How to Make All-Natural Pet Treats

Baking homemade snacks for your dog or cat is a fun way to show you care. Follow these simple recipes for dog biscuits and cat treats so you'll know exactly what your pet is eating.

By: Karin Beuerlein

Related To:

  1. Pets

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A Treat Is Just a Treat

Be sure that you follow some basic guidelines about wellness. First, don't make food treats a substitute for physical activity. "To me, a pet treat is a special event that may or may not have to do with food," says Tony Buffington, DVM, professor of veterinary clinical sciences at Ohio State University. "There are so many fat pets out there; simply interacting with your pet is a wonderful thing."

Tony recommends that treats make up no more than 5 percent of your pet's total daily caloric intake. "If you're going to stop for ice cream afterward, you should eat a little less lunch," he says, "and the same is true for your pet. If you're going to feed him a snack, it should replace some of his regular food."

Because treats should make up only a small fraction of total calories, it isn't important that they be nutritionally complete. Your primary concern should be portion control, staying mindful about ingredient safety.

Know Your Potentially Harmful Ingredients

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals maintains a list of problematic foods that you may want to avoid using in your recipes, especially if you know your pet has food sensitivities.

If you're feeding the very small amounts that are consistent with the 5 percent recommendation, you aren't likely to give your pet enough of a toxin to hurt her. Milk, for example, is often used as a binder in biscuit recipes, but in small amounts that shouldn't cause digestive distress. "The dose makes the poison," Tony says. "There are published toxicity levels for most of the ASPCA-listed ingredients, and often they're higher than what your pet is likely to eat in a small snack offered as an occasional treat."

Still, if you're worried about an ingredient, leave it out. The point of making homemade treats is to have fun, not cause stress!

Pet-Approved Recipes to Try for Dogs

Peanut Butter and Bacon Biscuits
Source: DogTreatKitchen.com

Michelle Johnson's website, DogTreatKitchen.com, is a comprehensive resource for making different types of dog treats, including recipes and tips. "I test out each finished treat on several dogs and if the consensus is that they don't care for it, I adjust the recipe until they do like it," she says.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 pieces bacon, thick cut, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/8 cup bacon grease
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flax
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup water

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cook bacon until crispy. Drain on a paper towel.
3. Pour the bacon grease into a glass measuring cup.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ground flax, wheat bran and baking powder.
5. Crumble the bacon, once cooled, and stir into the flour mixture.
6. In a microwave-safe bowl, warm the peanut butter approximately 30 seconds.
7. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the egg. Then pour in the peanut butter, water and bacon grease. Use a fork to whisk together the wet ingredients until completely combined.
8. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and pour in the peanut butter mixture.
9. Stir until combined.
10. Knead lightly in the bowl with your hands.
11. Lay down one large sheet of parchment paper, roll your dough onto it, then lay another piece of parchment on top. You'll essentially have a dog treat dough sandwich.
12. Roll out to 1/2-inch thickness.
13. Lightly spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
14. Cut shapes out of the dough and place on your prepared baking sheet. Gather the extra dough, knead into a ball and repeat the process of rolling and cutting until there is no more dough.
15. Bake for 15 minutes.
16. Turn off the oven and leave the treats there to cool for two hours or overnight. Keep them in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or in the freezer for up to six months.

Salad Treats With Yogurt Glaze

Source: DogTreatKitchen.com

Johnson recommends these for the weight-conscious pooch.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach (lightly packed)
  • 3/4 cup California mix vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots)
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic (optional)
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt, low fat or fat-free
  • 1/2 cup applesauce, unsweetened
  • 2-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Yogurt Glaze:

  • 1/2 tsp. plain yogurt, low fat or fat-free
  • 2 tsp. water

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Finely dice the spinach and California mix vegetables.
3. Put the diced-spinach-and-vegetable mix into a large bowl.
4. If using the garlic, use a garlic press and mix into the vegetables.
5. Stir the yogurt and applesauce into the veggie mixture.
6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.
7. Add the flour into the vegetable mixture about 1/3 at a time. Stir after each addition.
8. Knead the dough in the bowl until a firm ball is achieved.
9. Fold out onto a floured surface and roll out to 1/2-inch thick.
10. Cut treats into shapes with a cookie cutter.
11. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
12. Place the cut-out treats on the baking sheet.
13. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt and water.
14. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the cut-outs with the yogurt and water.
15. Bake for 20 minutes.
16. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Cherry Oatmeal Muffins

Source: DogTreatKitchen.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup applesauce, unsweetened
  • 1 cup frozen tart cherries, rinsed and roughly chopped

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Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Spray muffin pan with nonstick spray and dust with flour.
3. Stir oats, flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a large bowl.
4. In a separate medium bowl, stir buttermilk, egg and applesauce.
5. Pour buttermilk mixture into the oats mixture.
6. Stir just until moist.
7. Stir in cherries (no need to thaw, they can go in frozen).
8. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.
9. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
10. Cool for five minutes in the muffin pan on a wire rack.
11. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack before serving. Store in the refrigerator (not at room temperature) for up to two weeks or freeze for up to three months.

Pet-Approved Recipes to Try for Cats

Ripley Bites
Source: AmyBites.com

This recipe was named for the cat of food blogger Amy R. at AmyBites. It's a good template for biscuit treats for cats; feel free to substitute your cat's favorite ingredient (say, tuna or bonito flakes) for the catnip.

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Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. organic catnip
  • 1/3 cup dry milk
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 Tbs. melted butter
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1 large egg

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
3. Add wet ingredients and mix to form dough.
4. Roll out, adding more flour if needed, and cut into squares or small shapes.
5. Bake for approximately 20 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Store in an airtight container, or freeze and thaw as needed.

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Ooh, la, la, Oysters!

Ingredients:

  • 1 (3.75-oz.) can oysters
  • 6 baby carrots
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup plain, unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp. brewer's yeast

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place the oysters, carrots and tomato paste in a food processor or blender; puree until they form a smooth paste.
3. In a mixing bowl, combine the pureed mixture and the remaining ingredients, mixing well.
4. Drop by 1/2 teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet.
5. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until the bottoms of the treats are golden brown.
6. Flip the treats and bake for another five minutes or until both sides are golden brown.
7. Remove from the oven, let cool thoroughly and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yummy Chicken Liver Balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. finely chopped cooked chicken livers
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine all the ingredients, making sure the chicken liver is well-coated. The dough should be stiff, but if it's too dry, add a little more chicken broth.
3. Form the dough into pea- to marble-sized balls and place on a greased cookie sheet.
4. With the tip of a spoon, press a tiny indentation into the top of each ball.
5. With a spoon, carefully drip a few drops of chicken broth in each indentation.
6. Bake the treats for 8 to 10 minutes or until the bottoms of the treats are golden brown.
7. Remove from the oven, let cool thoroughly and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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