Tahoe Top 5: Did someone say dog treats? | SierraSun.com

Tahoe Top 5: Did someone say dog treats?

Dogs make life better, they're wonderful companions and generally in high spirits.

As pet-parents, people want to reward their dogs with treats. Before getting carried away, the experts from Agate Bay Animal Hospital in Tahoe Vista have some tips to share on what to keep in mind when treating dogs.

"Fresh food is going to be better for every dog, which is different from raw food, which can cause salmonella. The way we see it is every dog is different and knowing where the dog's food came from is just as beneficial for them, as it is for us to know where our food comes from," said Megan Rudnick, registered veterinary technician with the animal hospital.

Rudnick also prepares the homemade, high-quality dog biscuits sold at DogGone Crazy Bakery within the animal hospital.

"Just like people, if dogs eat high quality ingredients they'll feel better; just like people feel better eating veggies versus fatty fast foods. People should keep in mind that there is a stigma on a lot of ingredients that aren't technically bad for dogs unless they are allergic or sensitive to those foods," Rudnick added.

Ingredients like corn and grain are said to be bad for dogs, but unless your pooch is sensitive to them specifically, they're perfectly fine treat ingredients.

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"What we really look out for in treats for dogs is using less butter, less salt and less sugar," she said.

An animal lover and wealth of knowledge in dog-friendly pastries, she offered DogGone Crazy's Tahoe Top 5 tips for keeping dogs happy, healthy, and well fed.

1. How often to treat

However often you want your dog to have a treat is fine. However, it's going to factor into the amount of food your dog eats each day.

The experts remind dog owners to slow down on the treats, or subtract the amount of treats given in a day from their dinner. If your dog is getting half a cup of treats a day, the pooch should also get half a cup less kibble at feeding time — you may want to treat wisely to help keep your pup on a healthy feeding regimen.

One great tip is to keep kibble in your pocket and feed a piece of the food they already like as a treat throughout the day.

2. Know your dog's stomach

Agate Bay offers full allergy testing for food, as well as environmental sensitivities, so you can know exactly what isn't sitting well with your dog. They work with a lab who can analyze your dog's blood sample and come back with a clear understanding of the food and environmental factors that could irritate your dog.

To test your dog's food sensitivities at home, you can do a food trial and introduce a small amount of a certain treat ingredient, and slowly add more to see if they have a reaction signifying an upset GI tract.

3. What to avoid

First of all, don't use any ingredients that your dog is sensitive to and please, please don't use chocolate.

Other ingredients that aren't suitable for dogs, include onions and onion powder, garlic, and jam, jelly or anything with grape flavor as dogs are incredibly sensitive to grapes.

Rudnick added that dogs don't need a large amount of added oils in their diet. While some people think feeding their dog coconut oil is good for their coat, she suggests using fish oil instead, which is easier for dogs to digest; adding that dogs can get oil in their diet simply from the peanut butter used in their treats.

4. Make treats at home

According to the experts, just keep it simple when making dog treats. Go for fewer, natural ingredients that you know your dog loves.

Chicken, corn meal, low-fat cheese, peanut butter, and cinnamon are a few of DogGone Crazy's go-to ingredients when they're whipping up fresh batches of cookies.

Flour is fine to use when cooking dog treats, and the experts say a small amount of sugar is OK, though your dog really doesn't care if it's sweet or not.

5. Stick with the experts

DogGone Crazy Bakery uses all natural ingredients fit for human consumption, so you don't have to feel too guilty rewarding your dogs often.

Their treats have less butter, less salt, and less sugar than store bought treats and use fresh eggs, which are laid by the chickens that also live on the property.

Their treats are so delicious and use such quality ingredients that Rudnick says she eats them all the time, adding that they taste like crackers.

Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at cwalker@sierrasun.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.