-hosts The Woof Meow Showpodcast,available at,the Apple Podcast app, and Don's blog: opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

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