Homemade Dog Treat Dos and Don’ts
Nobody enjoys taking trips to the pet store. Picking over under-stocked shelves, carting around heavy bags and cans, waiting in lines — it’s often one headache after another. Fortunately, any dog lover with a kitchen, refrigerator, and pantry can whip up delicious treats at home.
Benefits of Homemade Dog Treats
- Avoiding unhealthy ingredients: You know exactly what goes into a homemade dog biscuit. You can ensure that they don’t include artificial ingredients, allergens, or other potentially harmful additives.
- Serving your dog’s tastes: Nobody knows your dog’s palate better than you do. Making treats at home ensures you’re giving them their favorite ingredients instead of taking a chance on a new brand. Picky dogs, in particular, will appreciate treats made with them in mind.
- Saving time and money: Making treats isn’t always easy, but the homemade route will inevitably save time, money, and hassle in the long run. That should especially appeal to pet lovers stuck under stay-at-home-orders.
- Reducing waste: Many dog treat recipes explicitly call for leftover food. Instead of letting discarded dinners go to waste, consider using them as the base for delicious dog treats. Opting for homemade treats will also help cut down on packaging waste.
Guidelines for Homemade Dog Treats
Remember, those potential benefits are no guarantee. Follow these guidelines carefully to ensure you’re not feeding your dog too many empty calories or otherwise disrupting their diet.
- Don’t overdo it: Pet MD advises dog lovers that treats are not meant as substitutes for balanced, nutritious meals. “Treats should not,” they write, “make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake.” The other 90% should come from complete foods that offer the full suite of necessary vitamins and nutrients.
- Avoid unnecessary salt and seasoning: Your dog won’t mind a bland meal. In fact, their digestive system will probably prefer it. Too much salt and seasoning can lead to vomiting and diarrhea in addition to more serious, long-term health concerns.
- Stick to the good stuff: In general, any food that you’d consider junk is even worse for your pup. Unnecessary sugar, salt, and fat can lead to weight gain and, over time, a host of additional health issues.
- Watch out for contamination risks: Dogs can get food poisoning, too. Watch out for contamination risks while preparing, handling, and storing dog food. Wash your hands and any serving utensils carefully, thoroughly cook all meat and eggs, and be sure to dispose of spoiled or expired treats in a timely manner.
- Listen to your vet: You should always consult your veterinarian before making any substantial changes to your dog’s diet. If you intend to make homemade treats a regular part of their diet, speak to your veterinarian about allergies and other potential health concerns.
Ingredients to Avoid
Straying from some of those rules here and there won’t kill your dog. Pet owners, however, should avoid these ingredients at all costs. They’re toxic to dogs and many are even deadly.
- Chocolate: We’ve all heard that dogs can’t eat chocolate, but why not? It’s because chocolate contains compounds called methylxanthines. Even in tiny quantities, these can sicken and kill dogs. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) notes that darker varieties of chocolate typically contain more methylxanthines, but that doesn’t make white chocolate any less toxic.
- Garlic, Onions, Leeks, and Chives: The entire allium family is toxic to dogs and cats. Whether they’re whole or powdered, they can cause serious side effects like elevated heart rate and weakness. These symptoms can often take several days to emerge.
- Grapes: Pet health experts still aren’t sure why grapes are toxic. They know, however, that both fresh and dried grapes have been known to cause kidney failure.
- Macadamia nuts: Within 12 hours of ingestion, macadamia nuts can cause side effects like vomiting and hyperthermia. Just about all dogs love peanuts, but no dog should ever taste a macadamia nut.
- Nutmeg: Dogs will probably love the rich, nutty smell of this spice, but ingesting it could be deadly because of a substance called myristicin. Small amounts can cause diarrhea and hallucinations, while larger amounts can lead to seizures.
- Raw/undercooked meats: Dogs can contract many of the same foodborne illnesses that humans can. Undercooked beef, pork, and poultry can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration because of contaminants like Salmonella and E. Coli.
- Xylitol: Keep an eye out for this artificial sweetener. While it can cause gastrointestinal symptoms in some people, it’s often far more harmful to dogs. Many breeds will release extra insulin after ingesting xylitol. In just a few days, this can cause health issues ranging from vomiting to liver failure.
Homemade Dog Treat Recipes
Ready to get started? Check out these recipes:
- Blackberry Biscuits (American Kennel Club)
- Healthy Pumpkin Balls (The Dog Whisperer)
- Pup-Kin Spice Biscuits (ASPCA)
What leftovers are lingering in your fridge? Before tossing them out, improvise some treats to make your dog’s day. Just be sure to keep the above guidelines in mind.