By Leah Zerbe, Rodale.com
Recent pet treat recalls prove that when you purchase over-the-counter snacks for your dog, you could be getting more than you paid for—and not in a good way. (Learn what you’re actually buying, and the 3 Most Important Words on a Bag of Dog Food.)
In early 2013, Chinese-made Hartz brand Chicken Chews and Oinkies Pig Skin Twists were recalled for containing trace amounts of antibiotics banned in the U.S. Milo's Kitchen brand Chicken Jerky and Grillers also harbored dangerous antibiotics.
The good news is you can take matters into your own hands when it comes to healthy natural snacks for dogs. And your dog will love them!
Surprising Food Groups
"Dog owners can be pretty surprised that dogs like to eat fresh fruit and vegetables at all," says Henrietta Morrison, author of Dinner for Dogs.
Of course, not everything in the produce section suits your pooch. Grapes are a no-no, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) suggests that only 5 to 10 percent of your pet's diet should come from treats.
With that in mind, you may be surprised to find your pup's tail wagging for one of the natural snacks for dogs in these next slides:
"Carrots are a traditional favorite," says Rick Woodford, author of Feed Your Best Friend Better. "Try a frozen carrot in place of bones to keep a dog's teeth healthy and cool them down in the summer." If your dog doesn't like to munch on a whole carrot, Woodford suggests grating one and adding it to a meal, or steaming it. (If you want to boost your pet’s health even more, learn How to Grow Your Own Pet Treats.)
An apple a day keeps the doctor away for humans, but apples also serve as healthy treats for dogs. "One of the most common comments after reading my book is owners say, 'Wow, I didn't know dogs could eat apples,'" explains Morrison. Just try to choose organic to avoid harmful pesticides or waxy coatings that could irritate your dog's mouth.
This leafy green is a surprising favorite of many dogs both raw and cooked. In America, kale is often downgraded to the status of garnish on an all-you-can-eat buffet. Luckily, families, including dog owners, are starting to tap into the vegetable's super powers.
RELATED: Healthier Homemade Dog Treat Recipes
Raw and cooked, kale harbors anticancer compounds that can keep people and pups healthy, and Woodford says dogs often really like the superfood.
Eggs sometimes get a bad rap for cholesterol, but many nutritionists are coming around, hailing eggs for their natural balance of healthy fats, proteins, and nutrients. To choose eggs with the highest cache of naturally occurring omega-3s, choose eggs from pastured hens, and look for a farmer who raises a small flock—it lowers the risk of Salmonella contamination. Also, be sure to cook eggs through to avoid sickening your dog.
There's something about squashes that lures dogs into the garden (but beware of these Hidden Pet Poisons in and around your home). "For me, I was initially surprised by how much dogs like squashes," says Morrison. "They adore the sweetness and texture, and it's a very healthy food for them." Woodford says cooked pumpkin can do wonders for the digestive tract, too, calling it the "great equalizer" because it helps bring dogs that are constipated or with loose stools return "to center."
Many dogs love cucumbers, as well. One farmer told Rodale.com he found his husky mix pulling them right from the vine for a midafternoon snack. Try slicing cucumber or zucchini for coin-shaped summer treats.