Keeping your dog at his or her optimal health with a healthy diet and exercise regimen is important to her well-being (and yours). Today, we’re sharing tips and tricks for keeping your dog healthy, plus a roundup of some of the best pumpkin dog treats you can make for your pet! By the end of the article, you’ll have a better understanding of how to keep your dog at his happiest and healthiest, and be able to provide him with healthy dog treats he’ll love.
First, Why Dogs Are Awesome
It’s a cliché to call a dog “man’s best friend,” but it’s true! Did you know dog owners are healthier people? Several studies have revealed lower blood pressure, lowered cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and less stress overall among dog owners when compared to non-owners. Those health differences can’t be explained any other way, and scientists speculate dogs have both a calming effect and a physical movement effect. That is, people who have dogs need to walk their dogs, and tend to get more exercise than people who don’t have them!
The calming effect is more than just pleasant. It’s been shown to help improve mood and prevent depression in pet owners who spend at least 15-30 minutes with their pet. Apparently, that time with your furry friend helps to increase the production of chemicals that help you feel pleasure and tranquility.
It’s not just adults who are better for their four-legged companions; children benefit from having a dog, also. Scientists have found that children tend to have fewer allergies and suffer from eczema less when they have a pet in the home.
Does Diet Matter for Our Pups?
Now that science has firmly established what we’ve all known for years (that dogs are awesome), let’s chat diet. Does it matter what we feed our pets? Absolutely! We know how tempting it is to reach for that giant bag of dry kibble at your local discount grocery, but what you feed your dog (and how much) can have a profound impact on his health. Which, in turn, impacts your health (mental and physical) and your wallet. What you don’t spend on the front end will come back to haunt you on the back end in the guise of high vet bills over your poor friend’s deteriorating health.
We’re trying hard right now to not bust out that old “ounce of prevention” cliché, but the truth is your dog’s diet can cause him or her to suffer later from things like obesity (which can then lead to diabetes), skin disease, and a shorter lifespan. Want to keep enjoying your pet? Feed him right!
Simplifying a Healthy Dog Diet
When you start wading into the facts on dog diets, it quickly because obvious that 1) there is a TON of conflicting information out there and 2) it’s hard to determine which is best for your particular pet. That’s why doing your research and paying close attention to how your dog reacts to different foods are so important.
There are a few basics, however. First, your dog’s diet needs to be varied. Sticking to one source of food (for example, that giant bag of dry pellets) can cause numerous health problems in your pet. He or she needs variety that’s designed just for a dog, in much the same way humans need variety!
Next, you should be very careful not to overfeed. Most dogs are much, much smaller than people, but we tend to scoop their feed and toss them treats like they’re our size! Keep in mind that treats should only comprise about 10% of a dog’s caloric intake. This means you shouldn’t be tossing multiple treats to Fido at a time. Instead, choose alternatives such as cucumber slices or carrot sticks, or skip the food treat altogether and opt instead for an extra belly rub or a long walk in the park.
How do you know if your pet is overweight?
Your vet can give you a better understanding of what’s right for your particular animal, but if you’re looking at your pet from above, you should be able to see his flank (right behind his rib cage) indent slightly. Too much indention means he’s underfed (or might indicate some kind of weight loss health problem, like diabetes), but a roundish convex shape usually means he’s eating too much. If that’s the case, work with your vet to put your furry friend on a diet and exercise program.
Finally, there are some foods that your pups should never eat.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but these are some of the most common foods that accidentally get fed to dogs:
- Baking soda and baking powder
- Caffeine (and anything that has caffeine, such as coffee)
- Corn cobs
- Fruit pits,
- Macadamia nuts and walnuts
- Yeast dough
Now that you know some of the biggest issues to avoid when you’re feeding your pet let’s talk some of the other things you’ll have to decide. The first is how you’ll feed your pet every day: dry food, wet food, raw food, or homemade food. There are pros and cons to each, so do your research before making a decision. You won’t just have to decide about your dog’s food; you’ll also have to decide about his treats.
Should I Feed My Dog Treats?
Treats are terrific for dogs for a variety of reasons. First, they help you bond with your pup. When those big, sad puppy eyes look longingly into yours, it’s the best feeling in the world to be able to reward your dog with something delicious. Second, treats are great training tools. Whether you’re teaching your dog tricks or just training him to stay off the couch, positive reinforcement in the form of a delicious snack is the best way to encourage desired behavior in your pet.
Finally, treats can be healthy for him. Not only can they add variety and additional nutrients to his diet, but they can help him stabilize his blood sugar levels in between meals. All this is assuming, of course, that the treats you’re feeding your dog are healthy treats. How do you know what treats are healthy? We’re so glad you asked! (Click here to read all about the 10 percent rule for dog treats, you’ll be glad you did!)
How to Choose Healthy Dog Treats
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The best dog treats are these with minimal ingredients. Just like with your food, the more processed food is, the more likely it is to be full of preservatives, sugars, unhealthy fats, and unpronounceable ingredients. Sticking to just a few, simple ingredients (that you can pronounce) will keep your pup in better significantly health.
Dog owners today are fortunate to have access to a huge variety of incredible treats and snacks for their pets. More or less, treats fall into five different categories: protein treats, cookies, dog chews, fruits and vegetables, and freeze-dried treats. All will taste different to your pup, and all have a variety of nutritional benefits.
One of our favorite ways to both treat our dogs and give them a powerful health boost is with homemade pumpkin dog treats. You can purchase pumpkin dog treats commercially, or you can prepare them yourself in your own kitchen, either way, the pumpkin packs a powerful punch and will leave your canine begging for more!
Pumpkin for the Win
Pumpkin is rich in fiber and full of fantastic vitamins and minerals, like iron, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin C. Fiber is important for helping your dog be regular and maintaining a healthy weight, and can even help if your pup has a case of diarrhea. In addition, fiber serves as a prebiotic, which stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines, a crucial process in your dog’s digestive health.
Want to make your own treats for your dog? Doing so is a great way to help avoid certain foods that cause your pet issues as well as artificial colors, flavors, and low-quality ingredients. It’s also super easy! Here’s our roundup up pumpkin treats you and your pet will both love:
1. Simple Pumpkin Biscuits
This is one of our favorite recipes for pumpkin dog treats that are so simple and delicious, we’d be willing to sample them, ourselves.
2. Peanut Butter
This recipe for pumpkin peanut butter dog treats is similar and looks like it’s equally yummy! Peanut butter shouldn’t be a frequent treat, but it’s a delicious once-in-a-while snack.
3. Gluten-Free Alternative
Need a gluten-free recipe? This one has only three ingredients and uses oat flour, not wheat.
4. Simple With a Twist
This recipe from Genius Kitchen is perfect and includes a smidge of dry milk for a little extra protein boost.
These four delicious pumpkin recipes will delight your dog and help her reach your health goals for her. Since she’s your friend, this is a win for both of you. Enjoy!