Have a question you’d like to ask a vet? Send your query to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Vet Q.”
Q: I often give my 50 pound dog a small rawhide treat, bully stick, or cow ear to gnaw on when I leave for work, and she always eats the whole thing. Is that OK to do pretty much on a daily basis? How many chew treats are too much?
Dr. Matthew Antkowiak, AtlasVet DC: This is a great question and one pet owners should ask more often. The answer is based on weight, activity level, breed, and age. If you have a 12-year-old Basset Hound who does not get much activity and whose metabolism is lower than it used to be, you may find that a rawhide or bully stick every day is too much. This will be evidenced by gradual weight gain. But if you have a crazy active one-year-old Labrador who gets miles of activity every day and has the metabolism of a human teenager, then this single chew treat will likely have little impact on their weight and health. Chew treats such as these are great for their teeth and I would also include antlers in the mix of these types of treats. A dog’s dental health will be vastly improved by the addition of firm, chewable items to their daily regimen. But these treats also need to be counted as calories and then increased and decreased accordingly.
Also, be mindful of your dog’s stool with certain treats. Some dogs are fine with bully sticks, but a rawhide may lead to diarrhea. We recommend trying one treat at a time. If you add three or four in the mix at the same time, and your dog has GI issues, if will be hard to tell which treat was the culprit.
If you find your less active dog requires something on a daily basis, we recommend fresh vegetables (carrots, celery, green beans, snap peas) as they are still crunchy, good for teeth and, as a bonus, will help the digestive tract.
Dr. Antkowiak is co-owner of the Atlas District Veterinary Hospital (AtlasVet). He graduated from Cornell University and currently resides in Capitol Hill.