In this era of processed food it is becoming harder and harder to know what is harmful and what is not. Humans are becoming ever more mindful of what we put into our bodies and the move towards natural, healthy eating is gathering momentum. At the same time, more and more of us are looking towards a more natural way of eating for our pets, aware that many mass produced pet foods may contain additives and chemicals, as well as low quality, low grade ‘animal derivatives’ which are potentially harming our animals and even possibly shortening their lifespan. Even dog treats can contain these unnatural ingredients and those which are healthier are quite often much more expensive.
So a good way of ensuring our dogs get to eat healthily is to cook for them. Many dog treats can be made at home using ingredients we already have in our store cupboards or can be bought cheaply from supermarkets and high street shops.
Before you start your dog on his new healthy eating regime of home-made treats, here are a couple of things you need to think about first. Number one is his calorie intake. If you want to feed him extra treats be aware that you will need to reduce proportionally the amount of food you give him at feeding time. Treats can quickly increase the calories leading to your pooch becoming overweight, with attendant problems. So watch the intake! This is especially important for smaller dogs or senior dogs, who may not be able to burn off the excess calories.
Does your dog have allergies
Secondly, consider whether or not your dog is allergic to any foods such as grains or wheat, which dogs cannot digest very easily and which are often a source of allergic reactions such as itchy skin or stomach upset.
The third thing to remember is that some of the foodstuffs which we humans love are toxic for dogs. Chocolate in particular can be very dangerous; it contains a chemical called theobromine which can cause heart problems in dogs so feeding chocolate to Fido is a definite no-no! Onions, raisins, grapes, avocado and the seeds of fruits such as melon are also things which you should never give to your dog. This list is not exhaustive so, if in doubt, do your research first; your veterinarian is an excellent source of information.
Homemade treats don’t have to cost the earth to make nor are they difficult or time-consuming. For example, simple fish-flavoured biscuits can be put together using just 1lb rolled oats, 8 fl oz fish stock (preferably reduced salt) and 2½ grated parmesan cheese. Simply mix together, roll out to about ½” wide then cut into shapes and bake on a baking sheet for about 30 minutes at 190C/375F/Gas mark 5. Store in a refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Ingredients to use
You can use common store-cupboard ingredients like rice (brown is best), rolled oats, honey, cheese and peanut butter. The fruit and vegetables that we eat are equally good for our dogs; sweet potato, carrots, peas, butternut squash, green beans, any (pitted or non-seeded) fruit. If your dog decides he likes these things then mix away! You could have fun experimenting with making up your own recipes and many home-made treats are easy to store using good airtight containers, and are excellent for taking with you on days away.
So try it; your dog deserves good quality treats doesn’t he?