Most animals enjoy a treat, and dogs are no exception. While it may surprise you, a banana to your dog may be the equivalent of a brownie or piece of candy to you. Bananas are sweet, readily accessible and provide a plethora of healthy vitamins and minerals. If your pooch is bananas over bananas feel free to use them as a reward or special treat on those occasions you would normally provide him with a treat. It is important to remember, however, that they should be eaten in moderation and can have negative side effects if eaten in too large a quantity or too often.
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs are pleasure-seeking animals. They enjoy a good sniff, chase, stroke and treat. Bananas offer enjoyment to all of his senses. Because they contain three types of sugars, glucose, sucrose and fructose, they are very sweet. They are also easily accessible. Bananas are a great source of vitamin C to boost the immune system, protect cells from damage and build body in the cartilage. This yummy fruit is also full of soluble carbohydrates for energy, manganese, biotin, copper, B6 and antioxidants for his coat. Bananas are high in potassium, which is an essential electrolyte that can regulate fluid balance in the body as well as aid in muscle development and healthy vessel functions. Bananas contain magnesium that helps promote bone growth by helping the body absorb vitamins and produce protein. If your dog suffers from colitis, a form of bowel irritation, the fiber and enzymes in the bananas can help soothe his colon and ease his suffering. It is important to note that you should not let your pooch go bananas over bananas. Too much of anything is not a good idea, and bananas are no exception. Eating bananas in excess can have several side effects, none of which are desirable. Bananas are not toxic to dogs, but too much can lead to constipation. As with all foods you give your pooch, you should introduce it slowly and over long periods of time to watch for any reactions such as weight changes, possible digestive upset or even allergies. In addition, eating a lot of bananas means a large intake of potassium. Excessive potassium in the blood stream, called hyperkalemia, can cause heart problems and potentially cardiac arrest. Signs of hyperkalemia are disorientation, weakness and collapsing. Bananas are high in sugar and carbohydrates so eating a lot could cause weight gain and blood sugar irregularities. Dogs should not be given the peel as part of the treat. They are high in fiber and too difficult to digest. Ingesting a banana peel could cause vomiting, constipation or even an intestinal blockage. Definitely consult with your vet if you suspect your dog has consumed something suspicious.
Encouraging the Behavior
While bananas should not crowd out regular meals, as carbohydrate counts matter in a pet’s diet, they can be used as a reward. If you use treats as rewards for good behavior, you can use bananas as one of them. You can give it sliced from the peel, mashed in his food, mix it with peanut butter or yogurt, as frozen slices, stuffed and frozen in a Kong, or even baked as a chip. They should never be given whole as they are not easily digested and could cause a blockage. Dehydrated banana chips can be very yummy and nutritious but should be home made. Store bought processed banana chips contain excessive amounts of sugar and preservatives, neither of which are good for your pet. The amount and frequency of banana consumption also varies by the size and age of your pet. Medium to large dogs can typically tolerate up to half of a large banana each day. Small and toy breeds should only have about two to three pieces per day. More active and working dogs that burn a lot of carbohydrates and calories throughout the day can be offered a bit more. Puppies are still growing and need to be on a special juvenile diet that supports their development. They can still have bananas in very small quantities but really should be limited to training use on some occasions.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Dogs do best with natural foods, so always make your banana treats at home. Store bought version tend to be higher in sugar and include unnatural preservatives and possibly harmful chemicals. A lot of banana treats sold in stores for humans also include ingredients such as chocolate, raisins and nuts all of which can be dangerous for dogs. You can consult with your veterinarian about the many dog recipes that contain bananas. You can also work with a trainer and ask her what banana treats she has used when working with clients. Banana pancakes, oatmeal banana dog cookies and frozen banana treats are all yummy rewards you can make at home and freeze to have on hand to reward your pet.
A lot of dogs love bananas and will happily perform for the sweet treat. Bananas are safe and healthy, provide a vast amount of essential vitamins and nutrients, and can even help with digestion. Be careful to not offer your dog bananas in excess, or allow him to eat the peel. Made at home treats are best as store processed treats may have high sugar levels as well as harmful chemicals. Introduce bananas slowly and watch for signs of digestive upset such as constipation, vomiting, or weight gain. Consult with your veterinarian should you suspect your dog has a problem ingesting bananas. Speak with a trainer about ways in which you can use bananas as a reward for good behavior.