Did you know that February 23rd is International Dog Biscuit Day? It is, and all across the globe, doggos are celebrating this all-important day because: TREAT!
But what makes a healthy dog biscuit? Heck, what makes a healthy treat in general? We’ve got the scoop on what your dog’s gut REALLY wants from its treats and some of our favorite recipes that you can make at home!
What makes a healthy dog treat?
Dogs are not that different from their humans. They love a good treat just as much as we do. Maybe even more. And, just like for ourselves, we have to be careful that our dogs don’t get TOO many calories from their treats. Overweight dogs are more likely to develop diabetes and that’s not good!
Too often, we’ll give our dogs two or three (or more) treats at a time because we love them and want them to be happy, but we really need to be more purposed in our treat-giving. (We also could stand to remember that treats are rewards, and don’t always have to be food, but that’s another story for another day!)
The reality is that a treat or snack should make up 10% or less of your dog’s daily caloric intake. Truth be told, we often don’t even pay attention to the calories in a treat, but we need to because it affects our dog’s overall health.
Healthy dog treats are ones that are low in fat, sugar and have no preservatives. And, believe it or not, they shouldn’t be super heavy in peanut butter—as many dog treat recipes are. Yes, peanut butter drives dogs nuts for the taste, but it also typically has extra sugar (or, xylitol, which is a DEADLY ingredient for dogs), extra trans-fats from hydrogenation (which can lead to inflammation and are NOT great for the gut) and can even contain aflatoxins, which can be carcinogenic and lead to bacterial imbalance in your dog’s gut.
We know…sort of surprising, right? But all the more reason to consider making your own healthy treats at home. Super easy and good for your dog too! Pumpkin puree or sweet potato can be used, but you’ll want to be careful to not use too much. The carbs are really just dense extras and they can even throw your dog’s microbiome off balance, though they are good sources of fiber.
Common ingredients for healthy dog treats
So, right off the bat, we can tell you the easiest treats you’ll find to give to your dog are the ones that come straight from the garden. Yep, baby carrots, green beans, cucumbers…your dog will like that you’re treating him, and won’t even care that it’s with veggies. Or, try fruits—bananas, watermelon and apples are always yummy to your dog’s tummy, but be sure to give in moderation. They don’t have added sugars, but they still end up as sugar, so consider that when you’re treating. IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t ever, ever, ever give your dogs grapes or raisins! They are toxic!
And believe it or not, dogs go GA-GA for popcorn! Just make it air-popped and with no seasoning or butter and you’re helping give some good low-calorie fiber. Rice cake pieces fall in line with low-calorie, whole-food treats that your dog will go nuts for, and you can be sure to be considered a treat. Many of those fruits and veggies are just what we recommend in some of our favorite healthy treat recipes too! Here’s a tip: choose organic ingredients when possible for the healthiest, least toxic treats. Does your doggy need a detox? Check out this article to learn how to flush its digestive system to get rid of toxins.
Oaty bacon balls
- No-sugar added applesauce
- Plain, no-sugar-added yogurt
- Pumpkin paste (pumpkin puree mixed with a tablespoon of wheat flour for paste texture)
- Bacon (crumbled)
Stir all the ingredients together and roll them in a ball. That’s it. Stick them in the fridge to help firm and keep them fresh and watch your dog go nuts!
Baby food biscuits
- Two jars (4 oz.) of baby food (we choose organic)–your choice of meat or vegetable, but one of each is usually a hit
- 2 cups of flour, wheat germ, spelt or rolled oats (you can combine those ingredients to make your 2 cups)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all the ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. Roll the dough out until it’s about ¼” thick on a lightly floured mat or countertop. Cut with your favorite cutter (bone-shaped are our fave) and lay on parchment paper placed on a baking sheet. Bake for about 23-25 minutes, or until lightly golden. Take out and let sit on oven top as it cools (to continue to dehydrate, or you can use a dehydrator for a few minutes too). Yields about 15-20, depending on your cutter size.
- 1 Medium banana
- 1 Cup minced carrots
- ½ Cup unsweetened organic applesauce
- 2 Cups of whole wheat flour/spelt
- 1 Cup rolled oats
- ⅓ Cup Water
- 1 Small sweet potato
- ½ Cup mashed blueberry
Once you’ve cooked your sweet potato (the mushier, the better) set it aside to cool. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mash the sweet potato and banana in a large bowl until nice and smooth. Add in the flour, oats and carrots and then slowly add the water and applesauce as you keep mixing.
This should give you a nice, soft dough that you can roll on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8th an inch. Cut that dough into strips and then bake on the baking sheet (on parchment paper wouldn’t hurt!) for about 25 minutes. It’s roll-up / jerky your dogs will love and you can store the strips in the refrigerator for about two weeks!
Some of the EASIEST and best healthy treat recipes for dogs are simply just the combining of some yummy fruit or veggie purees and putting them in ice trays in the freezer. You can find some really adorable tray molds if you want to spice things up for your doggo and they’re super easy to pop out any time and keep your dog licking for a while! Some favorite frozen treats are watermelon, mashed blueberry, and a banana-strawberry-yogurt combo. You can also put some low-sodium chicken stock or broth in trays with small apple cubes and let your dogs have a delightful combo of salty and sweet. Of course, no frozen treat would be complete without some Bernie’s Perfect Poop added! Delicious and gut-strengthening in one delish dogcicle!
And, if you’re looking for a raw-ingredient treat recipe that will have your dogs go bonkers, check this one out from DogsNaturally. It’s one of our faves, and sure to be a hit your dog keeps begging for. With chicken or ground beef, carrot and zucchini, what’s not to love?