So you have a new puppy! They’re cute and playful, and did I mention cute?
Whether for that alone or you are starting training, you might be tempted to give your little pup a treat.
But is it safe? And what age can they start having treats?
Puppies shouldn’t start having any treats until at least 2 months of age. This is because your puppy is developing and is only just beginning to process food. As such, it is essential to watch what goes into their system as many foods, treats included, can cause health issues if introduced too early.
In this article, I will be discussing at what age your puppy can start enjoying treats, the dangers of giving commercial treats too early, and what is safe for puppies as a treat when they’re ready.
Ready? Let’s get started.
Puppies shouldn’t begin having treats before they are eight weeks old.
This is because during your dog’s puppyhood, their body is growing at a rapid rate, and just like with babies, this time is crucial for your puppy’s term health.
In the first few weeks of life, puppies undergo a dramatic change in their bodies as they grow and mature, especially in stomach and digestion.
Due to this rapid change, it is imperative to ensure that your puppy has a carefully watched and balanced diet.
Puppies have a different nutritional requirement than adult dogs because they grow their bodies while adult dogs maintain them. As puppies grow, they go through various stages of development as they mature.
Puppies don’t start eating normal puppy food until eight weeks of age.
Before this, as their stomach is forming properly, they begin on milk before transitioning to soft, sloppy puppy food or milk substitute. This is important as introducing solids too early can cause stomach problems.
Once a puppy reaches enough maturity to eat solids, their stomach is still learning, and their body is still developing. Therefore, ensuring a properly balanced diet made for puppies makes sure that they grow healthy, strong, and at the rate they should.
This is where treats come in.
After eight weeks of age, your puppy is safe to eat certain treats, but you must keep in mind the quantities that they get.
Dogs and puppies are food-driven. This is something that is carried on genetically from wolves and is still present in dogs today.
Because of this, they are not good at controlling the amounts they eat themselves. As a result, they will probably exceed any healthy limit of treats if left to them, so the owner must control them instead.
If you want to learn more about this primitive drive still in dogs today, read my article here.
Giving too many treats or an unbalanced diet can lead to health issues, including abnormal growth and obesity.
The dog treats industry is huge, with a high profit bringing in millions of dollars per year. If you visit any supermarket, you will see shelves of them. The problem is that they can be dangerous for dogs, especially puppies.
There are significant cases of dogs getting kidney problems from commercial treats. Unfortunately, due to the size of the industry and the vast amount of different companies making treats, the exact ingredient causing the issue is not yet discovered.
These cases have been associated with pigs’ ears, chicken jerky, and other porcine and chew-based products, so you may want to avoid those.
If you choose to give your puppy or dog commercial treats, keep your portions small and watch for signs such as loss of appetite, lethargy, increased urination frequency, and higher levels of thirst.
Another issue comes from one of the most popular treats there is rawhide. It’s chewy, long-lasting, and helps to save your furniture while your puppy is teething.
But its best selling point is its biggest problem.
Rawhide is long-lasting and hard. As such, it is not easily digested. In a 2014 study, many dog treats were tested to see how various they were digested. They used a fake stomach and recorded how long the treats took to be digested and how easily.
Rawhide got a poor result. In fact, most of the rawhide entered the intestines and was hardly digested at all. The result depended on the type of rawhide, with rawhide bones being virtually untouched before entering the intestines.
This can cause issues in dogs, but it can actually be very dangerous for a puppy still developing their intestinal tract.
So if you choose to feed your puppy rawhide, make sure they are very small portions, keep a close eye on them, and try to find ones that are as soft as possible.
I know. Between the dangers and the nutrition, it’s easy to feel lost and overwhelmed. You catch yourself thinking, what could possibly be safe to give your puppy? Is there anything at all?
There are still many things that your puppy can enjoy as a treat safely. For a full list of what is and is not safe for dogs to eat, read my article here.
If you really want to, you can still give commercial puppy treats. Just read the treat labels carefully and keep your portions very small.
Vets recommend commercial treats kept 1-2 times per week. This is because they are highly processed and often high in both calories and fats.
As for healthy alternatives recommended by vets, apples are a great place to start. They provide vitamin C, fiber, and calcium while keeping calories low so as to not interfere with your puppy’s diet.
Blueberries are another great option. High in vitamin C and antioxidants, they are already treat-sized and ready to go. Another fun fact is that wolves eat them in the wild as they are actually omnivores and known for loving the taste of berries.
There are also many other options for treats that your puppy would love. Such ideas are making your own sweet potato jerky, chopped carrots, watermelon, and bananas.
You can even use them (especially the fruit) to make your own puppy-loving ice blocks for those hot summer days!