By Andrea Mykrantz, CVT

As many of you know there is concern surrounding several different brands of chicken jerky treats manufactured in China. Add to that the concern of so many recent recalls on various dog treats for potential salmonella contamination and you may find yourself wondering what treats are actually safe for me to feed my dog? Well, I found myself wondering the same thing and decided to start making some of my own dog treats.

Walk into any pet store around town and they will recommend bully sticks and antlers as the number one thing you should give to your pet. I know we have talked on this topic before but I really cannot stress enough the dangers of these products. A.) They are not food grade items; therefore, they are not inspected by the USDA or approved by AAFCO or governed by any organization to maintain any type of standards. Within the past few months alone, there have been recalls on pig product treats distributed by Target and Safeway Stores. B.) They just aren???t safe to give your dog. I compare giving my dog a deer antler, to handing a kid a dirty, broken glass full of juice to drink. Sure, if the kid is careful they can most likely drink the juice from the glass without an issue and if they???re lucky the dirt won???t be of any concern. Give your dog an antler to chew on and 9 times out of 10 they won???t have an issue, but is that 10th time worth the trip to the vet to extract the broken tooth or perform the foreign body removal surgery for the too big pieces that broke off and were swallowed?

Let???s talk about chicken jerky. Many dogs and cats have been affected by these imported jerky treats and no one really knows the causative agent making the pets ill. The FDA can???t issue a recall notice without a definitive reason for the recall. I???ve read that there are concerns with a particular type of plant (Jatropha) being used to make glycerin for these treats. The plant may contain toxic by-products; although conventional impurity tests being used may not be able to detect these toxic substances. So until better testing becomes available or another reason is discovered it is likely that these products will continue to be available and continue to make our pets ill or worse. What can you do to prevent your chicken jerky loving pet from becoming ill? Make your own! ??It???s is easy and way less messy to use during a training session than refrigerated pieces of roasted chicken. A basic recipe for chicken jerky can be found at this website www.dogtreatkitchen.com . I have found many fun recipes and some excellent general information about storing treats, places to purchase bone shaped cookie cutters, etc. If you don???t own a dehydrator try this:

Chicken Jerky Dog Treats (http://www.dogtreatkitchen.com/chicken-jerky-dog-treats.html )

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 F
  2. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  3. Rinse off chicken breast and remove any fat.
  4. Slice the chicken with the grain. This will help make the jerky even chewier for your dog. The slices should be very thin, about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thickness.
  5. Place the strips on the baking sheet.
  6. Bake for approximately 2 hours (see note below).
  7. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack until completely cool.
  8. Cut strips into bite sized pieces.

Storing: These homemade dog treats may not last long enough to be stored because they are so good. But, just in case they do, store them in the refrigerator for 3 weeks. Freeze any remainder for up to 8 months. Be sure to read our tips on storing homemade dog treats for more information.

Alternately, you can use a food dehydrator to make chicken jerky. You should first heat the chicken to 165o F to kill any bacteria before continuing with the dehydration process.

Another treat recipe I discovered on Dog Treat Kitchen???s website is this:

Winter Squash Dog Muffins( http://www.dogtreatkitchen.com/dog-muffin-recipe.html )

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375?? F
  2. Whisk together the oats, flour, cinnamon and ginger.
  3. Peel the squash and cut into 1 inch cubes.
  4. Place squash in a microwave safe bowl and add 1/8 cup of water.
  5. Microwave on high at one minute intervals until tender. After each minute, stir and test the softness of the squash.
  6. Once the squash is tender, drain the excess liquid.
  7. Place the squash, egg, oil and milk into a blender.
  8. Blend into a smooth puree, stirring when needed to keep the mixture moving.
  9. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the squash mixture.
  10. Stir together until combined.
  11. Spray a mini muffin pan with non stick cooking spray with flour.
  12. Using a tablespoon sized cookie scooper, scoop generous amounts into each muffin cup.
  13. Bake for 15 minutes.
  14. Turn off the oven and let the muffins cool.

Storing – This dog muffin recipe will keep in the fridge for about two weeks. You can freeze them for later enjoyment for up to 6 months. To decorate, let them thaw, or come to room temperature first.

Yield – Using a mini muffin pan, you’ll yield 24 little muffins.

Finally, one last dog treat recipe I thought looked fun for the holidays was this:

Dog Candy Canes (http://www.dogtreatkitchen.com/free-dog-treat-recipes.html )

Ingredients:

Additional flour for kneading

Instructions:

  1. Whisk together the flour, powdered milk and baking powder.
  2. In a small bowl, pour the warm water over the chicken bouillon, stir until dissolved.
  3. Whisk the eggs into the chicken water.
  4. Form a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the wet ingredients.
  5. Stir until thoroughly combined.
  6. Knead the dough for about two minutes.
  7. Add more flour until the dough is no longer sticky.
  8. Separate the dough in half.
  9. Form a well in one of the balls of dough.
  10. Add the food coloring and peppermint flavoring.
  11. Wearing food safe gloves, knead the coloring and flavoring throughout the dough.
  12. Cool the dough in the refrigerator for 2 hours or in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  13. Preheat the oven to 350 F
  14. Divide each ball of dough into tablespoon sized balls.
  15. Gently roll each ball into a “worm” shape, letting the dough rest when needed. Each strip should be about 5 inches long.
  16. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  17. Twist one plain strip with a red strip, and curl the end to shape a candy cane.
  18. Place on the baking sheet.
  19. Whisk the extra egg in a small bowl.
  20. Using a pastry brush, thoroughly coat each candy cane with the egg wash.
  21. Bake for 10 minutes.
  22. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Storing – Our free dog treat recipes do not contain preservatives, so they will need to be refrigerated. These dog candy canes will keep fresh for two or more weeks in the refrigerator. They also freeze beautifully. Keep them in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Yield – If you roll out 5 inch strips of dough, and twist them together, you should yield at least 20 sugar free dog treats.

If your dog or cat has special nutritional requirements you should always check with your veterinarian before offering certain treats. These recipes are meant to be fed to normal healthy animals. Also, remember to count the extra calories and adjust your dog’s diet accordingly. Treats are fun but we don’t want to cause your pet to gain extra pounds unnecessarily. Finally, there are plenty of safe treats still available over the counter. If baking for your pet is not for you just pay attention to the packaging and stick with made in the USA products that meet AFFCO standards. Above all else, have fun!

Special thanks to www.dogtreatkitchen.com for allowing me to share their recipes and associated pictures!

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