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Reaching for the treat jar can be a great way to reward your dog, but it’s not always easy knowing whether or not your dog's snacks are the healthiest choice for your furry friend.
According to Barbara Hodges, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and program director of advocacy and outreach for the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, ingredients are the single most important factor when choosing dog treats. “You can use small pieces of cooked meats, fish, eggs, cheese, fruits, and vegetables as treats,” Hodges says. “If you use store-bought treats, aim for those with healthy, whole-food ingredients.” Besides ingredients, you will also want to consider size and texture when buying treats.
Here are our healthy picks of the best dog treats.
Best Overall: Zuke's Mini Naturals
Protein is main ingredient
No fillers, byproducts, artificial ingredients
Lots of flavors
Made in the United States
Couldn’t find anything
Our top pick has great ingredients and is popular with dogs. These soft training treats come in a variety of flavors including chicken, beef, and salmon, plus more elaborate combos like peanut butter & oats. Each flavor has its protein as the main ingredient, so your dog is getting, for example, real chicken, supplemented with ground rice, barley, and other ingredients. Plus, Zuke's Mini Naturals no corn, wheat, soy, fillers, byproducts, or artificial ingredients.
Each Zuke's treat is bite-sized and has fewer than 3 calories, but they are soft enough to tear in half, should you give them to tiny pets or use for training. They’re also noticeably smelly (in a good way!), so they're sure to grab your dog's attention.
Best Natural: Jiminy's Chewy Cricket Treat
More nutritious than many treats
Easy to break apart
With Jiminy's Chewy Cricket Treats you can prioritize your dog’s nutrition while making an eco-friendly choice. These soft and chewy treats are made from crickets, which have more protein, iron, fiber, and Omega-3 fatty acids than chicken or beef. Plus, crickets are more sustainable than other meats, using fewer natural resources to provide an equivalent source of protein.
While you're bound to find a flavor that any dog will enjoy, Jiminy's treats are also a great option for pets with chicken or beef sensitivities. Plus, they contain no wheat, corn, soy, or other fillers. They are easy to break into tiny pieces, but be warned, their smell can be a little pungent.
Best Low Calorie: Fruitables Skinny Minis Chewy Dog Treats
No artificial ingredients, colors, or preservatives
Lots of flavors
Sourced and made in the United States
Some dogs don’t like fruity flavors
These semi-soft treats are larger than most training treats but have only 3 calories. They come in either fruity or meaty flavors to appeal to your dog’s palate, plus they’re appropriately smelly to motivate your pet. The fruity flavors and smells make the Fruitables Skinny Minis a particularly attractive option for pet owners turned off by the meaty pungency of other treats.
Made in the United States, the Fruitables chewy dog treats have no artificial colors, ingredients, or preservatives. The treats are soft and chewy and easy to tear into even smaller pieces for puppies or training. Fruitables also makes a crunchy version, with both types of snacks available in loads of flavors.
Best Dental: Virbac C.E.T. VeggieDent Fr3sh Tartar Control Dog Chews
Includes prebiotic for digestion
Significantly more calories than other treats
Few people like brushing their dog’s teeth. These dental chews aren’t a total shortcut, but they might help with your dog's dental health. They are a sticky, unusual Z-shape, designed to scrape away tartar and plaque as your dog gnaws. They can even help freshen your dog's breath.
VeggieDent Fr3sh Dog Chews are plant-based, with no animal ingredients, and are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. The treats are available in four different sizes and are formulated with a prebiotic to help with digestion.
Best Healthy: Pet Botanics Training Rewards Flavor Dog Treats
500 treats in each bag
Recognizable ingredients, with real meat protein
Some dogs aren’t motivated by them
These healthy dog treats are bite-sized, containing just 3 calories each. Plus, they're available in several flavors, including bacon, beef, chicken, and salmon, though the primary protein in each comes from pork liver.
Pet Botanics dog treats are made in the United States, without corn, artificial flavoring, soy, or preservatives like BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. In addition to identifiable ingredients like dried eggs and potatoes, Pet Botanics' Training Reward treats also include a variety of botanicals, including antioxidant fruits, dandelion, rosemary, green tea, chamomile, and other herbs rich in vitamins and digestive aids.
Their small size is ideal for training. With approximately 500 treats per bag, they’re also a great value.
Best for Puppies: Wellness Soft Puppy Bites Grain Free Lamb & Salmon
Easy to tear into tiny pieces
No artificial colors or flavors or meat byproducts
Salmon and lamb are the first ingredients
Can be smelly
These soft squares are great for puppies because they are tempting and easy to chew. They are about the size of a nickel and can easily be torn into tinier pieces for training. There are no artificial colors or flavors, no meat byproducts, and no corn or soy. The main ingredients are lamb and salmon, which is rich in DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that helps with brain health.
Other wholesome ingredients include carrots, blueberries, apples, and sweet potatoes. The treats are made in the U.S. (but ingredients are sourced globally).
Best for Small Dogs: Old Mother Hubbard Classic Mini Oven-Baked Dog Biscuits
Lots of flavors
More calories than most
These cute bone-shaped biscuits are the perfect size for wee pets. They come in several flavors, as well as a couple of assortments, so you can surprise your dog while offering a satisfying crunch. The treats are made with a short list of natural ingredients, including peanut butter, chicken liver, fruits and vegetables. There are no artificial preservatives or byproducts.
Old Mother Hubbard treats are oven baked, with a recipe that dates back to 1926. The minis are tiny enough for small dogs or for use in training. They are also available in small and large sizes for bigger dogs or more occasional snacking.
Best for Large Dogs: Blue Buffalo Blue Bits Soft-Moist Training Treats
No artificial preservatives or flavors
Available in several flavors
Added nutrients for skin and coat
Not as soft as some chewy treats
Just because your dog is big doesn’t mean he needs huge treats. Trainers and vets recommend training-size treats for dogs of every size. But these heart-shaped soft bits are a middle ground for larger dogs, with a size that's a little larger than most treats.
Blue Bits are a little larger than most treats and contain real meat protein as the first ingredient (usually paired with brown rice or oatmeal, depending on flavor). The Blue Buffalo treats also contain omega fatty acids like DHA to help your dog’s skin and coat. They are made in the United States and contain no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors.
Best Organic: Wet Noses Organic Crunchy Dog Treats
USDA-certified organic and non-GMO verified
13 flavor combinations
More calories than most
Wet Noses treats come in flavors far beyond your standard chicken, beef, or salmon, with 13 flavor combinations like Peanut Butter & Banana, Apple & Ginger, or Pumpkin & Quinoa. The USDA-certified organic crunchy dog treats are made without corn, soy, wheat, or diary. They also contain no preservatives or fillers, instead opting for organic ingredients like pea flour and peanut butter.
The Wet Noses treats are a little larger than a quarter, which makes them a good pick for large dogs, though they're also easy to break into smaller pieces for smaller pets. Unlike some meatier treats, the Wet Noses Organic Crunchy Dog Treats have a smell that's not unpleasant for humans. Plus, with so many flavors you're sure to find one your dog will like.
A great overall choice is Zuke’s Mini Naturals, soft training treats that come in lots of flavors with no added fillers or byproducts. If you're willing to try something a little more unusual, Jiminy’s Chewy Cricket Treats are a great alternative protein option. By using crickets instead of meat or meat byproducts, Jiminy's treats are just as nutritious, but more sustainably produced than most traditional selections.
What to Look for in Dog Treats
“The ingredient list should be short and understandable—treats should not be laden with low-quality ingredients like by-products and fillers,” Hodges told The Spruce Pets.
The veterinarian further recommending checking the label for recognizable and whole-food ingredients, including real meats, fruits, and vegetables. This can also make it easier to spot foods your pet may have a negative reaction to, allowing you to better understand your dog's health.
“If your dog has allergies or sensitivities, be careful to select treats that exclude those foods. If your dog is prone to or has already had pancreatitis, make sure to choose low-fat treats,” Hodges said. “If your dog has kidney challenges, emphasize treats that are lower in protein and contain fruits and/or vegetables.”
You don’t have to choose the size of the treat based on the size of your dog. In general, every dog can use small treats, says Hodges. (She notes that this doesn’t include real raw or cooked bones or manufactured bone-like treats.) While often labelled for training, since multiple treats can be used in developing response behaviors, smaller treats are useful in most circumstances.
“Small dogs need small treats—they can choke on treats that are inappropriately large for their size,” she says. “Large dogs do not need large treats—cut or break large treats into smaller pieces. I suggest using training-sized treats for all dogs.”
If your dog is overweight, Hodges suggests choosing treats with fewer calories. You can even use your dog’s own kibble as treats. Just be sure to count all treat calories into your dog’s overall intake and compensate with smaller meals on days when you’re doing a lot of training and giving out lots of treats.
You can choose from crunchy, hard treats or much softer bites. Your dog might like one type over another.
“Dogs typically have personal preferences for certain textures. Some dogs like crunchy treats, some like soft treats. And some dogs—like mine—like ALL treats!” Hodges says. “I make batches of a ‘party mix’ of treats with varying ingredients and textures—and I rotate the ingredients in my batches to satisfy even the most novelty-seeking dogs.”
How many treats per day is too many for a dog?
There is no optimal number of treats per day for a dog, and it’s not necessary to give your dog treats every day, says Hodges.
“Take into account your dog’s current weight and lifestyle. A younger, leaner, more active dog can be given more treats than an older, heavier, more sedentary dog,” she says. “Monitor your dog’s activity level and weight regularly and you will, over time, develop a good sense of how to help them maintain a healthy weight.”
If you’re unsure and would like help with your dog’s diet, check with your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist for guidance.
Can dogs eat cat treats?
In general, dogs shouldn’t be given cat treats because feline treats are usually higher in fat and might not be tolerated well by some dogs, Hodges says. But some treats are labeled for both cats and dogs. “Make sure to check labels and only give your pet treats that include a picture of a member of their species on the packaging,” Hodges says.
Can you freeze dog treats?
If you buy large boxes of treats, it can be tempting to stash some in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. But that may negatively affect a treat's quality.
According to Pedigree, dry dog food that is frozen then thawed can cause mold to develop. It’s possible the same thing could happen with dry treats.
Hodges says she doesn’t suggest freezing dog treats unless they are meant to be, such as frozen cup-style treats from Yoghund YoPups or Purina Frosty Paws.
“Most dog treats will have an expiration date on the package; don’t feed them after that date, and discard any treats that smell ‘off’ to you—even if they are still within the labeled date range,” Hodges says. “Use common food safety practices with treats—after dispensing treats, reseal the package or transfer the treats to an airtight container to avoid the possibility of oxidation causing rancidity of oils and the growth of toxic molds.”
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
For this story, we consulted with veterinarian Barbara Hodges, DVM, MBA, program director of advocacy and outreach for the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. We also talked to many dog owners, trainers, fosters, and rescue workers to see what they consider when buying treats.
Mary Jo DiLonardo has been writing about pets and animals for several decades. She has a rescue dog and has fostered more than three dozen dogs and puppies so she’s given a lot of treats. Pet health and safety is very important to Mary Jo and she’s always researching the latest products to keep the dogs in her care healthy and safe.