Homemade dog biscuits are a fun project for owners and a delicious treat for their fur-babies. True, there are hundreds of different varieties on store shelves, but many are filled with cheap ingredients like chicken byproducts and other foods that can cause flare-ups for allergy-prone pets. "Wheat, corn, chicken and beef are the big four that are generally frowned upon if you have a dog with allergy issues," explained Dr. Janet Hill, a veterinarian with West Lake Animal Hospital in Springfield. "Hypoallergenic treats are available, but they tend to be pricey and not all ingredient labels can be trusted," she cautioned. "You have to watch out for some of these boutique-type dog treats – there's not a lot of regulation and so sometimes those products are not as hypoallergenic as they claim to be. Pet food has come a long way in the past 30 years, but there's so much out there that it can be really overwhelming, so it's important to consult your vet about what types of food and treats are best for your individual dog."
Preparing homemade dog treats is an excellent way to control what goes into your pet's diet and they can be made with ingredients that you likely already have in your pantry. The following ingredients are considered safe to feed most dogs: apples, blueberries, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, oats, peanut butter that does not include xylitol (an artificial sweetener that is toxic to dogs), eggs, cheese and yogurt (in small amounts). There are certain foods that we humans love that are, unfortunately, toxic to dogs, including chocolate, grapes and raisins, onions and garlic, avocados, citrus fruit, coffee or anything containing caffeine, macadamia nuts and almonds.
If you're looking for treats beyond just basic biscuits, consider making up some blueberry yogurt blocks for your pup. Combine one cup plain unsweetened yogurt with ½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries. Spoon the mixture into ice cube trays and place in the freezer until frozen hard. Perfect for a sweltering summer day, these little frozen treats are a great source of beneficial probiotics and antioxidants.
Just as with our own human eating habits, it's helpful to be mindful of our motivations and habits when it comes to feeding our animals. "When people give treats and special meals to their pets, I think it's often more for our benefit as pet owners – there's a lot of emotion involved. It's easy to feel sorry for our dog eating boring kibble every day, so we look for other things to jazz up their diet," pointed out Dr. Hill. The bottom line is that treats and homemade goodies can be a fun and healthful way to show affection for our pets, and it's important that they're given in moderation and with a healthy dose of perspective.
The following biscuit recipes are vet-approved and simple to make. They're an ideal rainy-day project with kids and make a lovely gift for any dog-lover.
Pumpkin Cheddar Cookies
3 cups old-fashioned oats, divided
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
4 ounces grated sharp cheddar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place two cups of the oatmeal in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the oats are finely ground. Add the ground oats to a mixing bowl along with the pumpkin puree and grated cheese. Mix with your hands to form a stiff dough. Roll out one-inch balls of dough and flatten them into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Alternatively, you can roll out the dough and cut out biscuits using cookie cutters or press spoonfuls of dough into a silicone biscuit mold. Arrange on a greased or lined baking sheet and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until golden brown and lightly crisped. Let cool completely before transferring to an airtight jar for storage. Makes approximately 60 biscuits.
Bacon Peanut Butter Biscuits
3 cups old-fashioned oats, divided
¼ cup ground flax seed
1 tablespoon chopped mint or parsley, optional
¾ cup natural peanut butter (do not use any that contains xylitol, which is toxic to dogs)
¼ cup bacon fat
½ cup cold milk
Place two cups of the oatmeal in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the oats are finely ground. Add the ground oats to a mixing bowl, along with the remaining ingredients. Mix with your hands to form a stiff dough. Roll out one-inch balls of dough and flatten them into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Arrange on a greased or lined baking sheet and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until golden brown and lightly crisped. Let cool completely before transferring to an airtight jar for storage. Makes approximately 72 biscuits.
Ashley Meyer lives in and writes in Springfield. She stays busy chasing after her two daughters and their puppy, Disco, a one-year old Rhodesian Ridgeback mix.