Who Wants A Treat?

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Recently, my friend Melina wrote to me asking for low calorie treat suggestions for her dog. Melina writes:

“Hi….my vet suggested that my pup lose some weight and recommended green beans as a treat. While we are still in the first phase of this transition into a HEALTHY lifestyle, he has been snubbing the beans but still likes his carrots. Is there another vegetable or fruit that I can give him that won’t make me feel guilty?” My response to Melina’s great question is below.

Hey Melina! I also recommend green beans for dog treats, they’re pretty perfect because they have loads of fibre and protein, so they’re very satiating for a dog that is always looking for food. If your dog isn’t into green beans though, there are lots of other great options. What I recommend for weight loss is to stay away from any veggies that are high in sugar, and to stay away from most fruits as well, for the same reason. Unfortunately carrots are relatively high in sugar, which not only means more calories but they could even induce more hunger by spiking your dog’s blood sugar. I’d experiment with offering veggies that have a high fibre, protein and/or water content, and see what he likes.

Keep in mind that if your dog is used to having snacks containing more sugar and/or fat, this transition could take some time! You will need to persevere because in all likelihood, he WILL try to play you on this. Don’t fall for the guilt trips!! Stick to your guns and try things like: broccoli, cauliflower, yellow beans, even lettuces. Choose fresh veg over canned, as canned beans and the like often have higher sodium content, which can be unhealthy. You may want to feed cooked versions of cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower) to avoid gas or indigestion – my own dog has not had any trouble with these, but more sensitive pups could have difficulty digesting raw sulfurous vegetables. (Pro tip: you can also give any of these veggies frozen right from the bag in the summer for an easy, cool treat!) Weirdly, one of Miss Lily’s favourite treats is to eat the crunchy ends off of lettuce when I’m preparing a salad. I never thought for a second she’d be interested in eating lettuce – this was an entirely accidental discovery when I dropped some onto the floor and she quickly gobbled it up! Now we make a game of her catching and eating the lettuce ends whenever I prepare salad, which is great fun. I would mostly steer clear of fruit, at least while your dog is losing weight – the occasional berry wouldn’t hurt him, but fruits like bananas and apples are too high in sugar and calories, and citrus fruits can be too acidic on the tummy. It would be ok to add safe fruits, and carrots, back into the diet on a very limited basis once he is maintaining successful weight loss. Also remember to never, ever feed grapes/raisins or onions, as both are highly toxic to dogs. I hope this helps – keep at it, your dog will eventually adapt to his new diet and while he may hate green beans forever, somewhere out there is the right veggie treat just for him!

p.s. I know this wasn’t part of the original question, but I’m going to take this opportunity to shout out my favourite low calorie store-bought treats for my dog. Miss Lily absolutely loves both Fruitables, which clock in at under 9 calories per treat, and Charlee Bears, which contain only 3 calories each. I mean, Lily loves pretty much anything that is remotely edible (and many things that are not), so maybe she’s not the very best judge – but these treats are always a hit! Find them at better pet stores, such as Global Pet Foods.