Here at Proud Dog Mom, we love sharing healthy dog treat recipes! That’s why I launched a YouTube channel, filled with how-to cooking videos. Plus, I even wrote an entire cookbook, Proud Dog Chef: Tail-Wagging Good Treat Recipes, that’s loaded with 60 gluten-free, grain-free, and dog-approved treat recipes.
In my book, you’ll find a section called “Why Homemade?”, which shares the top 3 reasons I believe in making your pup’s snacks at home. The following article is an excerpt from my cookbook.
Preservatives, by-products, and cheap fillers … oh my! Have you ever read through the ingredient label of your store-bought dog treats? While some are definitely better than others, processed biscuits, jerky, and chews usually contain questionable ingredients that your dog is better off avoiding. This was something my family and I had no clue about until we had a couple of health scares and started digging into dog nutrition.
I look back at some of the snacks we used to feed our dogs and I just cringe. I remember as a little girl hopping into the car with my dad and driving down to this small-town pet shop to pick up dozens of rawhide bones. We couldn’t wait to get home where we were greeted by a pack of happy dogs, anxiously waiting to sink their teeth into their tasty treat.
Growing up, my dogs loved to slobber and chew on rawhides, and we never even thought to question whether they were healthy for our pups or not. We just assumed they were. But you know what they say about assuming.
Today we know rawhides are covered in chemicals, pose a choking risk, and are linked to intestinal blockages. My family found that last one out the hard way when, about a decade ago, my mom’s toy Poodle experienced intestinal bleeding from rawhides. Thankfully, little Tina survived and went on to live a long, happy life. But there are a lot of dogs out there who aren’t that lucky. Needless to say, I don’t feed my Diego and Gigi rawhides.
Yet Another Health Scare
That was health scare number one for my family. Number two happened when one of my close family member’s dog developed a kidney disorder as a direct result of eating treats manufactured in China. Remember back to 2014/2015 when reports of toxic treats from China started flooding the news? Not only did the news station where I worked cover it, but my family was directly affected.
Have you ever experienced a health scare with your dog as a direct result of commercial treats? It sure is scary and makes you think twice about what you’re feeding your canine cutie.
What’s In Many Commercial Treats
A big problem with commercial snacks is their questionable ingredients. Cheap fillers—like soy, meat meal, and corn—should be left out of your dog’s diet.
Artificial colorings are another thing to watch for. While they certainly make treats look pretty, fake coloring and food dyes have been linked to a rainbow of health risks in both humans and animals. Some of the most talked-about risks include behavioral problems, hyperactivity, anxiety, allergies, and even cancers. I promise your dog doesn’t care what color his treats are!
Did you know that many manufacturers also add corn syrup and sugar to dog treats to make them more palatable? My jaw dropped when I saw sugar listed as an ingredient in my former-favorite chicken jerky strips. Just like how sugar affects humans, it can also lead to obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, inflammation, and cancer in pets.
Of course, I can’t forget to mention the various preservatives that coat commercial treats.
The worst part is, there’s no way to remove all of those unwanted ingredients once the manufacturer puts them in there. Rather than saying, “Oh well” and tossing your pooch something you’re uncomfortable with, just make them yourself.
Take Control Of Your Dog’s Treats
With homemade treats, you get to control everything that’s included (or not included) in your pup’s snacks—from a particular ingredient to the quality of that ingredient.
Speaking of quality, I personally like to include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in my dogs’ treats because research shows big benefits from the extra vitamins and minerals. When I feed my canine kids fresh berries and greens, I always opt for organic because I don’t want a bunch of pesticides sitting in their bellies. If 100% organic isn’t in your budget, I encourage you to use the Dirty Dozen/ Clean 15 list as a guide for when to buy organic. Additionally, if I’m making chicken treats, I opt for hormone-free chicken. When I use salmon, I go for wild-caught. These are all high-quality ingredients that you simply won’t get from a low-grade, fake, processed treat.
Tailor To Your Dog’s Dietary Needs
If your dog has a food intolerance or allergy then finding treats that fit Fido’s dietary needs can be a daunting task. The top three most common food issues for dogs are caused by beef, wheat, and dairy. But the list doesn’t end there.
If your pooch suffers from pancreatitis, for example, they’ll need to avoid fats like the plague. If your little one is diabetic, you’ll want to watch out for carbs and sweeteners—even natural sweeteners like raw honey and maple syrup. Only you and your veterinarian know what your dog can handle.
In certain cases, even if your dog isn’t allergic or sensitive to a type of food, you may still want to avoid a particular ingredient because of your own dietary restrictions. If a puppy parent has Celiac disease, for example, they may want their pooch eating gluten-free just to keep their household free of the controversial sticky protein.
By baking homemade treats, you can easily avoid any ingredient your heart desires.
May Save You Money
I don’t know about your spending habits, but throughout my many years of buying commercial dog treats, dropping $100 or more during a trip to the pet store was not uncommon. While a bag of treats here and a few bones there may not seem like a lot of money when you reach the checkout counter, all of those dollars add up. I’ve easily spent thousands each year on “cheap” treats.
If you’re someone who already bakes then chances are you have a lot of the needed tools and ingredients in your kitchen right now, meaning you may be able to whip up some custom treat creations without dropping a dime.