16 Best Dog Treats of 2024, According to Vets

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Most pet owners love to spoil their dogs with toys and treats, especially when they need a boost of energy or a reward for good behavior. Dogs love treats for various reasons, but mostly because they deviate from their regular dog food. But if you’ve been giving your pup scraps from your dinner plate, you might want to rethink what you’re feeding your dog — and how much you’re feeding them. Human food, even in small treat-sized amounts, can take up too many of your pet’s daily calories and quickly add up to extra pounds, experts say.

Treats that are specifically formulated for dogs have the number of calories clearly stated on the label, so you don’t have to worry about overfeeding them. To help you choose the right ones, I consulted veterinarians and pet experts about how to shop for the best dog treats and compiled their recommendations and NBC Select staff favorites to consider.

SKIP AHEAD How we chose the best dog treats | The best dog treats | How to shop for dog treats 

How we chose the best dog treats

Treats should only be considered as one part of your dog’s daily diet, which means you should give them out in moderation to avoid going over your pup’s recommended calorie count. Keep in mind:

  • Nutritional balance: Look for treats that clearly state the number of calories in each one and include feeding recommendations on the packaging. You can also keep an eye out for the Association of Feed Control Officials’ (AAFCO) nutritional adequacy label on the bag, but unlike dog food, not all treats are required to have that label on their packaging (more on nutritional balance below).
  • Ingredients: There are a few ingredients to avoid that will potentially irritate your dog’s stomach: artificial sweeteners like xylitol, artificial colors, excessive salt (which will make them thirsty) and syrups and molasses (which are high in sugar), says Caylee Freels, a licensed veterinary technician at VCA White Lake Animal Hospital. Consider treats that contain dog-safe fruits and vegetables like carrots, green beans, apples and bananas that offer very few calories and have good nutritional value, experts say.
  • Size: Choose a treat that’s proportional to your dog’s size — giving your dog a treat that’s too big or too small for them can turn into a choking hazard, according to our experts. You can also break up larger biscuits to cut down on the calories per treat, says Dr. Kristen L. Nelson, a board-certified veterinarian author of “Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life.”

Best dog treats of 2024

In line with our experts’ guidance, each of the following dog treats features a nutrition label on its packaging that indicates the number of calories and fat content per serving as well as the ingredients. Most of them also come in different sizes (or can be broken up into smaller pieces) to accommodate different size dogs and breeds.

Best overall:Hill’s Natural Baked Light Small Biscuits

What we like

  • Healthy and low-calorie
  • Small size

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

These chicken-flavored, low-calorie dog treats received an NBC Select Best for Your Pet Award because they’re tasty and don’t add extra calories to your pet’s diet. A healthy dog treat alternative to higher-calorie options (which can have negative health impacts over time), these dog biscuits don’t contain corn or artificial colors and flavors, according to the brand. Opting for low-calorie treats like these can keep your pet within the AAFCO-recommended daily nutrition intake, according to our experts. It comes in two bag sizes: small and medium.

Calories (per treat): 34 kcal | Key ingredients: Chicken, Rice Bran, Whole Grain Wheat, Wheat Flour | Recommended breed size: All sizes | Recommended life stage: Adult and mature

Best low-calorie:Zuke’s Mini Naturals Chicken Recipe Dog Training Treats

Zuke's Mini Naturals Chicken Recipe Dog Training Treats

What we like

  • Multiple flavor options
  • Great for training
  • Good for sensitive stomachs

Something to note

  • May be too small for big dogs

The Zuke’s Mini Naturals treats are a great training treat option, says Nelson. They come in tiny morsels, so you don’t have to break them up as you’re working with your dog on a new skill. Mini Naturals are wheat-free and corn-free for dogs who may have stomach sensitivities or allergies, and they contain no added animal fat, artificial colors or artificial flavors, according to the brand.

Calories (per treat): 2 kcal | Key ingredients: Chicken, rice, oats, glycerin, potatoes | Recommended breed size: Small breeds | Recommended life stage: All life stages

Best dental treats:Greenies Regular Dog Dental Treats

Greenies Regular Dog Dental Treats

What we like

  • Support dental health
  • Freshens breath

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

These dental treats have a stamp of approval from the Veterinary Oral Health Council, which means a group of veterinary dentists and dental scientists reviewed data from the manufacturer’s trials and confirmed that the treats reduce plaque and tartar build-up. The treats can help maintain gum and dental health as well as help freshen your pup’s breath, our experts say. They’re also made with easy-to-digest ingredients, vitamins and minerals, according to the brand. I feed the brand’s Teeny Greenies to my 6-year-old havanese and bichon frise Bella, who weighs 15 pounds, and they’ve helped avoid any issues with her teeth and gums, which her breed is predisposed to. She also loves the taste of them.

Calories (per treat): 91 kcal | Key ingredients: Wheat flour, glycerin, wheat gluten, gelatin, water | Recommended breed size: Medium breeds | Recommended life stage: Adult and mature

Best soft treats: Kong Easy Treat

KONG Easy Treat Peanut Butter Flavor

What we like

  • Packed with flavor
  • Freezable

Something to note

  • May upset sensitive stomachs

This semi-soft peanut butter-flavored treat from Kong — which makes some of our experts’ favorite dog toys — comes in a dispenser that works like spray cheese, so you can put it inside of a chew toy to keep your dog entertained. You can also place a treat-filled toy in the freezer before handing it to your pup to make it last longer, according to the brand.

Calories: 3,000 kcal total | Key ingredients: Milk, water, soybean oil, whey, sodium phosphate | Recommended breed size: All breeds | Recommended life stage: Adult

Best treat sticks:SmartBones SmartSticks Beef Chews Dog Treats

SmartBones SmartSticks Beef Chews Dog Treats

What we like

  • Rawhide-free
  • Supports dental health
  • Low fat

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

These rawhide-free treats from Select staff-favorite brand SmartBones are filled with a pork-flavored chew center to add a surprise boost of palatability for your canine friend. They’re also made with real chicken and vegetables, and enriched with vitamins and minerals that make digesting them easier, according to the brand. SmartBones also offers a peanut butter option with a pork-flavored center, as well as beef and chicken-flavored options. If you have a smaller dog, you may want to consider the brand’s mini treats, instead — these chew sticks could be hard for them to break into pieces.

Calories (per treat): 55 kcal | Key ingredients: Corn, chicken, glycerin, sorbitol | Recommended breed size: All breeds | Recommended life stage: All life stages

Best for puppies: Blue Buffalo Blue Bits Dog Treats

Blue Buffalo Blue Bits Dog Treats

What we like

  • Small size
  • Supports skin/coat health
  • Good for training

These real meat-flavored training treats from Blue Buffalo — which NBC Select social commerce editor Sadhana Daruvuri feeds her 2-year-old maltipoo Bandit — can be great for both puppies and adult dogs. They are formulated with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to help maintain your dog’s skin and coat health and don’t contain soy, wheat or artificial flavors and preservatives, according to Blue Buffalo. The treats also come in a portable bag to take them on the go, says Daruvuri.

Calories (per treat): 4 kcal | Key ingredients: Chicken, oatmeal, brown rice, cane sugar, potatoes | Recommended breed size: All breeds | Recommended life stage: All life stages

Best for large dogs: Milk-Bone Original Dog Treats Biscuits

Milk-Bone Original Dog Treats Biscuits

What we like

  • Great for large breeds
  • Crunchy texture
  • Supports dental health

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

These are the largest classic bone-shaped dog biscuits on this list, and they are a great option if the smaller treats just don’t cut it for your large breed pup. My family dogs have included medium to large breeds like doberman pinschers and golden retrievers, and these biscuits were always a staple in my house. The crunchy treats are beef-flavored and help reduce tartar build-up on their teeth, according to the brand. They also come in a large, 10-pound box, so you won’t have to worry about running out any time soon.

Calories (per treat): 125 kcal | Key ingredients: Wheat flour, ground whole wheat flour, meat and bone meal | Recommended breed size: Large and giant | Recommended life stage: All life stages

Best for training:Pet Botanics Training Reward Bacon-Flavored Dog Treats

Pet Botanics Training Reward Bacon-Flavored Dog Treats

What we like

  • Great for training
  • Low-calorie
  • Small size

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

These Pet Botanics dog treats — which are three calories each — are made with real pork liver, according to the brand. I give Bella these tasty treats when teaching her new commands and to reward good behavior. She loves the bacon flavor and since they come as small, low-calorie pellets, I can give her multiple treats at a time while still keeping track of her nutritional intake for the day.

Calories (per treat): 3 kcal | Key ingredients: Pork liver, pea flour, potatoes, dried whole eggs, glycerin, flaxseed, brown rice | Recommended breed size: All breeds | Recommended life stage: All life stages

Best long-lasting: Pupford Thick Bully Sticks Dog Treat

 Pupford Thick Bully Sticks Dog Treat

What we like

  • Keeps dogs busy
  • Supports dental health
  • Lasts a long time

These rawhide-free bully sticks are great if you need a long-lasting treat to occupy your dog when they’re home alone or in stressful situations, like if they’re in a car or around lots of people. I give Bella the skinny version of these Pupford bully sticks (which are made for small dogs) when we’re traveling because they last for hours and keep her entertained, especially on an airplane. The sticks help clean her teeth and scrape away plaque as she chews, too. The brand also has other long-lasting treats, including dog chews in flavors like elk antler and beef tendon, and beef jerky treats.

Calories (per treat): 75 kcal | Key ingredients: Beef | Recommended breed size: All breeds | Recommended life stage: All life stages 

Best beef-flavored: Rachael Ray Nutrish Burger Bites

Rachael Ray Nutrish Burger Bites

Something to note

  • Grain-free
  • May upset sensitive stomachs

These beef-flavored Rachel Ray Nutrish dog treats are a favorite of Daruvuri’s Bandit, who also loves the roasted chicken-flavored ones from the brand. The treats are soft enough to break apart easily for smaller dogs and are made without artificial flavors or meat by-products for sensitive stomachs, according to the brand.

Best flavor-packed:Pup-Peroni Rounds Beef Brisket Dog Treats

Pup-Peroni Rounds Beef Brisket Dog Treats

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

NBC Select manager of editorial operations Shari Uyehara feeds her 3-year-old cavalier King Charles spaniel, Loki, these beef brisket treats, and she says he loves the flavor and texture. They’re made with real beef and come with a fun, round shape that resembles real human-grade pepperoni. The treats contain no artificial flavors, fillers or added grains, according to the brand.

Calories (per treat): n/a | Key ingredients: Beef, meat by-products, soy grits, liver | Recommended breed size: All breeds | Recommended life stage: All life stages

Best for joint health:Zuke’s Hip Action Hip & Joint Natural Dog Treats

Zuke's Hip Action Hip & Joint Natural Dog Treats

What we like

  • Supports hip and joint health
  • Great for older dogs
  • Soft texture

Another option from Zuke’s, these treats come in both beef and chicken flavors and are good for dogs with joint issues, according to the brand. NBC Select associate updates editor Zoe Malin feeds these to her 10-year-old yellow lab Chance because they contain egg shell membrane, which can help improve hip and joint health, according to Zuke’s. These soft treats also contain antioxidant-rich whole food berries as well as essential vitamins and minerals for dogs.

Calories (per treat): 19 kcal | Key ingredients: Chicken, rice, oats, malted barley extract, maple flavored syrup | Recommended breed size: All breeds | Recommended life stage: All life stages

Best variety pack:Old Mother Hubbard Original Mix Oven-Baked Dog Treats

Old Mother Hubbard Original Mix Oven-Baked Dog Treats

What we like

  • Variety of flavors
  • Crunchy texture
  • Multiple sizes

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

Old Mother Hubbard has a variety of tasty treat flavors, including peanut butter and apples and bacon and cheddar cheese. I give this small-sized variety pack to Bella, who loves the diversity of the flavors. This mix comes with the brand’s original flavor, along with chicken, cheddar and Char-Tar (a mixture of oatmeal, apples and carrots).

Calories (per treat): n/a | Key ingredients: Whole wheat flour, oatmeal, wheat bran, chicken fat, chicken | Recommended breed size: Small breeds | Recommended life stage: All life stages

Best turkey-flavored:Spot Farms Turkey Meatball Recipe With Cranberries

Spot Farms Turkey Meatball Recipe With Cranberries

What we like

  • Can break them up
  • High in fiber
  • Unique flavors

These treats from Spot Farms contain a blend of turkey (the first ingredient), high-fiber rolled oats, honey and cranberries. Free from fillers, artificial flavors, preservatives and colors, you can give these treats to your dog whole or split them up into small training-sized treats to give throughout the day, according to the brand. They’re also highly rated, with a 4.6-star average rating from over 1,100 reviews on Amazon.

Calories (per treat): 34 kcal | Key ingredients: Turkey, rolled oats, honey, glycerin, rice bran, cranberries, potato starch | Recommended breed size: All breeds | Recommended life stage: All life stages

Best stuffed treats: SmartBones Pork Stuffed Twistz

SmartBones Pork Stuffed Twistz

What we like

  • Stuffed with extra flavor
  • Rawhide-free
  • Multiple flavor options

These rawhide-free treats from Select staff-favorite brand SmartBones are filled with a pork-flavored chew center to add a surprise boost of palatability for your canine friend. They’re also made with real chicken and vegetables, and enriched with vitamins and minerals that make digesting them easier, according to the brand. SmartBones also offers a peanut butter option with a pork-flavored center, as well as beef and chicken-flavored options. If you have a smaller dog, you may want to consider the brand’s mini treats, instead — these chew sticks could be hard for them to break into pieces.

Calories (per treat): 90 kcal | Key ingredients: Corn, chicken, rice, glycerin, sorbitol, peanut butter | Recommended breed size: All breeds | Recommended life stage: All life stages

Best for pet cameras: Petcube Pops

Petcube Pops

What we like

  • Unique protein sources
  • Compatible with pet camera
  • Square shape

Something to note

  • May need to ease into diet

These square-shaped biscuits are compatible with the treat-launching Petcube Bites 2 Lite, which won an NBC Select Pet Award for the best stationary pet camera. You can place the Petcube Pops inside of the dispenser and toss the treats to your pet when you’re not home. The treats come in three flavor options — duck, rabbit, and pumpkin — and are packed with vitamins C and E to help maintain their immune system and a healthy coat, according to the brand.

Calories (per treat): 2 kcal | Key ingredients: Rabbit, egg yolk, salmon oil, chlorella powder, soybean lecithin | Recommended breed size: All breeds | Recommended life stage: All life stages


How to shop for dog treats

Treats should only be given in moderation, which may mean your dog shouldn’t get them on a daily basis. “Too many treats can interfere with the balance of your pet’s core diet — it’s recommended that treats make up no more than 10% of a pet’s daily calorie intake,” says Dr. Lori Teller, a board-certified veterinarian and former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

To determine what treats are best for your dog, our pet experts recommend looking at the ingredients, size and calorie count of each treat. They also discussed other types of treats — like dental treats and grain-free options — and whether they can benefit your dog’s health.

Determine nutritional balance

It’s important to remember that treats aren’t usually designed to be nutritionally balanced. The biggest consideration when it comes to researching treats for your dog is how to add them into your dog’s diet: “If you start feeding your dog a lot of treats and cut back on their kibble, you start running into nutrient deficiencies,” says Dr. Joe Wakshlag, professor of clinical nutrition and sports medicine and rehabilitation at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine.

Too many treats can also result in diarrhea and occasional vomiting, so it’s important to choose brands that clearly state the calories contained in each treat and include feeding recommendations on the back of the packaging, says Freels. If you’re in doubt, The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center also offers a handy daily calorie calculator for pets.

If you want to be extra sure the treats you’re feeding your dog are healthy, look for the AAFCO nutritional adequacy label (which is usually in small print on the bag). However, unlike dog food, treats don’t have to have the AAFCO label on their packaging — the association says it recognizes that treat products don’t meet the nutritional adequacy requirements for a complete and balanced meal, which is why they must clearly display the terms “snack” or “treat” on the front label.

Analyze good (and bad) ingredients

Dog owners should avoid artificial sweeteners like xylitol in the dog treats they buy, says Freels. Other things to avoid include artificial colors, excessive salt (which will increase thirst) and syrups and molasses (which are high in sugar). Be mindful of foods like grapes or raisins, which can be healthy for people but toxic to dogs, says Nelson. If you’re not sure about a certain food, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) maintains a list of foods that can be harmful to your pet.

If you want to reduce their calorie intake, dog-safe fruits and vegetables — including bell pepper, carrots, green beans, apples and bananas, to name a few — offer very few calories and have some good nutrition to them, according to Wakshlag. “And it’s not diluting down the calories that they get from their food — those are things you can get a lot more of as treats than commercial treats or pieces of steak that are going to be calorie dense,” he says.

Find the right size

While watching a puppy struggle with an oversized bone looks adorable, giving a dog a treat that’s too big or too small for them can be dangerous. “The size of the treat should be proportional to the size of your dog. Very small dogs shouldn’t have large treats and [vice versa],” says Nelson. Keep an eye on your dog while they’re chewing larger treats like rawhide chews that can break apart and turn into choking hazards, and break up big biscuits to cut down on the calories per treat, too, she says.

Size also depends on what you are using the treat for: training versus mental stimulation or enrichment. Training treats are going to be very small, which means more can be given as a reward for positive behavior. Regular treats, on the other hand, are larger, such as bully sticks, bones and dog chews, and should be used only for enrichment or mental stimulation, according to Freels. Too much of a large treat can cause GI Issues, so these enrichment treats should be given less regularly. If you’re using treats for training, “very small treats — the size of a thumbnail — are going to be best so more can be given without causing any GI indiscretion,” says Freels.

Frequently asked questions

Should I get my dog dental treats?

While regular brushing is the best way to keep your dog’s gums and teeth free of plaque, dental treats can help tone down your dog’s breath and clean their teeth. Look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council label, which indicates that the dental treat has met pre-set standards to help reduce tartar and plaque development on their teeth, says Freels.

You should also consider what type of chewer the dog is to see if they’d actually benefit from dental treats, according to our experts. If these treats aren’t being fully chewed, you’re likely better off scheduling annual professional dental cleanings, especially for smaller dogs who are more prone to dental problems, says Wakshlag. You should also be sure to count the number of calories in dental chews because they can add up fast.

What about grain-free dog treats?

A grain-free formula — which is made without wheat, barley, rye and corn — isn’t usually better for your dog compared to a typical formula, and it can sometimes prevent them from getting their appropriate daily nutritional intake, experts told us. Carbohydrates, corn especially, can provide extra fiber for better digestion and important vitamins and minerals and antioxidants in your dog’s diet, says Dr. Brian Roberts, a board-certified veterinarian and regional medical director in the Mid-Atlantic region with VCA Animal Hospitals, in our guide to dog food.

In 2018, the FDA opened an investigation to examine a potential link between grain-free diets and a heart condition called canine dilated cardiomyopathy. Nelson recommends avoiding grain-free treats but noted you should ultimately consult your veterinarian. “The grain-free phenomenon is a fad from human nutrition,” she says. “When the grain is removed, other ingredients, like higher glycemic carbohydrates or fat, may be added — and those lead to other issues.”

Meet our experts

At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Caylee Freels is a licensed veterinary technician at VCA White Lake Animal Hospital.
  • Dr. Kristen Nelson is a board-certified veterinarian author of “Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life.”
  • Dr. Lori Teller is a board-certified veterinarian and the former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
  • Dr. Joe Wakshlag is a professor of clinical nutrition and sports medicine and rehabilitation at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Dr. Brian Roberts is a board-certified veterinarian and regional medical director in the Mid-Atlantic region with VCA Animal Hospitals.

Why trust Select?

Mili Godio is an editor at Select who covers a variety of pet essentials, including dog food, travel carriers and shampoos. For this article, Godio spoke to five veterinarians and dog experts about how to shop for the best treats for your dog, including health considerations and nutritional value. She also compiled their recommendations for the best dog treats to consider, as well as options that Select staff give their own dogs.

Catch up on Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to stay up to date.

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About the Author: Rayne Chancer