I can’t remember a time when supermarkets or even vets’ offices didn’t sell dozens of kinds of pet foods, toys, and snacks. But it wasn’t actually that long ago when pet products were uncommon and dogs and cats managed to survive quite well, entertaining themselves and foraging for treats along the banks of riverbeds—not your friendly neighborhood bank where neon-colored dog biscuits are ubiquitous nowadays. Even worse, it seems hardly a month goes by these days when some adulterated pet food ingredient or contaminated product isn’t in the news, most recently the pet biscuits and treats that are being recalled due to Salmonella contamination.
More healthy pet advice, courtesy of Prevention.com:
7 Summer Safety Tips for Pets: Are your outdoor spaces petproof?
Pets Need Pals Too! Get your best friend his own BFF
Games People and Pets Play: Make a play date with your pet
Feeding your pets healthy homemade pet food can get complicated since you want to address all their specific nutritional needs. But when it comes to the occasional snack, making healthy dog treats and cat kibble is pretty simple and allows you to choose wholesome ingredients, avoid potentially unhealthy or contaminated ones and maybe even save you a little money in the long run.
Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:
3 cups whole grain flour (plus a little more for rolling them out)
1/3 cup olive oil, butter, or meat drippings (most dogs’ favorite)
1 cup water, stock, or milk
Method: Combine all ingredients in a bowl, adding a little more flour or water if needed to make a smooth, not sticky, dough. Grease two cookie sheets or line them with silicone sheets. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out about a ¼-inch thick and cut into desired shapes (many cooking stores now carry "bone" cookie cutters), place shapes on the cookie sheets, and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes or until browned and firm. Cool and store in an airtight cookie jar.
Cats who enjoy catnip will go wild for these if you add ½ cup of dry or 1 cup of minced fresh catnip to the dough and roll it out about 1/8-inch thick.
Dogs and cats both love these fish treats.
1 15-oz can of mackerel
½ to 1 cup whole grain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Method: Mash the mackerel up in a bowl—juice, bones, skin, and all. Add the baking powder and as much flour as it takes to make a thick dough. Spread it out about ¼-inch thick on an oiled cookie sheet or silicone liner, using a knife or pizza cutter to score it into small squares. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes. Once cooked, break into squares, and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
What could be better than chocolate chip cookies? Dogs shouldn't get chocolate (large quantities are poisonous to them), but they usually love bacon as much as I love chocolate (and that's saying quite a lot). Considering that pure bacon is too greasy for them—and your floors—here's a great way to offer your favorite pooch the taste of bacon without buying expensive, artificially flavored and colored treats:
1/2-lb pastured bacon
3 cups whole grain flour
1 cup water, stock, or milk
Method: Cook the bacon over medium heat until it is crispy. Crumble the bacon into little bits and add the rest of the ingredients, adding more flour or liquid to make a stiff cookie-like dough. Drop by the teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets, flatten to about ¼-inch thick with a wet fork, and bake as for basic biscuits.
This easy treat is good for both cats and dogs. Sauté grass-fed beef liver or other liver in a little butter or olive oil over low heat until cooked through (no pink showing in the center). Let it cool enough so you can handle it, and slice it thin (1/8-inch thick or less). Spread slices on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees F, turning the slices over after two to three hours, until they are dry and crispy. Store in an airtight container.
Freeze meat stock or leftover gravy in ice cube trays. Offer one to your dog as a cool treat on a hot day. Many dogs also like unsweetened mashed fruit freezies or even just plain ice cubes.
Instant Catnip Mouse
If you have time, you can sew or knit a cute little mouse-shaped sack to stuff with catnip, but your cat will be just as happy with this: Grab an odd sock with no holes in the toe (every household has some), put in a handful of dried catnip, and knot the ankle for hours of free feline intoxication. To make your own dried catnip, cut catnip stems in the morning after any dew has dried off, ideally just before it flowers, tie the bases together with a bit of string, and hang the bunch upside down in a warm, dry place out of direct sunlight. When dry and crispy, slip a brown paper bag over the whole bunch and crush/rub the dry leaves off the stems into the bag. Discard the large stems and store the dry leaves in a glass jar or other airtight container.
Table scraps can upset your dog's stomach if he's already eating commercial pet food, but the occasional healthy snack won't cause too much damage. My dogs aren’t above munching on fresh fruits and veggies now and then; apple slices and whole raw green beans both have enthusiastic followings in our house.
Farm gal, library worker, and all-around money-pincher Jean Nick shares advice for green thrifty living every Thursday on Rodale.com.
Published on: July 21, 2010