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Our furry friends are members of the family. I love making them homemade pet treats are a healthy alternative to store-bought treats.
There are several reasons why making pet treats yourself is practical, and a food dehydrator is a great tool to use. First, dehydrated pet treats are much healthier than store brands are. There have also been several scares due to recalls on pet treats in recent years.
Many store brands claim to be “all-natural” but typically contain unnatural ingredients for your pets. For example, wheat and corn are “natural,” but they are not natural to a dog’s or a cat’s diet and can cause health issues for your pets. Some dogs have sensitive stomachs, so by making your own treats, you control the ingredients that go in them.
Store brands often contain ingredients using antibiotics and growth hormones. Frankly, the only way to ensure your pet’s treats are “natural” and safe is to use free-range meats and DIY.
Homemade pet treats can be much healthier for your pets than expensive name-brands are, and the also can last as well. While the process of making your dog treats takes some work up front, it’s much cheaper and will save you a nice chunk of change in the end.
To be efficient, I like to set the timer on my dehydrator and let the treats dry while I sleep. When I do this, I will also set the alarm on my phone to make sure I get up and check them.
Some people who can’t afford an electric dehydrator prefer using their ovens to bake or dehydrate their homemade pet treats, but I don’t recommend this method. Besides, electric dehydrators are easier to clean and use less electricity than ovens.
Most ovens don’t operate at a low-enough temperature for properly dehydrating anything. If you’re dehydrating food, it would be best to use an appliance that designed specifically for the task at hand. If the price is an issue, don’t worry. Electric dehydrators are very affordable, and there is likely an excellent model that will fit within your budget.
Each pet has unique health and diet concerns, so please consult with a veterinarian for guidance on what you should be feeding your pet.
Making Dog Treats at Home
Did you know that substituting green beans for regular treats is a healthy way for obese dogs to lose weight? Some vets have gone as far as recommending vegan or vegetarian diets for dogs with a variety of health issues, including the concern over increasing toxins in meats.
While dogs in the wild have traditionally been meat eaters, domesticated dogs have evolved, and certain fruits and vegetables are now a natural part of their diet. Indeed, by consuming safe fruits and vegetables, your dogs will receive a broader range of nutrients, vitamins, fiber.
If you are planning on using any fruits or vegetables to make your dehydrated pet treats you will need to know which ones are good and bad for your pets.
Healthy Fruits and Vegetables for Dogs
- Apples (avoid feeding seeds)
- Green bean
- Sweet potato
Fruits and Vegetables to Avoid
- Raw and green potatoes
Making Dog Treats in a Food Dehydrator
You’ll want to be sure that your dog treats are easy on their teeth. Also, you should watch your dog’s caloric intake from snacks and treats. Your dog should get no more than 10% of his/her daily calories from these.
You also should avoid salty foods, chocolate, or anything with caffeine in it. Fortunately, dogs are not only great companions, but they’re also easy to please.
Here are a couple of recipes to inspire your pet treat-making creativity using your electric dehydrator:
Sweet Potato Chews
Some fruits and vegetables may not be “natural” to your pet’s diet but are safe for them to consume. Sweet potatoes are a popular dog snack with healthful benefits made by dehydrators.
To make this treat, start by scrubbing your sweet potatoes. No need to waste your time peeling them but do remove any discolored sections. I recommend about a 1/8” cut for human use, but since we want them to be chewy we must slice them at approximately 3/8”.
Note, the thicker you cut the slices, the longer they will take to dry.
Now, simply lay out your pieces evenly on dehydrator trays and begin to dry at 150’. With these cuts, it can take 8-12 hours for your snacks to be done but could be done in 4-6 hours. You’ll need good air distribution to dry these properly.
Dinner Table Jerky
Did you know that just about any kind of leftover meat can be dehydrated and used to make a leftover jerky for your dog? Seriously. I often buy more meat than I need because I find a sale, and then I can’t eat it all fast enough. This is the perfect opportunity to put that excess to good use.
Throwing leftovers in the trash is wasteful, especially knowing your dog will be happy to eat it. By dehydrating your leftover meats, you create a snack that can last for weeks. Just cut your leftover meat into even strips approximately 3” by 3”. The pieces should be about 1/8” thick.
Since the leftover meat is already cooked, you’ll want to dry the meat at a lower temperature than usual. After you’ve cut all your leftover meat, layer it on your dehydrator trays neatly and evenly and dehydrate at 75’ for 3-5 hours.
If you prefer not to use leftovers, you can make some human quality jerky from these recommended cuts of meat.
Dehydrated Bacon Strips
What food does a dog love more than bacon? Bacon is probably one of the easiest meats to dehydrate. Start with 1 LB of sliced bacon, and cut your strips into approximately 2 inch sections.
Sauté the bacon in a skillet until it has reached the desired crispiness. When finished, remove bacon strips from the hot grease and pad with a paper towel to remove any excess grease that remains. It’s essential because any remaining fat can become rancid if kept for an extended period.
Then, layer your bacon pieces evenly onto your dehydrator trays on top of parchment paper. Insert the trays into the dehydrator and let the bacon dry at 120° F for 3-4 hours, or until the desired texture is reached.
What About Cat Treats?
It’s hard for a cat in this dog-loving world. Still, there are as many cat owners who want the best for their cats as there are dog owners who want the best for their dogs.
Here are a few recipe ideas to get you started dehydrating cat treats at home.
Tuna Frenzy Nuggets for Cats
I recommend using fresh tuna. However, you can use canned tuna if you don’t want to cook. Since we’re operating with a view of our pets’ health, I think it’s best to use fresh tuna. After you cook your tuna, let it cool in the refrigerator before cutting.
Once you cut your tuna pieces, spread them out on your dehydrator trays and set your time and temperature.
Set your dehydrator to 120° F and let your tuna dry for 6-8 hours. Don’t be afraid to toss with a tablespoon of catnip to add a little flavor and delight to your cat’s dehydrated tuna snack.
Cut your cooked salmon into 1” by 1” squares no thicker than 2/8”. Distribute the salmon chunks evenly onto your dehydrator trays.
At a temperature of 115° F dry the salmon for 5-8 hours. Simpler electric dehydrator models will require periodic checking and tray rotation for even drying. It is important to invest in a more sophisticated model that disburses hot air evenly throughout the dehydrator unit.
Chicken Liver Niblets
Cats love chicken livers and they will love these treats. Use them sparingly though, only once a week at most as a special treat. Overfeeding liver to cats can cause Vitamin A toxicity, plus the may like it so much they become picky eaters. So save these for special occasions.
Cook your livers in a saute pan until cooked all the way through or boil them. Let livers cool, and lay them evenly on your dehydrator trays. Once ready, dehydrate the chicken liver pieces at 140°F. These guys usually take 5-6 hours to completely dry.
Recommended Dehydrator Features for Pet Treats
When shopping for an electric dehydrator, you’ll want to find a middle ground between units with the best features and ones with the lowest prices. You’ll want to get a dehydrator that gives you enough space to accommodate everything you want to dehydrate. I think 5 trays or so is a good standard for dehydrator size, but that depends on how much you will be dehydrating.
Some dehydrator units are expandable, meaning you can buy additional trays and sort of build up your dehydrator. I don’t like shopping that way. Just give me everything at once. I am willing to spend a little bit more than some because I value quality. I can still get a high-capacity, highly functional dehydrator with convenient temperature and timer settings for a very low price. After all, I say my electric dehydrator was an investment well made.
Featured Image Photo by McDobbie Hu on Unsplash
Other photos copyright KitchenCounterChef.
J. Allen says
Thanks for the tips.
I’m looking to save some money and make healthy dog treats at home, and appreciate your tips. Using a dehydrator seems like a good way to make your own dog treats.