Celebrate Spring With These Healthy Dog Treats

These dog treat recipes feature springtime fruits and veggies. Bake up a batch!

For many dogs, spring is the best time of year — plenty of sunshine, more pups out and about, and interesting new scents around every corner. Thanks to a bumper-crop of tasty seasonal ingredients, spring is also a great time to whip up easy, nutritious, canine-friendly treats.

Wait, am I talking about making your own pet treats? Well, yes. Can I also hear you wondering why anyone would make their own, when grocery stores offer numerous yummy-looking options that holler “healthy” from every corner of the package? Well, yes.

That’s why I recently went to my local grocery aisle and grabbed a colorful box of canine treats marked “nutritious.” I won’t mention the brand name, but you’d undoubtedly recognize it. The ingredient list featured the following: wheat flour, meat and bone meal, beef by-product meal, poultry digest, salt, rendered pork fat, malted barley flour, cellulose, propylene glycol, added vitamins and minerals, pyridoxine hydrochloride, sodium metabisulphate, BHA, red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, blue 1, and turkey fat preserved with bha. Let’s break a few of these down:

Animal by-products: These ground/rendered/cleaned slaughtered meat carcass parts often include necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, bones, heads, intestines, and/or small amounts of feathers. Quality can vary measurably between batches; but in many cases, the parts are derived from animals that have been rejected for human consumption because they were presented to the meat packing plant as “4-D” (Dead, Dying, Diseased or Disabled).

Animal digest: According to the FDA, a “digest” is an additive that has been treated with acids, heat, or enzymes to produce a concentrated flavoring.

BHA: The abbreviation for butylated hydroxyanisole, a preservative that has been demonstrated through clinical research to cause cancer in rats, mice, and hamsters.

Cellulose: Used to add bulk to certain pet edibles, the most common source for this powdery substance is dried wood.

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Chihuahua cookie craving, by Shutterstock.

Sodium metabisulphate: Also a preservative, frequently used in the wine-making process. It’s been reported to cause hives, nausea, and difficulty breathing in those who are sulfite-sensitive.

Propylene glycol: Used in solvents, hydraulic fluids, and antifreeze solutions, this compound is added to certain pet edibles to keep them from drying out.

Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1: In laboratory tests, cancer risk has been associated with Blue 1. My vet mentions that Yellow 6 has been linked to problems with the kidneys and adrenals. Red 40 is under ongoing scrutiny for links with increased hyperactivity. Exposure to Yellow 5 has led to various reports of headache, dizziness, anxiety, and/or asthma.

Anyway, as you (cough, cough) digest that, let’s assume you’d like to give homemade treat-making a try. Does it have to be time-consuming? No. Does it involve lots of weird, hard-to-find ingredients? No. On the contrary — you choose the ingredients, so you’ll know exactly what your furry friend is eating. In fact, you can use these same human-grade fixings to make meals for your family.

Here are a couple of favorites at my house (along with previously mentioned Cheesy Salmon Squares). By the way, these also make pretty good people snacks. Seriously, sneak a taste. Who’s gonna tell on you?

Oven-Baked Peapods

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Cheese, please … adding a sprinkle of natural Parmesan is almost guaranteed to make these Fido’s fave. (Photo by Marybeth Bittel)

Springtime peas are a great source of potassium, phosphorus, and veggie protein.

Ingredients:

  • About a dozen fresh peapods, rinsed and patted dry
  • Olive oil spray
  • 2 tbsp. parsley and/or grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven/ toaster oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, then spray with olive oil.
  3. Spread the pea pods evenly across the sheet, then spray these with olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle with parsley/grated cheese.
  5. Bake for four to six minutes.
  6. Remove from oven, stir slightly, and bake for another two to five minutes until crisp.
  7. Cool completely and place in an airtight bag or container.
  8. Refrigerate for up to a week (though they probably won’t last that long if your dog is anything like mine).

Berry Good Bowser Bites

BerryGoodBowserBites
The before and yummy after. (Photo by Marybeth Bittel)

A bumper crop of berries are available every spring. The fruits mentioned here are safe for canines, but it’s always smart to test them with your pup in advance.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup plain, unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 medium banana, mashed
  • 1/2 cup blueberries OR strawberries (sliced/mashed if desired)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. honey
  • Dash cinnamon
  • 1-1/4 cup whole wheat flour (for gluten sensitivities, substitute tapioca or chickpea flour and adjust quantity to make the dough kneadable).

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven/toaster oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with wax paper, or use a silicone baking tray.
  3. One at a time, add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Stir and knead well after each new addition.
  4. Spoon up dough using a tablespoon (it will be sticky) and roll between your palms.
  5. Place each rolled ball or oblong about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.
  6. Pat each cookie to flatten, then bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven, cool, and place in a container to refrigerate. Makes roughly 10 to 16, depending on your preferred spoonful size.

Got any healthy, homemade treats your furry friend adores? Share with us!

Top photo: Treats by Shutterstock.

Marybeth Bittel

Marybeth Bittel

Marybeth lives in the Midwest with her wonderful husband, and her rescue dogs Grant and Maizy — all of them Heinz 57 mixed-breed types. A freelance writer and marketing consultant, she’s been rehabilitating severely abused rescues for over two decades. She’s currently working toward specialized certifications in animal nutrition counseling. Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her family Instagram feed.

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