Homemade Dog Treats: Benefits Of Making Treats At Home
Many pet owners researching a healthy diet for their pups are interested in learning more about homemade dog treats. The amount of horror stories out there about toxic treats leading to pet fatalities is enough to make anyone think twice about what kind of edible rewards they’re giving their pet. Although making homemade dog treats might seem like a big undertaking to some, the truth is that they’re as simple as whipping up a batch of your own favorite cookies in most cases. Best of all, you’ll know exactly what goes into the tasty homemade treats, so you can avoid nasty or dangerous additives that are no good for our canine companions.
What are the benefits of homemade treats over store-bought?
– You will always know that your dog’s treats are fresh
– They aren’t loaded with preservatives and shelf stabilizers
– You can tailor treats to your pup’s breed, health needs and even their favorite flavors
– You know everything that’s in your dog’s treats – No mystery ingredients or low-nutrient filler!
As a mammal, some of the kinds of nutrients your dog needs as part of her diet in order to stay healthy are similar to the ones you need to fuel up healthily. While you certainly shouldn’t start eating dog food, there are some human foods that your dog can eat. It’s important to know what human foods are safe for your dog and what foods must always be avoided before beginning the process of making homemade dog treats. This will ensure that you never accidentally harm your pup by tossing in an ingredient that could provoke a dangerous reaction.
What are some human foods that are great for dogs?
– Berries, including blueberries, strawberries and blackberries
– Peanut butter
– Cooked brown rice
– Lean, fully cooked protein like beef, turkey or chicken
– Raw vegetables including cucumber, lettuce, carrot, and zucchini
– Steamed winter squash and cooked squash/pumpkin purees(NEVER use a puree containing nutmeg, which is highly toxic to pups)
– Sweet potatoes
If you’ve ever been on a diet or researched the healthiest natural foods to add to your diet, you will probably recognize some of the aforementioned foods as being power players in adding tons of essential nutrients to the human diet. Many of these foods, especially blueberries and spinach, are antioxidant-rich. That said, your dog is a carnivore- it’s the way her species has evolved since their domestication over 33,000 years ago. Even if you’re looking to create a healthy diet for an overweight dog, don’t cut out the essential proteins that meat provides for your dog. As you’ll learn by reading on, there are even ways to sneak those essential proteins into your homemade dog treats!
Now that we know some of the best “people” foods that translate well into homemade dog treats and snacks, we need to take a look at foods you shouldn’t be feeding your dog and the reasons why not. Some of these should be very obvious, while others may surprise you. Whenever you’re making homemade dog treats and feel as though you’d like to add an ingredient or try a new recipe, compare it to a list of foods that are unsafe for dogs to be sure you’re not accidentally hurting your pet.
What foods and beverages are toxic to your pet?
– Chocolate: We’ve all heard the folk wisdom of keeping a dog away from chocolate, and for good reason- the consequences of ingestion could be fatal. Dark chocolate is the most dangerous type for a dog to ingest, while white chocolate carries far less theobromine and caffeine. These two compounds fall into a classification known as methylxanthines, which are toxic for dogs.
Symptoms of ingestion: If a dog ingests chocolate, they may experience dehydration, abdominal distress, abnormal heartbeat, fever, seizing, agitation, tremors and death.
– Avocado: You may be wondering how this mild fruit, which is often praised as a healthy fat in human diets, could be harmful to your pet. The reason is persin, a toxin which is present in the bark, leaves, pit and fruit of the avocado tree. While persin certainly doesn’t seem to have any effect on human beings, it can cause serious health problems for our canine counterparts. Equally bad is the pit itself, which overeager dogs can swallow, causing a painful bowel obstruction requiring expensive lifesaving surgery.
Symptoms of ingestion: When a dog eats avocado, they may experience abdominal pain, trouble breathing and an excess of fluid in the chest. A dog that has a bowel blockage due to a swallowed pit may present with vomiting, shallow breathing, visible distress and an inability to pass waste.
– Milk and cheese: Simply put, milk and cheese are not something that dogs’ stomachs are designed to digest. Mammals aren’t really intended to drink milk past the age of weaning, and human beings are the only ones who do. Because humans have been drinking milk for a very long time, our stomachs have evolved to be able to continue to break down the fat and sugar content found in milk and cheese, but that isn’t true of our dogs. Although milk and cheese aren’t outright toxic, they can give your furry friend- and by extension, you- a rough time.
Symptoms of ingestion: Think about everything that might happen if a lactose intolerant person pounded a quart of milk, and you’re just about there. Vomiting, diarrhea and flatulence can all result from milk or cheese being eaten by a dog in any significant quantity.
– Onions and garlic: These savory members of the alum family are found in many kitchens around the world, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe for dogs. Both dogs and cats should not consume the strong smelling vegetables, which have a significantly different effect on creatures of a small stature.
Symptoms of ingestion: If a dog is eating too many onions or too much garlic, they can sustain long term red blood cell damage resulting in weakness and lethargy. In cases where the problem has become severe, the dog may even require a blood transfusion. Because garlic is stronger than onions, it takes less garlic to create a toxic reaction in pups. It’s best to avoid exposing a dog to either in any amount.
– Grapes: Many people are shocked at exactly how toxic these seemingly harmless little fruits- and their dehydrated cousin, the raisin- are for pups. Although the cause of the toxicity has been studied within the field of veterinary science, it hasn’t been identified. The results of consumption speak for themselves, however, and are enough to keep any conscientious pet owner away from the items.
Symptoms of ingestion: In canines, the ingestion of grapes or raisins may lead to a quick death from kidney failure. Sometimes, the dog may present no symptoms at all and simply tragically pass. In addition to potential kidney failure symptoms, diarrhea and vomiting, lethargy, failure to eat and drink and resulting dehydration may develop. Kidney failure may claim the dog’s life within four days.
– Macadamia nuts: Again, it may be shocking to learn that these fatty, tasty little proteins are very bad for dogs. While they may seem extremely mild to human beings, there is an element in macadamia nuts that is toxic to canines. Scientists haven’t been able to pinpoint why it happens, but it has been observed many times to be highly dangerous for dogs.
Symptoms of ingestion: Dogs who have eaten macadamia nuts may seem to develop sudden weakness and not want to or be able to walk. If they walk, they may have a very unsteady step. Vomiting, respiratory depression, hypothermia and hind leg dysfunction are all common in this reaction.
– Raw yeast dough: It’s a wonder that anyone would feed this to their dog to begin with, knowing the stomachache that raw yeast dough can give a person. It’s happened enough times, however, that we now know that the dough can ferment in a dog’s tummy and become toxic fairly quickly. It can also expand, creating painful gas and other issues.
Symptoms of ingestion: Because the byproduct of yeast fermentation is alcohol, which is highly toxic to dogs, symptoms of alcohol toxicity may be present. Additionally, however, i dough expands within the stomach or intestines of the dog, flatulence, pain, vomiting, lethargic behavior and even stomach or intestinal rupture may occur.
– Apple cores: This may seem counter-intuitive, since I just finished telling you that apples are a healthy “people” food that your dog can share. This continues to be true. It is important that the apples always be separated from their core, however, and that cores be disposed of safely in a way that your dog can not and will not go after them. Dogs do have self control, but it’s limited, which means keeping these out of their reach is up to you. This is because apple cores contain cyanide in the form of cyanogenic glycosides which are naturally occurring. People don’t normally knaw on apple cores, but even if they did, it would take over 200 apple seeds or 20 apple cores to near a fatal dose for a human. As you can imagine, it takes far less for the average pup.
Symptoms of ingestion: Dogs who have ingested an apple core may seem to be struggling for breath or hyperventilate. Collapse and seizure may take place, as may shock and coma.
– Bacon: Okay, so bacon isn’t poisonous to your dog. Most of us have eventually given into the begging and slipped our pup a piece of the salty, crispy breakfast meat. However, although dogs need protein, the level of fat present in bacon is terrible for the average family dog in any significant proportion. Highly fatty diets in dogs lead to pancreatitis. When pancreatitis sets in, the dog experiences significant pain and a lack of pancreatic function, which is terrible for their endocrine system and will require expensive veterinary intervention.
Symptoms of ingestion: Over time, symptoms such as lethargy, abdominal distress, vomiting, glassy eyes and breath odor changes will become evident as signs of decreased pancreatic function and inflammation.
Now that we’ve taken some time to examine the specific foods your dog should and shouldn’t eat, let’s take some time to focus on the major nutrient groups that make up your dog’s ideal balanced diet. This will help to give you some idea about what recipes for homemade dog treats will result in a balanced and healthy treat for your pet. Understand that while your pet does need a lot of the same nutrients you do, feeding him health foods and snacks designed for a human being is unwise. Many of these prepackaged goods have excessive sugar and salt that is bad for your pet despite their “healthy” designation, and some may even have ingredients that can make your dog sick.
Let’s look at the different kinds of foods your dog needs to consume in order to lead a healthy and happy life.
Carbohydrates: While humans often go out of their way to avoid carbs and can even have a healthy diet that largely excludes them, they can still be a healthy part of our diet. For dogs, they provide some essential nutrients as well as fiber, which is a key component in digestion. Like humans, dogs can gain the most benefit from the use of whole grains and unbleached flour.
Protein: The second largest component in your dog’s diet, protein can come in many forms. It is commonly seen in lean meats and fishes like chicken, beef, tuna and salmon but is also found in soy and eggs. As a carnivore, your dog relies on protein as a source of essential nutrients that allow for muscle growth, strength and health maintenance.
Fats and oils: Again, though humans often look to cut fat from their diet, fats and oils are important for dogs as they create a source of energy, make food appealing to dogs, provide a thick coat with a healthy sheen and, when used properly, even promote good heart health. As in the human diet, choosing healthy fats for your dog is absolutely key. Unhealthy fats can lead to pancreatitis, and avocado oil can be toxic to your pet.
Vitamins and minerals: All mammals thrive on a balance of the correct nutrients in their diet, and for your dog, these nutrients can come from a number of sources. As we addressed earlier, there are a number of healthy fruits and vegetables that humans often eat which are great nutrient rich food sources for dogs. Spinach, blueberries and other produce that’s safe for dogs can offer up plenty of essential nutrients to keep pups going strong.
Water: While it’s not a food, it IS something your dog needs constant access to in order to be healthy and happy, making it an essential component of his diet. Your dog should always have access to a clean, fresh bowl of water that they can drink at their leisure. Dehydration is very dangerous for dogs, as it is for all mammals, and making sure your dog has enough to drink is a important aspect of tending to his overall health and well being.
Knowing the important components that create a healthy diet for dogs is essential before you begin the process of choosing recipes for homemade dog treats. While treats are fun rewards for dogs, they shouldn’t be loaded up with empty carbohydrates or things that just taste good but are detrimental – or simply not beneficial – to your dog’s health. Making your own homemade dog treats is a great and easy way to supplement the nutrition offered by balanced dog food. Some people choose recipes specifically tailored to the needs of their Making your own homemade dog treats is a great and easy way to supplement the nutrition offered by balanced dog food. Some people choose recipes specifically tailored to the needs of their dog’s breed. Knowing your dog’s existing health issues and physical problems might also influence the recipe you choose, since certain ingredients can be beneficial for an ailing dog in the same way that healthy foods can be for a human being.
When you choose a recipe for homemade dog treats, don’t be afraid to start simple and go from there. It might seem intimidating to bake for your pup, but remember, he’s not a harsh critic. Even the simplest treats will no doubt please him greatly, and they often require little more than ingredients you already have on hand in your cupboard. Later, we’ll talk about some easy ways to make sure you have some of the most commonly used ingredients for homemade dog treats on hand without breaking the bank or trekking all over town.
You’ve waited long enough- how about a recipe? These simple treats are so easy to make, and they make a cute little cookie that any pup will love. The enticing scent and sweetness of the apple make these a favorite for dogs. They do so much for us.
BASIC BISCUITS (60 treats)
1 1/2 c flour, wheat
1/4 c + 2 tbsp unsweetened natural applesauce
1/4 c water
Heat your oven to 350F. Grab a large mixing bowl with high sides and put the flour in the bowl. Whisk together the water and applesauce, and then pour that mixture on top of the flour in the bowl. Use your hands to combine the ingredients, forming them into a loose dough.
Dust a clean surface with a bit of your whole wheat flour and turn the dough out onto the surface, gently kneading it until it is no longer sticky and can be rolled.
Roll out your dough until it is at a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Grab your cookie cutters – fun shapes like dog bones, paw prints and fire hydrants can often be found at favorite pet or kitchen stores- and cut out plenty of shapes, placing the cut shapes on a baking sheet that you have lined with parchment paper. When you’ve cut as many as you can, gather the dough up and roll it again to the same thickness, cutting and repeating until you are out of dough. If you have a little extra, you can simply form it into a rope and twist the rope into a pretzel shape for an extra treat for your pup.
Bake the treats for about ten minutes. You’ll know they are done when they are firm to the touch as a shortbread cookie would be. These fun cookies can be frozen, stored or given as gifts thanks to their relatively long shelf life, but be sure to cool them for about an hour. This lets them fully harden, giving them a satisfying crunch dogs love, but also preventing moisture buildup that can lead to mold and shorten their shelf life.
If you’re someone who loves to get in the kitchen, you’ve no doubt had the experience of cooking with family members. Many people who love to cook got their start in grandma’s kitchen, pressing the top of the peanut butter cookies with a fork or learning how to form perfect tablespoons of chocolate chip cookie dough. If you have kids or grandkids, making homemade dog treats together is a great family activity for a rainy Saturday afternoon when they’re milling around, begging for something to do. Making homemade dog treats can be lots of fun for kids and adults alike, and these cute paw print treats are easy for little hands(and your pup won’t mind making short work of any design flaws)! Brewer’s yeast, the only slightly uncommon ingredient found in this recipe, can be found at many pet stores and natural food stores.
PUPPY PAW PRINT COOKIES (approx. 30 treats)
1 c wheat flour
1/4 c brewer’s yeast
1/4 c wheat germ
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup chicken stock separated into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup – make it yourself(see recipe at the end of this article) or choose low sodium
Start by cranking your oven up to 400 F. To prepare for baking, choose two sturdy cookie sheets and line them with parchment paper.
Grab a medium mixing bowl and combine your dry ingredients- the flour, the yeast, the wheat germ and the salt. Give them a few quick stirs with a dry whisk to make sure that they have fully incorporated.
Put your olive oil in the bottom of a larger bowl with high sides. Add in some of the dry mixture and blend, then add in some of the chicken stock and blend(remember, 1/4 cup of your stock should be in reserve). Continue doing this until both the stock and flour have been completely added, and mix the ingredients until they form a firm but sticky dough.
Dust a clean surface with a bit of wheat flour and turn out your dough, kneading it lightly for approximately 2 minutes. Grab your rolling pin and roll out the dough until you’ve reached a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Now, it’s time to cut out your cookies!
If you have a fluted circular cookie cutter or any other 2 inch circular cookie cutter, that’s the perfect size for this project. If you’re not much of a baker, though, don’t despair- simply choose a glass from your cabinet with an opening about 2 inches across. You can easily cut these cookies with the rim of the glass. Transfer the circles to your prepared baking sheets as you cut them, leaving a bit of room between each circle as you would with a cookie. When you’ve cut as many treats as you can, gather and re-roll your dough, cutting until you’ve finished it.
Here’s the fun part for kids and adults alike- creating the cute paw print design that earns these treats their name. Towards the bottom of the circles, make a single indentation using your thumbprint. This creates the larger part of the dog’s paw print. Then, make four smaller indentations around the top of that one with the tip of your pinky or ring fingers. This creates the appearance of the dog’s toes.
Before baking, slide the decorated racks of cookies into your freezer to chill for about 15 minutes. This helps the fat in the cookies to congeal, allowing them to crisp without burning.
Bake the puppy cookies for a total of 20 minutes. Halfway through, open the oven and baste the cookies with the remaining stock using a pastry brush. They don’t need to be soaked, just lightly coated. When they’re done baking, turn off the oven and allow the treats to sit in the oven for 40 minutes until they are fully crisped.
Now that you’ve seen some recipes for homemade dog treats, you no doubt understand just how easy it is to make them in your own kitchen. You’re basically baking cookies with savory ingredients rather than sweet ones. If you’re not a seasoned cook, however, you may be puzzling over where to find ingredients like brewer’s yeast and whole grain flours besides wheat. Local farmer’s markets and country grocery stores that sell dry goods by the pound are often the best places to investigate when looking for ingredients for your homemade dog treats. Often, even if they don’t carry one of the things you’re looking for, they’ll be able to make a special order for you. Shops like this, though small, are often the bread and butter of local bakers. Even if a baker you know doesn’t make pupcakes and other treats, ask if they can recommend a great dry goods shop- almost all serious bakers will be able to drop a name or two.
As you can see, making homemade dog treats can be a real breeze. There’s something special about the love and dedication that goes into making something from scratch for your pet, and knowing everything that goes into their biscuits can put you at ease when it comes time to dole out rewards. Once you get into the swing of things, there are a number of ways you can make your life easier by learning to prepare ingredients for your pet’s homemade dog treats while you are making meals for your family. There are also activities you can do as a family to contribute to the creation of homemade dog treats.
How can you do double duty in the kitchen and as a family to have ingredients for homemade dog treats on hand?
– Steam some peeled sweet potatoes for a side dish of sweet potato puree, reserving some for your pup before adding butter and seasonings for your family. Sweet potatoes, which are rich in antioxidants and vitamins, are found in many recipes for homemade dog treats.
– Learn to make your own chicken stock. When your family has a meal of a whole roast chicken, toss it in a stockpot with some healthy veggies that dogs can safely eat, like carrots and celery(skip those pesky onions and garlic, of course). Cover the whole thing with water, plus a few inches, and put it up on the stove to simmer. Once it reaches a boil, turn it down a bit, and let the whole mixture cook up for a few hours, until the broth has reduced significantly and is a deep golden color. Strain and drain it, letting the mixture cool on the counter for about an hour before refrigerating it. Refrigeration will bring excess fat to the top of your chicken stock and solidify it, so scoop that out with a spoon to make the stock healthier.
– Start a “dog garden” with your family. Kids will love talking about the ingredients that are healthy for their pup, and it’s a great way to foster an early interest in sustainable agriculture, which is a serious skill. Grow foods that are healthy for your dog, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cucumber and spinach. Talk about the different nutrients in these fruits and vegetables and what makes them ideal for homemade dog treats.
As you can see, preparing homemade treats for your pup is a really easy way to be sure that the treats they’re eating will contribute to both their happiness and their health, just like their presence benefits yours. With a few simple ingredients, you can make snacks for your canine that will whet their appetite and keep them feeling great.