11 Healthiest Dog Treats, According to Pet Experts
Unhealthy dog treats cause health problems and may even shorten your dog's life. These healthy dog treats come recommended by top experts to help dogs live happier, longer lives.
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All dog owners agree that the ecstatic tail wags prompted by treats is a treat unto ourselves. Healthy dog treats offer positive ways to love our pets, whether they’re for training, rewarding good behavior, or just because your pup looks so darn cute. That’s why we look for the best dog treats we can find, for our biggest dog breeds to the smallest.
But pet care professionals also recognize that the wrong treats result in unbalanced nutrition. Your dog may love bacon, but overweight dogs live up to two fewer years than lean canines and suffer more from health challenges, including arthritis, diabetes, and pancreatitis.
As a certified animal behavior consultant, I’ve spoken to thousands of dog lovers and other dog experts over the years. I reached out to 50 of my dog expert colleagues to ask what treats they considered to be the best. While many make their own natural dog food and treats (more on that below), commercial treat options are great if you know what to look for and what to avoid.
While not terribly common, dogs can develop food sensitivities or allergies to ingredients like chicken, beef, or corn and suffer itchy skin or digestive upset. That’s why it’s important to give them only the best, highest-quality treats and pay attention to the effects of any new additions to their diet. With that in mind, I rounded up the top 12 healthiest dog treats below.
What to look for when buying healthy dog treats
Dog experts recommend avoiding dog treats with high levels of fat (over 25 percent) or chemical preservatives. Labels must provide a guaranteed analysis of ingredients of a percentage by weight, with ingredients listed with the greatest amount at the top of the list. You might need a converter to understand the true percentage of fat. Experts prefer U.S.-produced treats since they usually have more safety oversight than those made in China.
Look for single-source ingredients. Freeze-dried or dehydrated protein products, for example, have high dog approval with a lot of nutrition packed into tiny amounts. Dehydrated fruits and veggies also last a long time without a lot of preservatives, and satisfy the dog’s urge to chew. Many experts and pet parents prefer human-grade ingredients, or products produced under the same conditions as for human consumption.
Veterinarians also caution that what’s best for your new puppy won’t be ideal for a senior canine, and a doggy athlete also has special needs. Your dog’s ideal treat depends on his unique needs—and his individual preferences. Ask your vet for some recommendations, especially if your pup has health challenges that impact what she should eat. And remember that even the best healthy dog treat is worthless if Fido won’t eat it.
There are thousands of healthy dog treats available to suit every dog. I chose my top healthy dog treats based on a combination of several things:
- Formulation and purpose
- Appeal for the dog
- Rankings and ratings
- Reviewers’ comments
- Expert’s recommendations
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)
Best value healthy dog treat
Instinct Raw Boost Freeze-Dried Food Topper
Many dog professionals recommend fresh or even raw ingredients. I like Instinct Raw Boost Freeze-Dried Food Topper as a safe commercial option with raw, whole ingredients.
Promoted as a “food topper” for your dog’s regular commercial food, the freeze-dried morsels contain raw meat, fruit, and vegetables and are the perfect size for healthy dog training treats. The recommended serving size of one-eighth of a cup lasts for 56 training sessions. We used these as treats for Bravo-Dawg, a 120-pound Bullmastiff, and he relished each tiny morsel—and the attention that came with it.
- Affordable: A 14-ounce package holds 56 servings at about 50 cents each
- Very lightweight: Freeze-drying naturally preserves the food and makes morsels easier to handle
- No refrigeration needed
- Comes in three flavors: beef, lamb, and chicken
- Mess-free and easy to take on the go
- Over 1,000 Amazon ratings, averaging 4.7 out of 5 stars
- Available at Amazon, Chewy, Petco, Petsmart
- Less filling than other treats
- Not as aromatic, so may not appeal to every dog
Best healthy fish dog treat
Honest Kitchen Ocean Chews
People often think fish appeals more to cats, but dogs like it just as well. These Ocean Chews from the Honest Kitchen provide crunch and a fishy flavor with no added ingredients. Animal nutritionist and educator Cat Lane of The Possible Canine usually makes her own healthy dog treats, but also recommends the Honest Kitchen treats.
Made with human-grade ingredients in a human-grade kitchen, products like Ocean Chews are known for wholesome nutrition for companion animals. These treats are made of actual fish skins, often doubled up in two layers to provide a nice width to chew. They’re are a good choice for pets with food sensitivities to other ingredients like chicken or beef.
- Made with a single ingredient: wild-caught, sustainably sourced Wolffish fish skins
- Contains Omega-3 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
- Easily digestible
- Made in the U.S.A.
- Over 2,000 Amazon ratings, averaging 4.5 out of 5 stars
- Available at Amazon, Chewy, Petco
- While dogs love the pungent odor, humans likely won’t—so re-seal in a baggy and wash your hands after handling
- Smaller dogs may need the treat cut up into smaller bites to avoid choking
Best healthy treat for dogs with allergies
The Real Meat Company: Dog Jerky Fish & Venison Treat
The Real Meat Company is beloved by dog trainers for the quality of its products and its variety of meaty treats. Pat Miller, certified dog trainer and behavior consultant at Peaceable Paws LLC, and Eva Gellert, general manager of WagnSwim, a swim and fitness center for pets, both like these treats best.
Dogs with sensitivities to common ingredients like chicken, beef, or lamb also benefit from a unique protein source. The Jerky Fish & Venison Treat, manufactured in California, uses free-range deer and wild-caught fish. This treat gets high praise from reviewers with food-allergic dogs, saying the fish/venison treat doesn’t cause an itchy reaction.
- Natural allergy-free protein to please food-sensitive dogs
- Small pieces are perfect for training
- Dog-appealing flavor
- Over 350 Amazon ratings, averaging 4.8 out of 5 stars
- Available at Amazon, The Real Meat Company
- Sizes can be inconsistent between batches
- Some reviewers noted a dry texture when the treats should be moist
Best healthy small dog treat
Purebites Mini Trainers
Many little dogs weigh far less than my thirty-pound Shadow-Pup. Despite tiny jaws, they have big-dog attitudes and deserve yummy treats that are safe. However, they can’t manage the large size of big-dog treats (and might even choke!), and large morsels also give too many calories.
That’s where Purebites Mini Trainers come in. Instead of having to cut down bigger morsels for your toy poodle, Yorkshire terrier, or new puppy, Purebites Mini Trainers are specifically sized for small dog breeds. The raw, single-source ingredient cubes are freeze-dried and come in several flavors.
- Good value at 300 treats per 3-ounce bag
- About 1 calorie/treat
- Flavor choices include raw beef liver, raw chicken breast, and raw lamb liver
- Made in the U.S.A. with American-sourced ingredients
- Available at Chewy, Petco
- Expect some waste from crumbles at bottom of the bag
Best healthy dog training treat
Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Rabbit Bites Dog Treats
These healthy, single-sourced rabbit treats offer another unique protein source in treat-size morsels. Alix Mitchell, a professional dog trainer, veterinary technician, and podcaster at Fetch For Me, Human, recommends Vital Essential dog treats.
The Freeze-Dried Rabbit Bites Dog Treats include no added fruits or veggies, just the rabbit meat, organs, and ground bone, all sourced in the U.S. The kibble-shaped treats are about thumb-size or smaller. Vital Essentials also offers different meaty treats, from beef to fish, to satisfy the pickiest canine. Cats seem to like them, too.
- Treats come in rabbit, beef, duck, lamb, or fish flavors with vital organs and ground bone
- Raw ingredients are freeze-dried to preserve nutrition
- Made in the U.S.A.
- Over 350 Amazon ratings, averaging 4.7 out of 5 stars
- Available at Amazon, Chewy
- Some reviews complain of a pungent aroma—but dogs tend to like this
Best healthy crunchy dog treat
Barkworthies Beef Trachea
My Shadow-Pup demands one of these Barkworthies Beef Trachea treats every day. The beef trachea, dehydrated for easy handling and natural preservation, offers a satisfying chew. It’s about 6 to 8 inches long, varies in width, and looks a bit like the cardboard inside a roll of paper towels.
Dogs adore chewing, but bones may prove hazardous and break teeth, or can be unsanitary if raw. This offers a tooth-safe compromise and lasts longer than single treats. It’s best for moderate chewers—please supervise!—as large dogs may chew off larger pieces and choke. We usually cut the trachea into two or three pieces to last longer, and Shadow chews one up within about twenty minutes.
- Natural treat
- Sourced from grass-fed, free-range cows
- 100-percent digestible
- Natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin, with joint health benefits
- Benefits dental health
- Over 250 Chewy ratings, averaging 4.4 out of 5 stars
- Available at Chewy, EntirelyPets
- Strong aroma
- Oily, and may stain carpets or upholstery
- Must supervise to avoid choking hazards
Best dog treat for mobility
ZIWI Peak Good Dog Rewards Training Treats
ZIWI Peak products is another treat that comes highly recommended by my professional trainer friends. Manufactured in the U.S.A., many of the ingredients come from New Zealand, which is known for high-quality lamb meat sources. The ingredients are 96-percent free-range lamb, New Zealand green mussels, and organic kelp (a seaweed superfood). Plus, the tripe included in the treats provides natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help with creaky joints. Make sure to try out these organic dog treats for your pooch as well.
- Made in the U.S.A.
- Includes canine “superfoods” to improve mobility
- Over 900 Amazon ratings, averaging 4.6 out of 5 Stars
- Available at Amazon, Chewy
- Very expensive at $3.26 per ounce
Best healthy dog treat for weight control
Ecomm Via Chewy.com
Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Minnows
Dogs with a bit too much pudge can still have treats, which is good because those puppy-dog eyes are hard to resist! Some dogs suffer from pancreatitis, too, aggravated by too much fat in the diet. With the Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Minnows, you can treat without worry.
The minnows look like sardines, and eating them whole allows the dog to reap all their health benefits. They are also well beneath the standard fat content of many other treats at 13 percent. Cats like them too, but your dog likely won’t want to share.
- The entire freeze-dried fish offers crunch, flavor, and dog-appealing smell
- Hormone- and antibiotic-free
- Limited ingredients for dogs with sensitive stomachs or nutrition needs
- No need to refrigerate
- Over 450 Chewy ratings, averaging 4.6 out of 5 stars
- Available at Chewy, Amazon
- Smelly for humans—store in sealed container
Best healthy natural dog treat
Brutus & Barnaby Sweet Potato Dog Treats
Many of my colleagues treat their dogs with fresh, cooked, or dehydrated sweet potatoes. Jenny Yasi, the owner and trainer at Whole Dog Camp, offers chunks of raw sweet potato. Here’s a commercial version that gets high marks with reviewers and dogs alike.
Brutus & Barnaby Sweet Potato Dog Treats are dehydrated, thick-cut orange sweet potato slices, available in 8-ounce, 14-ounce, 2-pound, or 5-pound packages. They’re chewy, not brittle, and take a moderate chew-aholic dog some time to finish. With zero fat or sugar, the treat provides natural fiber and vitamins, and the taste appeals to many dogs. Here are some other vegetables dogs can eat.
- No additives
- Completely digestible
- Smells good for humans and dogs alike
- Over 4,500 Amazon ratings, averaging 4.4 out of 5 stars
- Available at Amazon, Brutus & Barnaby
- Can stain white fur around dog’s mouth
- Dogs that gulp may get pieces stuck in teeth—always supervise treats!
Best healthy dog treat for picky dogs
K9 Natural Lamb Green Tripe Booster
We all know them—dogs that snub their dog food and every treat you’ve ever offered. That makes training hard, and could also impact healthy nutrition. Rather than eating too much, these picky dogs need to eat more. But K9 Natural Lamb Green Tripe Booster has even reluctant dogs scarfing up this healthy dog treat.
Brae Raphael, head dog trainer at Dog River Pet Supplies, says even the pickiest dogs love this stinky treat, and it’s good for sensitive bellies. Tripe—the stomach of grazing animals like cows and sheep—sounds yucky to us, but has fantastic health benefits for dogs. Designed as a food “topper” to encourage reluctant eaters, the freeze-dried, lightweight pellets work extremely well for training, or just treating your dog.
- No additives or fillers
- Made from free-grazing New Zealand lamb
- Has natural probiotics and enzymes to improve digestion
- Money-back guarantee if your dogs don’t love it
- Over 600 Amazon ratings, averaging 4.8 out of 5 stars
- Available at Amazon, Chewy, Petflow
- Stinks to high heaven—keep in resealable container
Jackie Bale/Getty Images
Homemade dog treats
Many pet experts have their own homemade dog treat recipes using whole, fresh ingredients. Recommendations include fresh veggies like carrots, sweet potato, zucchini, and cucumber, as well as pet-safe fruits such as blueberries (my Shadow-Pup loves fresh orange and apple slices). Single-source protein ingredients like fish, chicken, venison, or rabbit are also recommended, as well as organ meats like liver, lung, and heart.
Dog trainers often dehydrate fresh foods for convenient-to-carry options, turning green beans into crunchy treats, for example. Single-ingredient meat or fruit baby food offers lick-worthy healthy dog treats you can freeze in tiny amounts for “pup-sicle” fun. Healthy people-food snacks can bring on lip-licking satisfaction for dogs, too.
- Natural—no processing
- You control the ingredients
- Dogs love snacking on what humans eat
- You’ll need to know what foods dogs can (and can’t) eat— for example, did you know grapes are toxic to dogs?
- Proteins will need to be cooked or dehydrated for safety
- Gnawed or unfinished veggies can be messy
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- Greta Kaplan, certified dog behavior consultant at Fuzzy Logic Dog Training
- Dr. Lore Haug, veterinarian at Texas Veterinary Behavior Services
- Cat Lane, animal nutritionist and educator of The Possible Canine
- Pat Miller, certified dog trainer/behavior consultant and owner of Peaceable Paws LLC
- Eva Gellert, general manager of WagnSwim, a swim and fitness center for pets
- Alix Mitchell, professional dog trainer, veterinary technician, and podcaster at Fetch For Me, Human
- Jenny Yasi, owner/trainer at Whole Dog Camp
- Brae Raphael, head dog trainer at Dog River Pet Supplies