Just like you might reach for an apple instead of chips or low-fat yogurt over ice cream, you can make healthy snack choices for your dog too. Healthy dog treats might have organic ingredients, low calories, or no additives, preservatives, or fillers.
“It’s important to note that while treats can be a fun and rewarding way to bond with your dog, they should be given in moderation and should not make up a significant portion of your dog’s daily diet,” says Denver-based Dr. Alejandro Caos, a veterinarian with The Vets, an in-home pet service. “It’s also important to choose treats that are appropriate for your dog’s size, age, and health status, and to always supervise your dog when giving them treats.”
Our favorite healthy dog treats are Pet Botanics Training Rewards. They are soft and just the right size for training. They come in several flavors with real meat protein as the first ingredient and there are a whopping 500 treats per bag.
These soft bite-sized soft treats only have 3 calories each. They’re the perfect size for small dogs or for training dogs of any size. With about 500 treats per bag, they’re also a great value. They come in several flavors including beef, chicken and salmon, but the primary protein in each comes directly from pork liver.
The treats are made in the United States without corn, artificial flavoring, soy, or preservatives. They have a roster of easy-to-identify ingredients like potatoes and dried whole eggs as well as a range of botanicals, including rosemary, green tea, chamomile, antioxidant fruits and other herbs that are rich in vitamins.
Pet Botanics also makes an even smaller “mini” version where the treats just have 1.5 calories a piece. Those are also available in several flavors including chicken, bacon, beef, and grain-free salmon.
Price at time of publish: $16
There are so many interesting flavors for Wet Noses dog treats. The organic crunchy bites come in more than a dozen flavor combinations like peanut butter and banana, carrot and sweet potato, or pumpkin and quinoa. The treats are all USDA-certified organic and are made without corn, soy, or wheat. They contain no preservatives or fillers and stress human-grade organic ingredients instead such as peanut butter, pea flour, and sunflower kernels.
The treats are relatively large—a smidge bigger than a quarter—so they’re a good size for large dogs, but can also break into smaller, crunchier pieces for training treats or for smaller pets. The interesting fruity and veggie flavor combinations make them smell good to both canine and human noses.
Price at time of publish: $12
Puppies just love these salmon and lamb soft treats from Wellness. They are appropriately smelly to get a puppy’s wavering attention and you can easily tear them into tiny pieces so you don’t overload your little one with treats. Each treat only has 6 calories, so when you rip the nickel-sized squares into even tinier pieces, they become really healthy choices.
The treats feature lamb and salmon as the main ingredients and have no artificial colors or flavors and no meat byproducts. Salmon is rich in DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that may help brain health.1 Other wholesome ingredients include carrots, blueberries, apples, and sweet potatoes. Ingredients are sourced globally and the treats are made in the U.S.
Price at time of publish: $10
Made without any animal-based ingredients, these veggie dental chews have a distinctive Z-shape that makes it easier for dogs to hold on to the chew while they snack. The zigzag shape helps clean all the corners of your pup’s teeth. Virbac is a well-respected pharmaceutical company for animals and has many recommended products including toothpastes, toothbrushes, and oral rinses.
These dental chews come in four sizes, ranging from extra-small to large and are for dogs from under 11 pounds to more than 66 pounds. They work to freshen your dog’s breath while reducing plaque and tartar. They contain a prebiotic to help with digestion, are accepted by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC), and have a short list of ingredients.
Price at time of publish: $30
These meaty soft jerky sticks from Rocco & Roxie are so intriguing for dogs, but they aren’t all that stinky for the humans who feed them. They start with American-raised chicken, beef, and turkey, then smoke it with hickory wood for 10 hours until it’s tender. Made in the U.S. by a small, family-run business, the treats contain no fillers or artificial flavors.
The sticks are each about six-inches long and they’re so easy to break into small pieces for training. Because they’re soft and tasty, they don’t make for a very long-lasting chew. The treats are made in small batches and come with a satisfaction guarantee. There’s a small six-ounce bag if you want to try them out, but the main package weighs a pretty impressive 1 pound.
Price at time of publish: $25 for 16-ounces of chicken
Fish skins are long-lasting dog chews that are made from the outside of the fish. The high-protein treat is made from just one ingredient and is believed to be a healthier and more easily digestible alternative to chews like rawhide. The Honest Kitchen offers two versions: a hearty wolffish and thinner cod fish. Both come in two sizes: small 5.5-inch chews and large 8.5-inch chews. These are not a great idea for dogs that just gulp down any chew because pieces could get caught in their throat.
The dehydrated skins contain no other ingredients: no preservatives, byproducts, or fillers. All ingredients are human-grade and the chews are made in a human food facility. In addition to protein, the chews are packed with omegas for a healthy skin and coat. The chews are sourced from fish caught in the wild in Europe. As expected, they have a strong fishy smell.
Price at time of publish: $19
Although meant to be fed as a meal or sprinkled on dry dog food as an alluring topper, this premium freeze-dried dog food can also be used as motivating and healthy treats. They come in soft and crumbly pieces so they’re easy to break into small bits or carry around in your pocket. The food is made of organic and responsibly sourced ingredients including humanely raised meats and wild-caught salmon. The recipes also are packed with organic fruits and vegetables such as carrots, cranberries, and squash.
The food is available in six proteins ranging from beef and chicken to lamb and pork. There are no artificial flavors, preservatives, or additives. The food is relatively expensive (which is why they make good sense as a treat versus a meal), but it comes in a durable pouch so it’s very easy to re-seal it and store it in your pantry.
Price at time of publish: $50
These bite-sized soft and chewy treats from Merrick are billed as powerful because they are packed with added nutrients including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. They come in lots of flavors including chicken, beef, and even turducken. Meat is the first ingredient in each flavor, followed by other antioxidant-packed substances such as carrots, apples, and blueberries. There’s no corn, wheat, or soy.
The treats are relatively small and have only 5 calories. If you’d like bigger, Merrick also offers Power Bites Big Bites in chicken and beef flavors. Those are a little bigger than the size of a dime. In addition to omegas, they are fortified with glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints, which can be particularly helpful for larger, active dogs.2
Price at time of publish: $8
This chunky mix of broth and meaty pieces can be poured over your dog’s dinner to make meals tastier. They’re made of proteins like chicken and turkey, along with broth and lots of fruits and vegetables. Honest Kitchen says it was the first company to offer human-grade ingredients for pets and these toppings certainly smell like they could be coming from a human dinner. There are no fillers, additives, artificial flavors, or artificial preservatives.
You can pour them on as-is or warm them up to make meals that much more tempting. Flavors range from one-protein choices like chicken and turkey or proteins mixed with pumpkin to help with digestion. The boxes each contain at least two servings and, although they can be tough to open, they can be closed up and stored in the refrigerator after opening.
Honest Kitchen also makes dry kibble, wet food, and other meal boosters and everything is human grade with limited ingredients.
Price at time of publish: $31/12 pack
Bigger dogs want bigger treats as a sure sign of your love. These heart-shaped morsels from Blue Buffalo can be used as training treats, particularly for larger dogs, or they can be broken in two or three pieces for more petite pets. The bits come in four flavors—beef, chicken, salmon, and turkey—with no artificial preservatives or flavors. They have flaxseed, which is a source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and fish oil which is a source of DHA. Those nutrients aid in skin and coat health, as well as healthy brain function.
The treats are relatively inexpensive and come in an easily resealable bag. They feature real meat protein as the first ingredient and it’s usually paired with brown rice or oatmeal, depending on flavor.
Price at time of publish: $5
These tiny bone-shaped biscuits are a great size for smaller pups. They come in a bunch of flavors including chicken pot pie, peanut butter, and veggie, or you can buy one of the assortments so your dog can have a smorgasbord of crunchy treats. Old Mother Hubbard treats are made from a recipe that dates back to 1926.
The biscuits include a relatively short list of ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, peanut butter, oatmeal, and flaxseed. They include no artificial preservatives or meat byproducts. Crunchy treats help clean your dog’s teeth. These mini biscuits are small enough for mini pets or they can be used as training treats for larger dogs. Old Mother Hubbard biscuits also come in larger sizes and as mini crunching training treats.
Price at time of publish: $6
Bully sticks are long-lasting chews made from the penis of a bull or steer—an ingredient known as “pizzle.” Bully sticks can be high in fat, but they can satisfy a dog’s urge to chew and that chewing action can help relieve anxiety and stress. Give them in moderation and supervise your pet when they chew.
These bully sticks from Natural Farm are 100 percent beef, made from grass-fed, free-range cattle in Brazil. They have no hormones, chemicals, or additives and are odor-free, so you won’t notice the smell when your dog is happily gnawing away. They are cleaned with water and air-dried.
The treats are available in standard sticks, in addition to interesting shapes such as rings, braids, bites, and springs. Depending on your dog’s size and how they chew, you can opt for standard, select, jumbo, pixie, or extra-thin sticks.
Price at time of publish: $28
11. Best overall healthy dog treat
Freshpet Dog Joy
Freshpet Dog Joy is a fresh dog treat formulated for all sizes of adult dogs. It uses fresh whole meat and vegetable ingredients, no preservatives, and must be refrigerated. It has a fresh aroma and comes in different forms and flavors, each with peas, carrots, and other fresh ingredients visible. The treats, shaped a bit like Vienna sausages, can be divided up into several treats for small dogs or served whole for bigger pups.
Freshpet gets rave reviews from many of the pet experts I spoke to, including certified dog behavior consultant Greta Kaplan of Fuzzy Logic Dog Training and veterinarian Dr. Lore Haug of Texas Veterinary Behavior Services. I used the Freshpet Dog Joy treats to train my German Shepherd, Magic. He’d nearly do backflips for this healthy dog treat.
- Fresh treat without prep or cooking
- High palatability: Even picky dogs seem to love them
- Comes in turkey bacon and chicken flavors, with small treat servings
- Available at Walmart, Target
- Must be refrigerated and used within 14 days
- Not all stores ship fresh or frozen products (check for availability)