Looking for some ideas on natural treats for dogs that are healthy, tasty, and most likely already in your cupboard or fridge? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Even though you’re probably already spoiling your canine companion by serving them up the best dog food every day, sometimes it’s nice to be able to offer them some additional treats and snacks to add a bit of variety into their diet.
A lot of pet parents wonder what human foods dogs can eat, so we’ve compiled a handy list for you of 12 safe options that are also nutrient-dense and taste great - because a food that’s nutritious but not delicious isn’t worth eating in our book!
While there are a few items below that might not be staples in your kitchen, most are budget-friendly and all of them are readily available, so you won’t have to hunt high and low to find them.
Although many popular dog treats lining the supermarket shelves can be good in a pinch and helpful when training, many of them are void of nutrients and act as empty calories.
However, you should keep in mind that many treats we consider as 'healthy' can actually contain hidden sugars for a dog and are best served only in moderation, as part of a balanced doggy diet.
They may be small but the humble blueberry packs a powerful nutritional punch that makes it a superfood for both humans and dogs. Loaded with antioxidants that will help fight free radicals and slow down the aging process in your pup’s body, blueberries are also great at supporting urinary tract health, reducing the risk of some cancers, and can help protect brain cells.
You can mix blueberries into your dog’s regular meals, feed them on their own as a snack, and if you freeze them, they make a great cooling treat on hot summer days. You’ll also find blueberries in the ingredient list of some of these 6 easy dog smoothies your pooch will love - all of which are a yummy way of sneaking some extra fruit and vegetables into your doggy’s daily diet.
- Can dogs eat blueberries? Get the lowdown on this superfood for your pooch
2. Anchovies and sardines
Ok, we won’t lie, these little guys aren’t going to leave your dog’s breath smelling the sweetest but considering all the health benefits they offer, we reckon they’re worth it. Packed full of Omega-3 fatty acids, both anchovies and sardines can help keep your dog’s coat looking glossy, their skin nourished, and their heart, brain, and joints in peak condition. They’re also high in calcium, zinc, and vitamins B12, D, E, and K.
When selecting anchovies and sardines for your pup, go for ones that are packed in water rather than oil and make sure there’s no added salt. You can serve them as a snack or as a topper over your dog’s wet or dry food. You’ll want to keep the portions controlled though as one anchovy has eight calories - stick to two to three per day for small dogs and no more than five for larger breeds. For sardines, smaller dogs can have up to half a tin a week and large breeds can have one tin.
3. Bone broth
The hip kid on the block these past few years, bone broth is equally as good for doggy consumption as it is for humans. A quick warning though, bone broth is a bit of a labor of love as it requires at least 24 hours of simmering animal bones and connective tissue to get the full nutritional benefits, but if you don’t mind tending to it, your canine companion’s body will thank you big time.
High in protein and nutrient-dense, bone broth is full of anti-inflammatory amino acids and collagen to help support gut health. It’s also great if your dog suffers from arthritis as it contains high amounts of glucosamine and chondroitin to help their joints and can slow the progression of this painful condition. We recommend you start with a few tablespoons and then gradually increase the dosage. It’s great poured over wet or dry food to create a nice soup.
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A kitchen staple in most homes, carrots are loaded with beta-carotene which is great for eye, skin, and coat health, and for helping keep the immune system strong. Carrots are packed full of fiber too, excellent for keeping your pooch regular!
Raw carrots make a delicious and healthy snack and because they’re crunchy, they give your dog’s jaw a good workout and help keep those teeth and gums in tip-top shape. Just make sure you cut raw carrots into appropriately sized pieces depending on whether you have a small or large dog. You also can steam or boil them and then puree and mix in with wet food for an extra dose of nutrition.
- Can dogs eat carrots? Find out if they're safe to chomp on
5. Chia seeds
Popular with wellness warriors the world over, the tiny but might chia seed is a nutritional powerhouse that has it all - protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Getting to work on everything from skin and coat health to supporting the immune and digestive systems, chia seeds also help regulate blood sugar and as they move through the gut they can absorb 10-12 times their weight in water, expanding to leave your pup feeling fuller for longer.
If you want to mix chia seeds into your dog’s dry food, you’ll want to soak them for around 90 minutes first, but with wet food, you can mix the dry seeds straight in as there’s plenty of moisture for them to absorb. Chia seeds are full of fiber and too much of anything isn’t a good thing, so stick to ¼ teaspoon for every 10 pounds of your dog’s body weight - so a 20lb dog could have ½ a teaspoon a day and a 40lb dog can have 1 teaspoon.
There’s plenty to love about the incredible egg which comes rammed full of a host of goodness your dog will benefit from. High in protein, amino acids, fatty acids, and vitamins, eggs are solid all-round performers on the nutrition front. They’re easy to digest too, so they’re ideal for dogs with delicate digestive systems or those recovering from illness.
You can serve eggs up to your pup in lots of different ways, including scrambled and hard-boiled. One medium-sized egg has about 75 calories, so you’ll want to factor this into your dog’s daily calorie count.
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The creamy texture and mild flavor of pumpkin make it a hit with most dogs and like carrots, this vegetable is a great source of beta-carotene, large amounts of soluble fiber, and plenty of antioxidants and vitamins. It works wonders at relieving both diarrhea and constipation and will add a nice shine to your pup’s coat.
You can mix a tablespoon or two of cooked pumpkin in with your dog’s food and the seeds make a great snack if you roast them in a little bit of olive oil - just keep the portion sizes under control with the seeds and stick to a few at a time. If you decide to buy canned pumpkin rather than roasting your own, steer clear of pumpkin pie filling, which has a ton of sugar and spices that aren’t good for your dog.
- Can dogs eat pumpkin? Benefits and risks of this Fall favorite
8. Cooked sweet potato
Like pumpkin, sweet potatoes tend to go down a treat with dogs and this cooked vegetable keeps well in the refrigerator, so you can roast up a nice big batch at the weekend and it’ll easily see you through the week. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of dietary fiber to keep the digestive system healthy and because they’re a whole food, they’re less likely to trigger an allergic reaction, making them safe for most dogs. Just make sure you roast them without seasoning and serve them with the skin off.
Juicy and delicious, watermelon makes the perfect cooling summer snack. Overflowing with the antioxidant lycopene, which gives this fruit its pink hue and may help prevent cancer, watermelon is a great source of fluid to help flush the kidneys and keep the urinary tract healthy. Plus it has fiber for digestive health and is vitamin and mineral-rich.
Just be mindful that dogs can’t eat the rind or seeds of watermelon, so you’ll want to remove all of these before you serve this tasty treat up to your pooch.
10. Green beans
Chopped, steamed, raw, or canned, it doesn’t matter which way you serve up a green bean, as long as it’s been prepared naturally, it’s good for your dog. They’re full of protein, iron, calcium, and vitamins B6, A, C, and K and they’re low in calories too so they’re great for overweight dogs as they can help them lose weight while still giving them a feeling of fullness.
Add to your dog’s food for a tasty topper, give them as a standalone snack, or whip up a batch of your own DIY dehydrated dog treats using a mixture of beans and sweet potato - your pup will love the crispy texture.
Creamy and filling, bananas are a great low-cholesterol sweet treat that have good amounts of potassium, vitamin C, and copper, which can aid digestion, heart health and provide a vital boost of energy.
You can serve sliced banana on its own or for a really indulgent occasional snack, spread with a little sugar-free peanut butter. Just remember that bananas are a calorie-dense fruit that also contains a fairly high amount of natural sugar, so moderation is key here.
A crowd-pleaser with humans and canines alike, the sweet and juicy strawberry makes for a delicious dessert-like treat. There’s plenty of fiber and lots of vitamin C to give your dog’s immune system a good boost. Strawberries also act as a natural tooth whitener thanks to a compound called malic acid, so it’s a great choice if you’re looking to polish up your pup’s pearlers.
Always give fresh strawberries and never canned fruit as these are usually soaked in syrup and sugar. You’ll also want to start with small amounts just to make sure this fruit doesn’t upset your dog’s digestive system and as with all fruits, stick to small portions as strawberries contain natural sugars.
Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past two years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with one very mischievous Cocker Spaniel, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and attempting to set numerous world records for the longest ever FaceTime calls with her family back home in NZ.