We pet parents love spoiling our dogs and cats with tasty treats, but as they say, there can be too much of a good thing! Nutrition is the foundation of our companions’ overall health, and what we feed them can either contribute to or help prevent countless diseases and conditions. This isn’t only true for the meals we feed them every day; the same goes for their treats, too!
In fact, obesity is a common health issue afflicting our four-legged family members, and barring an underlying disease that causes weight gain, it’s usually preventable. And do you know what often makes pets overweight? Being fed too many treats!
Luckily, this doesn’t mean you can’t toss your pal a snack or two every so often. The key is to swap high-calorie treats for low-cal tidbits made from whole foods that are packed with nutrients. This will help support his overall diet -- and his health.
We asked dozens of vet and pet nutrition experts from around the world to give us their best homemade dog and cat treat hacks. From frozen “pup-sicles” to fresh veggies, these no-bake dog and cat treats recipes are healthy, easy to prepare, and more affordable than the store-bought stuff.
Frozen Bone Broth
Treat your pooch (or kitty) to a homemade “pup-sicle” made with frozen bone broth, especially on a hot day. Diana Farrar of Fifi & Fidos Pet Boutique & Holistic Nutrition Center in Texas shares this healthy dog and cat treat recipe. “Frozen bone broth with a bit of raw goat’s milk is always a favorite,” she says, adding, “I'm not anti-treats. I'm pro quality treats -- in moderation.”
Frozen Banana Slices
If Kitty or Fido is a fan of anything frosty, Christina Ottaviano of Woofs and Whiskers Pet Care in Pennsylvania recommends freezing some banana slices and tossing them to your pal. The fruit is full of potassium, as well as fiber and other vitamins. However, it’s also high in sugar, so don’t feed your pet more than a slice or two at a time!
Dried Sweet Potatoes
These healthy bites are tasty, chewy, and a pet favorite! Becky Mobley of Wild Kingdom Pet Supplies in Texas adds that they’re full of nutrition, to boot. “Sweet potatoes are great for digestive health because they’re high in dietary fiber,” she says. “They’re also low in fat and contain vitamin B6, vitamin C, and manganese, [and are] rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene.”
Does your loyal companion prefer something crunchy? Melissa Whitton of Most Valuable Pets in Kentucky suggests using carrots as a low-fat dog treat. They’re full of nutrients that are especially good for vision, plus pups seem to love the taste!
Other veggies that make wonderful treats for your four-legged friend include green beans, pumpkin, broccoli, zucchini, and cucumbers.
Janis Gianforte of Nupro All Natural Supplements says that chicken livers are “a good health-boosting treat.” This drool-worthy snack is packed with protein, however it is high in fat, so overweight pets should only get a bite or two.
Dogs or cats who are already on a raw diet can eat livers raw as long as its from a safe source, like a trusted butcher. The livers can also be cooked, which is the safest bet for non-raw eaters.
As mentioned, you can get livers from your local butcher or from the meat counter at a specialty grocery store. And the next time you buy a whole chicken or turkey, don’t toss all the giblets (pets can eat the gizzards and heart, too; necks should only be fed uncooked, so save those for raw eaters only!). So, be sure to set these organs aside for your furry friend!
We get it: sometimes, you just need the convenience of pre-bagged treats, and that’s fine! If this is the case, Johnna Devereaux of Fetch RI in Rhode Island says that natural, single-ingredient bites are the best dog and cat treats you can get. “Any type of naturally-dehydrated, single-ingredient organ [meat] , if sourced responsibly and from an animal fed properly, is a great treat,” she says.
Bites of Pre-Made Food
Another easy snack hack, especially to use as homemade dog training treats? Buy some soft, all-natural pet food -- the kind that’s packaged in rolls -- then cut it into cubes and stick ‘em in the freezer. “Try buying a rolled dog [or cat] food (like Redbarn's Grain-Free Chicken Rolls) and using it as a training treat,” suggests Kyle Goguen of Pawstruck.com. “You can slice the roll up into bite-sized squares, then freeze it. Use those as treats, and your [pet] won't even realize that you're just feeding him or her nutritious food!”
See, your pup or purring friend can have their treats -- and eat them, too! It’s just a matter of finding something as tasty as it is healthy, and of course, practicing moderation. Remember, there are also lots of other ways to spoil our pets that don’t involve food. Try “treating” yours to some extra snuggles, a long walk, a round of fetch or feather-chasing, or a new toy.
Our four-legged family members depend on us to keep them healthy, so it’s important for every pet parent to have some background knowledge on pet nutrition.