Vet Recommended Safe Dog Treats for Snacking

Take a walk down the aisles of any “big-box” pet store, and you will be overwhelmed by all the dog treats that are available for our canine companions.

Selecting the ones that are best for your dog can be difficult.

Reading the labels to find safe dog treats can get tiresome, and with all the pet treat recalls, you may not know what brands to trust.

You will be surprised to find out that most veterinarians don't necessarily recommend any dog treats that are specifically made for dogs.

Now, that doesn't mean that there aren't any high-quality, safe dog treats on the shelves at pet stores; it simply means that you will find a much healthier option in the aisles of a grocery store.

In this article, let me give you a couple of tips on how to find the best safe dog treats for your pooch.

Choosing Safe dog treats

Vet-Recommended Safe Dog Treats for Snacking

As a veterinarian, I'm very much on the side of healthy dog treats, particularly those that are 100% natural and possibly even made by you, the owner.

However, there are safe and healthy dog treats available for purchase which I, as a vet, would like to recommend.

I talk in more detail about these treats below, but here are two products that I always recommend to pet parents:

  1. Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Chews
  2. Hill's Science Diet Adult Chicken Jerky Strip Dog Treat Bag

Keep in mind that human food isn't always good for dogs, and many of the foods that we eat can be toxic to our pets.

However, many of the natural, whole foods that we consume, like fruits and vegetables, are not only good for dogs, but our canines really enjoy eating them as well.

Did you know that wild dogs are omnivores, meaning they eat meat and plants?

That's why our domesticated canines still crave the nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, and other plants.

RELATED: 10 Vet-Recommended Dog Food Brands

You don't have to buy expensive dog treats that are made with all-natural whole foods.

You can feed your dog raw whole foods and still get the same benefits.

These recommendations will help keep your dog safe and promote healthy snacking.

Not to mention, you may already have some of these healthy dog treats and foods for your pooch to munch on in your refrigerator and cupboards.

Safe Dog Treats Tips

Most pet owners will give their dogs two or three treats at a time without even thinking about it.

Look at the package that your dog treats came in, and check the calorie count.

If your treats have 12-15 calories each, you may be giving your dog upwards of 40 calories each time you do that.

RELATED: How to Use Pet Treats to Keep Your Dog Happy

Obesity is as much an epidemic in the pet world as it is for humans, and we need to be conscious of the choices we're making when feeding our dogs.

Not all store-bought treats are high in calories, but most are, so be aware.

There are many low-calorie, healthy options that can't be found on pet store shelves.

Here are the top choices that I recommend.

Vet Recommended Safe Dog Treats for Snacking
Photo: AllieKF

Stay out of the pet store!

That's right – avoid buying your dog's treats online or at the pet store.

Instead, shop at your local farmer's market or grocery store.

Select healthy options for your dog instead of the fat-laden puppy pepperoni and freeze-dried chicken nuggets of dubious origin.

Knowing where your dog's food comes from helps to ensure safety.

The goal of treating your dog is to reinforce desired behaviors, such as during training, and simply to make him happy.

Most dogs don't care what they are eating as long as it comes from you.

RELATED: Dog Product-Related Health Issues That Vets Often Run Into

Dogs also seem to be “bottomless pits” when it comes to snacks.

Remember that it is okay to say, “You've had enough,” and stick to small portion sizes.

It's also okay to avoid eye contact with your Fido when he's making his adorable begging face.

Just because he wants a treat doesn't mean you need to feed him.

If your dog likes crunchy treats, try these snacks:

Oat Cereal

Oat cereal, plain, unflavored, and shaped like Little O's (i.e., Cheerios brand).

These little o's make great training treats! Keep a plastic baggie of them in your pocket for a quick, healthy reward.

Fruits or Veggies

Raw carrots, apples, pears, sugar snap peas, or green beans.

These fruits and veggies are full of flavor, fiber, and crunch – they are an affordable and easy snack.

Peanut Butter

Natural crunchy peanut butter (i.e., Smucker's, Adam, or Maranatha brand).

Be sure to select the brands that contain ONLY peanuts and salt.

Recently, some brands of peanut butter have been adding an artificial sweetener called xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.

Baked White or Dark Meats

Baked dark or white meat chicken or turkey could work as long as the skin and fat are removed.

This treat is as easy as buying a rotisserie chicken from your grocery store.

Cut the meat into bite-sized chunks. One 1-inch cube is sufficient for a large breed dog to have a tasty snack.

If you are on a budget, buy inexpensive dark meat cuts and bake them at home.

Remember not to use any added salt, onion, garlic, or strong spices!

Bones are never recommended, as they can be a choking hazard or cause digestive obstruction.

Other SOFT treats you could give your dogs

If your dog enjoys softer, chewy treats, try the following:

  • Fresh blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, or raspberries. These berries offer your dog a burst of antioxidants and are best when in season.
  • Baked or dehydrated sweet potato cubes. You will pay a fortune for dehydrated and processed sweet potato treats at the pet store. Instead, make your own at home!
  • Bananas. They're organic and rainforest-friendly. Bananas are an affordable, tasty stand-by treat. For a large-breed dog, a thumb-sized portion once or twice a day should do the trick! Small breed dogs need only a thumbnail-sized portion once or twice a day.

Homemade dog treats you can do!

You can also consider making these homemade dog treats recipes that we curated.

Homemade Dog Treats for Urinary Health

Select dog treats that are right for your pets

Many dog owners ask me if rawhide or bully stick treats are safe. The answer is yes and no.

Rawhides and bully sticks can be choking hazards or cause digestive upset, so they are never 100% safe.

If your dog takes his time to chew the rawhide into little bits, then yes – it is probably safe for him to have.

ALL dogs should be closely supervised when chewing rawhide treats or bully sticks.


Some rawhide treats sourced in China have recently been found to contain dangerous contaminants.

If you are concerned, spend the extra money and buy 100% North American or European beef rawhide.

Virbac CET Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Chews for Dogs, beef ,12.8 oz

RELATED: What You Need to Know About Poison Prevention for Dogs

A veterinary-trusted brand that contains natural enzymes and helps clean your dog's teeth is C.E.T. Chews, made by Virbac.

Better yet, seek out a company like White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, Georgia (USA) that produces dog treats from their own grass-fed, organic cattle.

Conscious pet treats decisions

Feeding your pup like you feed your family takes some time and careful brand selection.

Read the ingredients list and pay attention to the quality of the ingredients.

Are they organic? All-natural? Where are they sourced?

You can even take it a step further and research the brand online to find out what its quality control standards are.  Hill's Natural Jerky Strips with Real Beef Dog Treats, 7.1 oz. Bag

One company that is dedicated to sourcing its ingredients from reputable places and is focused on quality control is Hill's Science Diet.

Their chicken and fruity jerky snacks – Hill's Science Diet Adult Chicken Jerky Strip – are made from natural ingredients and promote healthy digestion in dogs.

Just remember – feed all types of snacks in moderation, even the healthy ones!

A word about unsafe dog treats

The most common “unsafe” treat is one that is toxic or can cause illness in dogs.

Unfortunately, not all foods are safe to share with our pets.

Examples of foods to avoid as snacks include:

  • Avocado
  • Raisins
  • Grapes
  • Garlic
  • Onions, shallots, chives
  • Anything containing Xylitol (chewing gum and some brands of peanut butter are common)
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee, caffeine
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Yeast dough
  • Raw, undercooked meat, bones, and eggs
  • Milk
  • Salt

For more information or questions regarding “Is this safe to feed my dog?” please refer to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control website.

Vet Recommended Safe Dog Treats for Snacking

FAQs about Safe Dog Treats

What is considered a healthy dog treat?

A treat will be considered healthy for a dog if they're made with whole, fresh, and natural food ingredients.

This is why most vets recommend giving fresh vegetables as healthy snacks for dogs.

What ingredients should you avoid when buying dog treats?

There are a couple of ingredients you should watch out for when buying your dog treats.

Other ingredients from the ones we mentioned above are:

  • Corn syrup
  • Artificial colors
  • Propylene glycol.
  • Brewer's rice
  • Nitrates or nitrites
  • Vegetable oil

Safe Dog Treats: Final Thoughts

When it comes to treating our dogs with tasty snacks, love equals food for many pet parents.

Please remember that treats must be given in moderation and that many pet parents overdo it.

Too many treats or “junk food” can also replace healthy balanced meals and can lead to picky pooches.

These empty calories are also contributing to a massive increase in pet obesity in many countries.

In the United States, dogs are just as likely to be overweight or obese as humans are.

Feed and treat your precious pooches but be careful, as there can truly be too much of a good thing.

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In the last 8 years, Dr. Shores has worked as a clinical veterinarian for dogs, cats, small mammals and non-human primates as well as a writer on the subject of pet health. Her passion is breaking down the intricacies of proper dog health care and dog nutrition.