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The best healthy dog treats, according to vets

Healthy treats are the best reward for good behavior

Updated September 28, 2021

Created By

Paige Bennett,

📷 by Tamara Bellis

Our 5 favorite healthy dog treats

Best healthy dog treats, reviewed

What we love: Virbac’s Veggiedent Tartar Control Chews are a great option for dogs of all sizes, since they’re available in extra-small, small, medium, and large sizes. These are our vet’s dual-purpose favorites, and they have the VOHC seal of approval for dog’s dental health. That means that clinical trials of the treats showed they really do prevent plaque and tartar on canine teeth. These plant-based dog chew treats help aid digestion and treat bad breath: a win-win.

What customer reviews say: With an outstanding 4.7 stars on Amazon (5,575+ ratings), customers rave about how these treats keep their dogs’ teeth clean. Dogs seem to love and devour these treats, too. Just keep portions in mind, as the large treats are a higher calorie option at 105 calories each.

Ingredients: Corn starch, glycerin, soy protein isolate, rice flour, brewers dried yeast, sorbitol, ground corn cob, erythritol, potassium sorbate, water, inulin, pomegranate.

👉These chews are also approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC)

What we love: These low-calorie, baked dog treats from Zuke’s honestly sound so good, we want to eat them. The treats are a crunchy option without being too hard, and they are fairly small and easy to break in half for extra-small dogs. The Zuke’s crunchy dog treats are made with vegan-approved ingredients, so they work well for dogs who may have sensitivities to meat and poultry. Each treat is 10 calories, so they can work for training (especially if you choose to break them in half).

What customer reviews say: The Zuke’s low-calorie, vegan dog treats have 4.7 stars on Amazon with 2,418+ ratings. For humans, the big advantage is that these dog treats don’t have a weird meat smell. Because of the small size, they are best suited for extra-small to medium dogs.

Ingredients (pumpkin & sweet potato, varies by flavor): Oatmeal, pearled barley, rice bran, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, potatoes, pea fiber, cane molasses, coconut oil, natural flavor, mixed tocopherols, rosemary extract.

What we love: If you’re looking for a tasty healthy snack for smaller dogs, these organic treats by Riley’s will do the trick. With simple, human-grade ingredients like pumpkin, oats, and coconut oil, they work well for dogs with sensitivities to animal proteins. They’re also organic, so the ingredients are grown without toxic pesticides. An extra perk: these treats come in 100% recyclable packaging.

What customer reviews say: Riley’s has a loyal customer base with hundreds of reviews on Amazon, and dogs seem to love the taste. For this particular treat, reviewers love the short ingredient list made up of organic ingredients. Many pet owners use these for training, as they have 7 calories each. They are small treats, though, so they work best for smaller dogs.

Ingredients: Organic pumpkin, organic oat flour, organic oats, organic rye flour, organic peanut flour, and organic coconut oil.

What we love: For dogs with allergies, it can be hard to find a treat that avoids those common allergens like meat, poultry, or peanuts. These hypoallergenic, crunchy treats from Purina work for dogs on limited diets who still deserve those occasional treats. They are also formulated for easy digestion.

What customer reviews say: The Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gentle Snackers have 4.7 stars and 1,226+ reviews. Reviewers express relief in finally finding treats that are great for dogs with food allergies and are easy to digest. The only drawback is that the price per ounce is a little high, but a worthy investment for dogs who can’t enjoy many other common treats on the market.

Ingredients: Starch, hydrolyzed soy protein isolate, vegetable oil, dicalcium phosphate, oat fiber, powdered cellulose, partially hydrogenated canola oil preserved with tbhq, potassium chloride, guar gum, lecithin, corn oil, choline chloride, magnesium oxide, di-methionine, salt, taurine, vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, niacin, ferrous sulfate, calcium carbonate, manganese sulfate, vitamin A supplement, vitamin B-12 supplement, copper supplement, garlic oil, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of vitamin K activity), calcium iodate, sodium selenite.

What we love: Native Pet Yak Chews are high in protein and are sturdy enough for super-chewers without causing digestive discomfort. They come in small, medium, large, or extra-large options for dogs of all sizes, and they are made with only three wholesome ingredients. Our EiC Madison bought Native Pet’s Yak Chews for her super-chewer golden retriever named Polly. Polly can’t get enough of them, and they keep her busy for hours.

What customer reviews say: The Native Pet Yak Chews have 4.4 stars and over 3,000 reviews on Amazon, with pet owners raving about these long-lasting chew treats. When pups have chewed the treats for several hours and they become small, many customers follow the package instructions to heat up the remaining chew in the microwave for 45 seconds, let it cool, then give it to your pup as a chewy, cheesy, crunchy treat that can be mixed into your dog’s food or enjoyed alone.

Ingredients: Pasture-raised yak’s milk and cow’s milk, salt, and lime juice.

👉 Too much sodium can cause health problems for dogs, so don’t let your pet eat an entire Yak Chew in one sitting.

Dog munching on a healthy snack

Choosing healthy treats for your doggie

When your best friend learns a new trick or behaves really well at the dog park, it’s tempting to reach for the first treats you can find to praise them. But not all treats are a good reward for good behavior. Unfortunately, some treats may have questionable ingredients or high calorie counts that can be detrimental to your pup’s health. To keep your pup healthy and following good nutrition, opt for healthy treats instead.

What to look for in healthy dog treats

If you’re ready to start shopping for healthy dog treats for your best friend, there are several things to keep in mind. Take a close look at labels to evaluate the ingredients and calories, but also keep things like size and texture in mind.

Ingredients. One of the most important things to look for in healthy treats is the ingredients list. Stick to treats with an ingredients list of whole, natural foods. Many treats include healthy ingredients like meat, peanut butter, fruits, and vegetables. Our vets also recommend treats with fish or salmon, because omega-3 fatty acids can help with brain and eye development in puppies or boost cognitive function in older dogs.

Brand. Some brands offer higher quality dog treats than others. Our veterinary team trusts brands like Purina Pro Plan, Science Diet/Hills, and Royal Canin, all of which avoid cross-contamination between foods and treats during manufacturing.

Calories. Generally, treats should be just that — treats! Treats should make up less than 10% of your dog’s daily calories, so read the label for the calorie amount per treat and stick to the correct portion sizes.

Texture. You want to choose treats that aren’t too hard, otherwise, they can pose a choking hazard. Hard treats are difficult for a dog to bite into, so they might only be able to bite them into large pieces, which are hard to swallow. Too-hard treats can also fracture your dog’s teeth.

Size. Treats can be a choking hazard if they are too large or too small for your dog. Opt for small treats for puppies or small dogs. Large dogs may enjoy large treats, but also make sure to keep an eye out. Even large dogs can choke on treats that are too big.

Labels. Treats labeled as all-natural can be misleading, as the treats may still be highly processed.

👉 If your dog is overweight or has dietary restrictions, you’ll need to scrutinize the treat labels very carefully.

Types of treats to avoid

There are many popular treats out there that aren’t good for any dogs. Here are some common treats to avoid.

Rawhides. Rawhides are inexpensive treats with little nutritional value, because they are byproducts of leather production. Some rawhide is treated with toxins like formaldehyde and bleach, and it also poses a huge risk of choking as it breaks down into pieces over time. Some rawhides, such as Purina Pro Plan Dental Chewz, are VOHC-approved and safe for consumption.

Animal bones. Sure, bones are “all-natural” but they can be covered in pathogens, such as E. Coli and salmonella. Some people may suggest boiling the bones to sanitize them, but this process actually makes the bones brittle and more likely to splinter. This is a choking hazard for dogs, and splinters and sharp pieces can puncture the intestines.

Jerky-type treats. Since 2007, the FDA has received reports of sick pets after consuming jerky pet treats. Learn more about their ongoing investigation and how they’re testing treats to determine why some jerky treats are making pets sick. While these cases are rare, we recommend avoiding jerky-type treats — especially with so many other great options on the market.

Treats with additives. We like treats that don’t contain lots of additives or artificial colors. Some additives, such as Red#3, used for coloring or preservatives have been linked to cancer in animals.

Toxic human food. While dogs may love chicken and sweet potatoes as we do, there are many foods that humans eat that are not suitable for dogs. While you treat yourself with chocolate, you can’t do the same for your pup, because the chemicals in chocolate can cause seizures and increased heart rates in dogs. Instead, you can give your dog human food treats like some fresh fruits and vegetables (avoid grapes and items with seeds or pits), like watermelon, broccoli, green beans, bananas, or carrots.

Popular treats that didn’t make our list

We decided to not include these treats because they all contained garlic or garlic powder. Even in small quantities, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

  • Jiminy’s Chewy Cricket Treat
  • Pet Botanics Training Reward
  • Wellness Wellbites Soft & Chewy Dog Treats

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gentle Snackers contain garlic oil as a latter ingredient, but our vets trust their board of certified nutritionists, so we felt comfortable still recommending these treats for your dog.

Frequently asked questions about healthy dog treats

What are the healthiest treats for dogs?

The healthiest treats for dogs will be low in calories and made with whole ingredients like meats, fruits, and vegetables. Also opt for softer, chewier treats rather than options that are too hard, and always choose treats that are appropriately sized for your dog. Fruits and veggies like bananas, green beans, and carrots are also great low-calorie snacks for your pup!

What dog treats do vets recommend?

You can talk to your vet about the best treats for your dog based on the dog’s health, age, and breed. In general, our vets recommend dog biscuits with ingredients like salmon or other fish for the beneficial omega-3s.

What’s the best natural dog treat?

Many of our favorite healthy dog treats are made entirely with natural ingredients. For the simplest options, go for Native Pet Yak Chews and Riley’s Organic Pumpkin & Coconut Small Bone Dog Treats, all of which have short, natural ingredient lists and high ratings from happy pet owners.

Are milk bone dog treats healthy?

In moderation, milk bone dog treats are fine. But keep in mind that many milk bone treats can be high in sugar. Several milk bone options also contain artificial food dyes and BHA that have been linked to cancer in dogs.

How to make healthy dog treats?

You can make homemade healthy dog treats with just a few simple ingredients. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables as well as meats that your dog loves to make treats that are full of vitamins and minerals. Just avoid human foods that are unsafe for dogs, instead opting for vegetables and other foods that are safe for dogs. One of the easiest biscuit recipes to make is the one-ingredient sweet potato treats made with dehydrated sweet potatoes.

Which treats are best for dogs with allergies?

Many dogs may be allergic to animal proteins, wheat, gluten, or nuts. For pups who have wheat, gluten, or nut allergies, opt for treats made with either seafood, meat, or cheddar cheese. We also recommend Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gentle Snackers as a hypoallergenic option, just be sure to check the ingredients list of any treats for allergens before feeding them to your dog.