As cooler weather descends and the holidays sneak up on us, our pups and kittens will be getting less exercise and more treats. We can avoid adding winter weight and continue to show happy love to our dogs and cats. It is imperative to give healthy treats and to avoid choices that may be unsafe or even toxic.
A good place to turn is the local farmers’ markets, such as at Eastern Market. Many fruits are tasty and nutritious for pups. A few are not.
Sliced peaches are yummy and nutritious. We sampled a few this past weekend at Eastern Market. Be certain that the dog does not eat or have access to the pit. Peach pits will get stuck in your dog’s intestines and may need to be surgically removed. Apples are also in season and a few slices will be loved by most dogs. Again, avoid the seeds, but this is because they contain a small amount of cyanide. Eating an entire apple’s worth of seeds will not be toxic, but large quantities can cause serious medical problems. Watermelon, without the rind is cherished, as are strawberries, oranges, kiwis, pineapple, and blueberries.
On the vegetable side, carrots, sliced sweet potato, and broccoli are low in calories and taste great. Be certain to have them in bite-size pieces.
Being at the farmers’ market does not guarantee that item is safe, though. Always steer clear of grapes, raisins and all grape products. They are toxic at any level and should always be avoided. Never feed your dog onions, garlic, avocado, chocolate or other items that contain caffeine.
Many dog like chewable treats. Use these with care. Hooves, bones and antlers are hard and can break teeth. In some cases dogs swallow larger chunks of these items and cause an intestinal blockage. If your dog gnaws them slowly and will not swallow whole pieces, these may work for your pup.
There are a few safer options for chewers. The Big Bad Woof in Old Takoma has tasty Earth Animal products – one of their favorites is a rawhide that is made from chicken which is readily digested. Regular rawhides digest very slowly, which can cause problems if dogs eat larger pieces; these do not have that problem.
Many dogs have allergies to specific proteins, but still like to chew. Howl to The Chief on 8th Street, SE, maintains a large selection of Barkworthies single ingredient products, such as lamb chews and even kangaroo chews. These may be good alternatives for our food allergic canines.
Our feline friends are more discerning regarding their treats. Some like cat grass, others will eat dried fish flakes. Both are available at Metro Mutts, along with dog treats, too.
Even if you are using healthy and natural treats, be mindful that they all contain calories. Too many will lead to excessive weight gain. Although it’s the winter, remember to get your dog or cat regular exercise. It’s good for you and them.
Dan Teich, DVM
Originally published in The Hill Rag