Counting Calories: Low-and high-calorie treats for dogs

Losing weight doesn’t have to mean giving up treats

When it comes to where dog’s get their daily calories, we recommend following the 90/10 rule: 90% of calories from a complete and balanced diet, 10% from treats!

Treats can be considered the splurge, but more often, the actual act of giving a treat means more to the dog than the actual treat itself. Treats are typically given as a sign of affection or when training or rewarding.

To most dogs, the number of treats is more important than the taste of the treat. There are some instances when high-value (ie high-calorie/ tasty) treats are needed, but more often, low-calorie treats can be given with the same end result—a happy dog!

How treats can interfere with weight loss plans

Treats are often the culprit when dogs are overweight or having trouble losing weight. 

We have compiled a list of common human foods used as treats, comparing the good (nutritious and low-calorie) with the bad (deliciously high-calorie). You may be surprised where a lot of extra calories are coming from! If dogs get store-bought treats, be sure you know how many calories are in each treat—the bag should clearly indicate this.

Use this link to find the calorie content in virtually any human food.

Foods listed here are fresh, uncooked, without any oil, butter or other toppings. Giving a dog some leftovers is not necessarily bad, but will likely add up to more calories, depending on how the dish was cooked and seasoned. 

Low-Calorie Treats

Treat/FoodSizeCaloriesNotes & Tips
Snap peas1 cup (8 oz)26About 25 medium sized snap peas
Green beans1 cup (8 oz)33
Celery 8-inch stalk6This is the clear winner of bang for your buck!
Broccoli1 cup (8 oz)33About 9 medium heads of broccoli
Baby carrot (fresh, uncooked)
“Large”, 15 g5Chop or slice the carrot into smaller pieces rather than giving the entire carrot to make this treat go even further!
Asparagus1 cup (8 oz)27About 10 medium spears
Blueberries1 cup (8 oz)85About 135 small to medium blueberries
Canned pumpkin1 tbsp5 NOT pumpkin pie filling, plain canned pumpkin. This is a winner and great substitute for peanut butter or cream cheese- but be careful—too much pumpkin can cause diarrhea or constipation.


High Calorie Treats

High-Calorie Treats

Peanut Butter1 tbsp96Yikes! Compare this to canned pumpkin!
Cream cheese (full calorie)
1 tbsp50Better than peanut butter
Cream cheese (low fat)1 tbsp31 An even better option
Cheddar cheese cubes1 cube251 cube, not so bad. More than one, probably too many calories. Break one cube into multiple pieces if needed
Pill pocket1 pocket, capsule size
23This is the same for peanut butter and hickory smoked flavors, capsule and tablet size
Pill Pocket – Duck and Pea1 pocket, tablet size8This belongs on the low-calorie list! Unless you have a good reason otherwise, choose this flavor!
String cheese1 stick, 28 g90This will vary based on brand
Bully stick6-inch stick90You know what these are, right? Click here to read the truth about Bully sticks
Marrow bone100 g
0.5 oz
Yikes! This should only be given as a special treat! Or, once the marrow has been eaten, replace with canned pumpkin and freeze for a low-calorie option.
NOTE: We did not even include the following types of treats because we don’t recommend them - Ever. That includes Pig ears, rawhide, Greenies, hooves, and cooked bones. These “treats” carry excessive risks of causing esophageal or intestinal blockage, and many are processed in China.

NOTE: We are not even including the following treats because we just don’t recommend them – ever:

  • Pig ears
  • Rawhide
  • Greenies
  • Hooves
  • Cooked bones

These “treats” carry excessive risks of causing esophageal or intestinal blockage, and many are processed in China.