By Dr. Deborah Linder, DVM, DACVN, "The Best Produce for Pets,"March/April 2014
The average dog owner spends $65 on dog treats each year, yet the healthiest and least expensive treats for your pet could already be in your fridge! Many vegetables and fruits can provide a perfect chewy crunch. Especially in light of the recent rawhide recalls, asparagus spears and celery stalks are great chew-toy alternatives for dogs. Yes, really! You might need to give it a few tries if your dog is new to produce. Any crunchy or chewy vegetable can also spark a cat’s interest. (Zucchini is popular with cats because of the semi-moist crunch.) The only thing cats don’t go for is fruit because they lack sweet taste receptors.
Just be careful not to overdo it. Dogs and cats should get no more than 10 percent of their total calories from treats to avoid unbalancing their diet. Each animal is different, so ask your vet how many calories your pet should get. On average, a slim 10-pound cat should eat about 200 calories per day and a slim 60-pound dog should get about 800 calories per day (meaning 20 or 80 calories in treats, respectively, for your cat or dog each day).
Here are a few healthy treats to try (calorie amounts in parentheses):
• Carrots: 1/8 cup slices (7)
• Asparagus: 3 spears (10)
• Blueberries: 12 berries (10)
• Watermelon: 6 melon balls (23)
• Strawberries: 1 large (6)
• Peaches: 1/2 medium peach (30)
• Zucchini: 1 cup chopped (20)
• Green bell peppers: 1/4 cup chopped (7)
• Celery: 1 stalk (7)
• Cucumber: 1/2 cup slices (8)
• Broccoli: 1/4 cup chopped (7)
Not all foods are safe for pets, though, so beware of foods that are potentially toxic: grapes, raisins, garlic, onion, avocado and chocolate.