Making pet treats is simple and a fun project for parentally supervised children. These treats have no preservatives and must be kept refrigerated. The treats should stay good up to two weeks in the fridge or frozen for several months. If your pet has food sensitivities, omit and substitute ingredients as needed. These recipes are very forgiving! Remember, these are treats and not a substitute for your pet’s diet.
I start with this base:
1 cup rolled oats
1 ¼ cup hot water or any type of stock
Soak the oats in the liquid until softened and then let cool for safer handling
¼ cup wheat germ (optional)
To the base mix, add ¼ – ½ cup of any of the following: pureed vegetables, peanut butter, apple sauce, pear sauce, mashed bananas, dried parsley, pureed meats or baby food. Avoid chocolate, coffee, grapes/raisins, macadamia nuts, onions and garlic in dog/cat treats. To this, add any type of flour (rice, whole wheat, spelt, potato, etc) ½ cup at a time, mix thoroughly after each addition until you get to the consistency of sugar cookie dough.
Knead the mixture for 5 – 10 minutes on a floured surface until smooth. Roll out until ½ inch thick and cut with a floured cookie cutter. Roll thin ropes (1/2 thick) and braid into longer cookies. You can add chunkier bits like frozen peas or carrots, dried blue berries, carob chips, ground meat, finely diced fruit, carob chips, etc. roll the dough into balls and flatten to about ½” thick.
You can make sandwich or frosted cookies by taking cream cheese and adding a little plain or vanilla yogurt until the cream cheese is soft enough to use for frosting or filling. Change it up and add a little honey to the mix! Alternatively use a little peanut butter and honey blended together.
Note – do not use raisins, macadamia nuts or any food toxic to dogs. Check ingredients you add for Xylitol or other artificial sweeteners which are toxic to pets – many yogurts and peanut butters are now adding Xylitol.
Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 250F until dry. Check the cookies after 15 minutes and then every 5 – 10 minutes after that. This may take up to 40 minutes.
You can also further dry the cookies in a dehydrator.
If you are not going to use these in a day or two I recommend freezing or storing in the refrigerator. Since they have no preservatives they will mold.
To the base mix, add finely ground meat, a beaten egg and flour until you have a mix the consistency of cake batter. Grease and flour the muffin tin. I use a mini muffin pan. Fill cups half way. Bake at 350 until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Start with 15 minutes and check every couple minutes after that if needed.
1 lb ground meat (any type)
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup cooked brown rice
½ cup parsley
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup peas
Roll into small balls, place on a baking rack over a tray so the fat can drip off and bake at 350F until cooked through. Cooking time will be based on the size of the balls.
Dried meat treats:
Remove all fat from meat.
Slice thinly with the grain of the meat – less than ¼ inch thick.
Preheat oven to 180F.
Place on a wire rack over a baking sheet so the meat will not sit in moisture.
If you have a convection oven, turn on the convection fan.
Bake for several hours until the meat is dried and rubbery feeling.
Alternate method: Cut meat into 1/8 inch strips, microwave on medium for 5 or more minutes until rubbery – it may take longer. This works well for beef liver.
If you have a dehydrator, use this.
All these treats need to be stored in the refrigerator. Even if you make your own jerky, store in the fridge or else they will spoil faster.
You can make a variety of frozen treats using plain yogurt blended with honey, canned dog food, fruits or vegetables. Freeze overnight in an ice-cube tray or in paper cups (do not let the dog eat the paper cup). A few combinations to try are:
Puree blue berries, strawberries and blackberries with a small container of plain yogurt.
Strawberries and banana with plain yogurt.
Freeze your dog’s favorite kibble in yogurt.
Freeze small meat balls in chicken or beef stock.
Put a long dog cookie in a paper cup and fill with any of the above mixes. Make a Pup-cicle.
Blend peanut butter and honey with yogurt.
You can also take many of these mixtures and freeze in a Kong or similar toy if the mixture is thicker and will not flow out of the small opening. If you are freezing in a Kong, put a straw through the holes and remove before giving to the dog. You want to try and keep an opening to reduce the chance of suction building as your dog licks.
My children have enjoyed making treats for our dogs and cats. This is a great rainy day project.
Karen Peak is owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County, VA and founder of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project.