Treats can really pile on the pounds

Dog treat portion comparisons

Dogs weighing 20-30 pounds should not receive more than about 50 calories in treats daily, or the total amounts shown in each plate of treats above. Follow the formerly overweight dog Mabel, an unofficial mascot of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, who with proper nutrition an exercise is a shadow of her former 67-lb self. Mabel's Facebook page.

The holiday season is nigh upon us. First Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and don’t blink or it will be December. During this time of year we often find excuses to snack a little more than we should, and many of us visit this tendency upon our dogs.

Dr. Angela Witzel, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, answers these questions for dog owners about treats and how much is too much.

We think about calories in people food but not necessarily in dog food.  How many calories a day should a dog eat?
You should always talk to your veterinarian since dogs with different lifestyles have different needs, and use a dog food that says it is nutritionally complete for the life stage your dog is in (puppy or adult).  For a small to medium sized dog, about 400 calories a day - one hotdog - would totally blow it.

How many calories should be from treats?
Typically, dogs should not get more than 10 percent of their daily calories from treats. A 10-pound dog that eats 250 calories per day should not get more than 25 calories a day from treats.

Why is that?
If they get too many treats, even healthy treats, it throws their diet out of balance. If half of your dog’s calories come from green beans, then he may not be getting enough protein in his diet.  And remember a serving size for a human is not the same as a serving size for a dog.

Each of the treats listed below is 50 calories, the average daily amount that would be appropriate 20-30 pound dog.  “One thing to keep in mind is you can give them to your dog throughout the day. For instance, give one or two green beans at a time several times a day,” she said.

50 calorie portions:

3.5 oz. Apple
5 oz. Baby carrots
8 oz. Green beans

5.5 oz. Watermelon
0.45 oz. Cheddar cheese
¼  Hotdog
2.5 bones small Milkbone
2 pieces Canine Carryouts beef flavor

Are there any fruits and vegetables that you should NOT feed your animals? It is not safe to feed your animal grapes, raisins, onions or garlic.

How big is the problem of obesity in dogs and cats?
  It is estimated between 50 percent and 60 percent of dogs and cats are overweight or obese and joint disease and shortened life span are just two problems associated with it. Overweight dogs don't feel as good and aren't as active. They face a lot of the same complications as overweight people.

How can you tell if your dog is overweight?
There are two quick ways. First is the hourglass test: look at your pet from above. If you don't see a nice hourglass shape tapering from the ribs to the waist, your pet is overweight.

The other way is to use your hand.
Run a finger along the knuckles of an outstretched hand: you can feel the bone, but it is not sticking out.  That's how your dog's ribs should feel as you rub your hands down his side. Now make a fist and run a finger over the knuckles and note the prominent bones. If your dog's ribs feel like that he is too thin.

Finally, turn your hand over and run a finger along the underside of the knuckles and notice you can't feel any bone. If your dog's ribs feel like that then he is overweight. Talk to your veterinarian about your dog's caloric needs.

One of 28 accredited veterinary colleges in the United States, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine is part of the UT Institute of Agriculture. UTIA also provides instruction, research and public service through the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT AgResearch system of 10 research and education centers, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.



Sandra Harbison, Media Relations, University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine,