Thinking Outside the Box of Dog Treats

If you’ve been down the treat aisle in a pet supply store recently, you’ll have noticed that the variety of products has exploded to the point of becoming overwhelming. Not only do we have the treats filled with byproducts from yesteryear, but also “better-for-you” dog treats that have high quality ingredients, are grain-free, are vegetarian, are low calorie, supplemented for joint support, have teeth cleaning capabilities, or have other types of supplementation.

But really, have you compared the prices for these newer products, particularly if your dog has a food sensitivity?

Don’t get us wrong, we are certainly happy that the bounty of “better-for-you” treat options are available for pet companion caregivers. However, we should remember that the fundamental purposes of treats are to:

  • Train
  • Encourage dogs with picky appetites
  • Reward for good or desired behavior
  • Entice a dog into a place like a kennel, car or room
  • Show affection and love

… Plus, please remember the purposes of treats are not supposed to fulfill dietary needs. Dogs should ideally get their daily caloric needs, and vitamin and mineral allotment from foods. Granted, some dogs need extra supplementation. Additionally, we have previously discussed the issues with pet foods that are possibly nutritionally imbalanced.

Setting those concerns aside, we still have the issue of prices. What can one do to lower the cost of treats and chews?

In some respects, food sold for human consumption is even less expensive than treats for dogs!


  • Almonds – Almonds are high in fiber and can be difficult for dogs to digest. Therefore, they may cause gastrointestinal distress and an upset stomach. So, it’s a good idea to proceed with caution before feeding whole almonds. For instance, you can purchase a bag of almond shavings or pieces.
  • Peanuts – Generally speaking, it is safe for dogs to eat peanut butter, peanut products or peanuts themselves. However, just like humans, some dogs may have a food sensitivity to peanuts. For those dogs, eating peanuts can be very dangerous, so proceed with caution.
  • Pistachios – Pistachios are generally safe for dogs, but be cautious about any moldy nuts. These may contain aflatoxins, which can lead to a variety of health troubles for your dog, including liver failure. Always use caution, or just pick a better treat to give your pet.

Common Sense

  • Nuts to avoid – Macadamia, walnuts, black walnuts, cashews, pecans, brazil nuts, hickory nuts
  • Don’t overtreat and make sure you introduce slowly – Nuts are high in fat which can lead to pancreatitis
  • Give tiny, small portions. Dogs usually care less about the size of the treat than the treat itself!
  • Unsalted and non-flavored only


Common vegetables that are not too messy are:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Green beans

Common Sense

  • Cut into small pieces
  • Introduce slowly and don’t overtreat – this may cause some gastrointestinal upset
  • Dogs diagnosed with hypothyroidism dogs should not eat broccoli or cauliflower because they are rich in naturally occurring compounds called isothiocyanates. If you lightly steam them, this goitrogenic is reduced


  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cranberries
  • Pears
  • Pomegranates
  • Watermelon without the rind

Common Sense

  • Cut into small pieces
  • Introduce slowly and don’t overtreat – this may cause some gastrointestinal upset
  • Avoid citrus fruits

Serving Ideas

You might be wondering about the logistics of feeding cantaloupe. You cut it up, put it in a bowl, put the bowl in the refrigerator, go back in the fridge to spear a piece with a fork, put the piece in your hand, make your dog sit and shake, serve, and then wash the cantaloupe off your hand. We agree – that’s a lot of steps! However, you get used to it.

If that doesn’t work for you, you can always dehydrate fruits and vegetables for your dogs and you. This is definitely a great alternative when you are training or on walks.

If dehydrating is too ambitious, you can purchase freeze-dried or dehydrated fruit or vegetables. You can typically find the fruit in the bulk section of your grocery store. However, read the ingredients. Make sure that it is only that vegetables or fruit, and that sugar, flavor enhancers, or other ingredients are not added.


When it comes to jerky, you can dehydrate meat. Again, we understand if this is too much for you.

Jerky for human consumption is very high in salt. So, we prefer that you purchase only the products specifically made for dogs, that are single or limited ingredients, from a company that is transparent in its sourcing. This will help that your dog can tolerate the protein.

Chews & Gels

There are several chews and gels on the market that help freshen breath or help clean teeth. The chews come in a large variety. Some are made from a single source protein ingredient like fish or are formulated into the shape of bones.


  • Avoid rawhide. Period.
  • Some dogs gobble chews up fairly quickly and may actually vomit.
  • Be careful when feeding raw chicken or turkey necks as they can lodge crosswise in the back of the mouth and cause choking or suffocation.
  • Bones are a great alternative when fed raw or dehydrated raw, and they last longer. Dr. Karen Becker gives a good guideline on selecting bones for your dogs. If a dog has an intolerance to beef, venison, or any of the various types on the market, that particular protein should be avoided.
  • Also, remember that deer and elk velvet chews can be a problem for pets intolerant of venison meat.
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