Pet treats are widely used, and for good reason. Treats can be useful training tools, and pets typically like treats (and owners like to make their pets happy). But even something as simple as feeding pets treats carries some risks.  Finding the right treat is essential.

Many pet owners don’t realize that some common treats have bacteria and other things that can make your pet sick!

pig ears
Pig ears have a lot of bacteria

Pathogens

bully sticks
Bully sticks are dried bull penises

Toxins

The main concern here is chicken, duck and sweet potato jerky treats from China, which have been implicated in a large number of pet illnesses and deaths, including at least 1000 dead dogs. No main factor has been found that cause the kidney issues associated with these treats, so there’s no way to test the products to ensure the same problem won’t happen again.

Injuries

dog treat

Obstructions

Dogs eat stuff they’re not supposed to all the time (at least mine does). Most often, it’s not a problem, but sometimes it is. If a pet swallows a large piece of a poorly digestible treat it can cause an issue in the esophagus if it’s too large and gets stuck.

Realistically, this is of limited concern for most edible treats, but is a bigger issue with toys and things like rawhides. If using rawhide treats, make sure to get an appropriate sized one for your dog. While enjoying treats such as rawhide, pets should be supervised

Obesity

A very beloved and well tolerated cat treat
A very beloved and well tolerated cat treat

Weight gain and obesity aren’t usually considered when thinking about problems with treats, but a lot of treats are high in calories, and obesity isn’t just a problem with pet owners. As with human snacking, moderation is the key. 

Before giving it to your pet, think about the treat, how to use it and what problems might occur. Most treats, particularly those that are not raw animal product based (e.g. pig ears), not prone to fragmenting (e.g. bones, especially cooked bones) and not excessively hard (e.g. bones) are fine in moderation.

If you’re unsure about the safety of a treat or chew toy, please reach out to your family veterinarian for suggestions.

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