Looking to spoil your best fur buddy with better health? Then you’re in the right place!
From ingredients that are hard to trust to ones that are money pits to ones that are helping your dog pack on too many pounds, store-bought dog treats can be a disaster!
In this article, I’m talking about all things dog treats. From my favorite recipes to choosing the perfect treat!
And I’m doing that by focusing on grain-free dog treats in particular. Grain-free treats are a hot seller amongst dog owners who are looking to give their dogs the healthiest treat possible. However, a few years ago, the dog world was turned upside-down when we discovered that grain-free diets may be a poor choice for dogs.
Are grain-free treats the same, or do they still reign supreme? Let’s find out!
In this article:
- Are grain-free treats safe for dogs?
- Are homemade dog treats healthy?
- Are homemade dog treats healthier than store-bought?
- What is the healthiest treat to give a dog?
- Recipe #1 – Grain-Free Peanut Butter Dog Treats
- Recipe #2 – Dehydrated Chicken Jerky Dog Treats
- Recipe #3 – Grain-free Salmon Pumpkin Dog Treat
- Recipe #4 – Fruit Popsicles
Are grain-free treats safe for dogs?
Grain-free foods were all the rage a few years ago, but in 2018, research came out that showed grain-free diets weren’t always safe, with some leading to health issues such as heart disease and dilated cardiomyopathy. This quickly raised a lot of health questions over grain-free foods, including grain-free treats.
Major questions still linger since this study was released. The leading assumption is the lack of taurine in many grain-free foods, which is an amino acid that helps prevent congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cystic fibrosis, and the buildup of plaque in the arteries throughout the body.
As a result, many grain-free formulas now include the amino acid, however, some doubt a taurine deficiency is the only reason grain-free dog foods have been linked to heart disease. Because of this, most veterinarians recommend high-quality food that includes grains for your dog.
But what about grain-free treats? They are completely safe! However, so are ones that contain grains. Treats should never account for more than 10% of your dog’s daily calorie needs. This ensures their nutritional needs are being met without blowing up their waistline.
When we remove our dogs from needing to rely on treats for their nutritional needs, we can focus on selecting/creating a treat that’s low in calories with no harmful ingredients. This makes grain-free dog treats the perfect kind to make at home.
Fun Factoid: While both humans and dogs produce their own and it’s found heavily in meats and eggs, you can commonly find taurine in energy drinks and workout formulas for its potential boost to mental and athletic performance.
Are homemade dog treats healthy?
Homemade dog treats can be incredibly healthy and mouth-wateringly delicious. But they can be super unhealthy too. It’s all about the ingredients that you use and watching how many extra calories they are adding to your dog’s daily amount.
Some healthy meats and dairy items for dogs: chicken, pork, turkey, lean beef, fish, eggs, non-flavored yogurt, and cheeses like cheddar and mozzarella — blue cheese and Roquefort are not safe for dogs.
Some healthy fruits and vegetables for dogs: apples, pumpkin, carrots, green beans, broccoli, green peas, bananas, blueberries, seedless watermelon, and sweet potatoes.
Some unhealthy and dangerous foods and plants for dogs: chocolate, macadamia nuts, and yew berries.
Are homemade dog treats healthier than store-bought?
Making homemade dog treats is a fantastic way to give your dog some treats that are healthier than ones you can buy from the store. With homemade treats, you can cut down on excessive calories from fat and sugar that often make their way in high amounts into store-bought dog treats.
But not only are you saving their waistline; creating homemade dog treats are also a great way to avoid salt and potentially dangerous preservatives like BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin, Sodium Metabisulfite, and TBHQ.
Another super awesome benefit of homemade dog treats is you can save a lot of money, especially when you buy the ingredients in bulk. In many cases, nearly, if not all of, the ingredients that go into delicious and healthy dog treats are common household foods we eat all the time.
What is the healthiest treat to give a dog?
Just like our dogs, healthy dog treats come in all shapes and sizes, and there is no dog treat that rules them all. Things that make dog treats healthy include using safe and nourishing ingredients while leaving out ones that are known to be dangerous or potentially healthy.
As well, there are now companies like Innovet Pet, who make specialized treats formulated with health-boosting aids like CBD. First famous for its ability to help people with common health issues we face daily, like anxiety and inflammation, CBD has become nearly just as popular to give to our dogs as it is for us to take.
In addition to formulating treats with CBD, you can also find dog treats that include ingredients to better support digestion, the immune system, general wellness, and on.
Recipe #1 – Grain-Free Peanut Butter Dog Treats
Making dog treats at home is a great way to get into the DIY spirit. So, let’s start with a fan favorite, peanut butter treats. Now, let’s talk about peanut butter real quick because it has a lot of calories! There is a reason they give peanut butter and jellies to kids because it’s growing food.
However, for this recipe, we’re watching how much peanut butter we put in our treats. As well, we’re boosting peanut butter’s health benefits with chickpea flour, which delivers protein, magnesium, folate, potassium, fiber, and vitamins A, B, and C. So it’s safe to say we’re making some fantastically healthy treats.
- 1 medium banana
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- 1/2 cup coconut flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- Start by mashing up the banana in a large bowl.
- Once the banana has been mashed as smooth as possible, combine peanut butter and egg into the same bowl and mix all three together.
- Once thoroughly mixed, combine the rest of ingredients with the mixture in the same bowl. By mixing in 1 to 2 ingredients at a time, the mixture is easier to work with and ensures it’s all properly mixed.
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF and 1 to 2 line large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Roll dough out with a rolling pin until it’s between ⅛ and ¼ inches thick.
- Next, cut treats out from the dough with a cookie cutter. I enjoy using different shape cutters to make it fun for my dog. But let’s be real here. That last part is mostly just fun for me.
- Place treats on a prepared baking sheet, then bake for 14 minutes or until the treats have turned golden brown.
- Allow treats to cool before serving.
Recipe #2 – Dehydrated Chicken Jerky Dog Treats
Just one simple ingredient! But incredibly tasty with a delightful shelf-life.
- Chicken Breast
- Trim excess fat from raw chicken breast
- Pat dry
- Slice meat into slices that are approx. 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick
- Arrange slices on dehydrator trays
- Set oven to 275F and dehydrate until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160ºF. Monitor and flip chicken pieces every 30 minutes.
- To help the drying process, leave the oven door ajar about 2 to 3 inches. A small fan in front of the door can help as well.
- Allow to cool before serving and store in an airtight container or bag.
Recipe #3 – Grain-free Salmon Pumpkin Dog Treat
Super simple and downright savory goodness; your dog will be thanking you for these next treats. And even better, they are incredibly healthy with their abundance of protein and fiber — great for the athletic dog or hard worker always on the go.
- 1½ cups coconut flour
- 1 cup canned wild-caught salmon
- ½ cup coconut oil, melted, but not hot
- ½ cup pumpkin puree (you can also use pureed sweet potato or squash)
- 4 large eggs
- For this recipe, it’s helpful to have a food processor — a blender or mixer can work well in a pinch if needed.
- Combine all ingredients together in your food processor and blend until a workable dough is formed. If the dough is too sticky/wet to easily form into a ball, simply add more coconut flour.
- Prove dough by placing it into an air-tight container for at least an hour in the refrigerator. A glass bowl covered with plastic wrap or just plastic wrap to seal will also work.
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF and line 1 to 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Remove dough from the refrigerator and roll it flat until it’s between ⅛ and ¼ inches thick.
- Using your dog’s favorite cookie cutter, cut out your desired treat shape and size, then transfer it to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the treats have become hard, and golden brown. Ensure your treats are completely dried out, as this will help them store and stay fresh longer. If treats are wet yet appear fully cooked, lower the oven to 200ºF and cook for another 10 to 20 minutes while watching closely.
- Once treats are cooked, remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool before serving. When stored in an airtight container, they should last 2-3 weeks.
Recipe #4 – Fruit Popsicles
Made too many treats, want to put a fun twist on the classic treat, or want to help your dog chill off from the summer heat? Then we have the perfect treat for you!
With some of the most nutritious fruits around and a whopping serving of highly-digestible protein, these icy treats are surely set to be your dog’s favorite summer snack.
- Frozen Banana Slices
- Frozen Strawberry Slices
- Greek Yoghurt
- Homemade Dog Biscuits
- Combine frozen banana and strawberry slices with Greek yogurt by placing them all into a blender and blending thoroughly. If the constituency is not runny enough to fully blend, simply add some water. To cut down on calories, water can completely replace yogurt — you’ll lose a lot of protein. This is also helpful if your dog doesn’t digest yogurt well.
- Combine mixture into individual popsicle molds and place into the freezer.
- Freeze for about 30 minutes or until the mixture is hard but not impossible to work with. When this occurs, stick your preferred dog treats into the popsicle mixture about halfway, allowing it to turn into the popsicle’s handle. Long and skinny treats, like ones in the shape of the classic dog bone, work great for this.