Thursday, December 6, 2012

Why you should make your own dog cookies

By now you know I’m an avid label reader. I’ve gotta know what’s in everything I’m considering buying, and that includes dog treats. I’m often repulsed by what I see on dog treat labels. Not surprisingly, a great deal of unhealthy stuff like sugar, flour, colors/dyes, and preservatives can be found there, not to mention “mystery meat” which I’d rather not think of.

You might think I’m nuts for making dog treats for my dog, but here’s why I think you should make your own every once in a while:

·        Healthier – since most dog treats on the market contain questionable ingredients at best, those you make at home will consist of human grade foods that you yourself would eat. I’ve often wondered why humans would feed their pets things that are labeled “not fit for human consumption”. If a thing’s got weird ingredients that YOU wouldn’t eat, why should your pet be eating them? Even if you agree with me and feed your pup one of the “better” treats out there – like from the health food store - many of these treats still contain grains. I really don’t believe that dogs should be eating grains, and that includes wheat, whole wheat, oat flour and the like. See below for more on that.

·    Cheaper – let’s say you are trying to do right by your dog and you buy the healthy, gourmet dog treats from a specialty store, they are likely to be fairly pricey. Sometimes over $4.00/box. If you make them yourself, you can save a good amount of money using things from your pantry.

·      It’s easy – whipping up some dog cookies at home is like making a batch of cookies for yourself or your family. Hey, your dog is family, too! All you need to do is make a dog-appropriate batter, roll it out, use cookie cutters to make shapes (only if you want to), put it on a cookie tray and bake it.

·       Your dog will love them. S/he will also love that you made them. S/he will also love the anticipation of them as they bake. Just like you do as you wait for your chocolate chip cookies.

Store bought dog treats most often contain carbohydrates, which are usually the first ingredient. The reason for this is because they are cheap to use. So what are carbohydrates? They are foods composed of starches, sugar and/or fiber. Carbohydrates are the most common source of energy found in food as most carbs are broken down into glucose (a specific type of sugar). Some common examples are:

- table sugar
- honey
- fruit
- milk
- grains
- vegetables

Proteins and fats are the other two main sources of energy. Proteins do not break down into glucose (sugar). What’s important to remember is that dogs are carnivores...meat eaters. They have very little dietary requirement for carbohydrates. They do require high quality protein from a meat source. There should never be such a thing as a vegetarian dog. This is completely against Nature. Just because you are a vegetarian doesn’t mean your dog should be. Dogs need meat to thrive!

Most dog treat recipes contain some type of flour. Flour is made from grain, usually wheat, but not always. You’ll see whole wheat flour, rice flour, brown rice flour, corn meal, corn flour, oat flour, spelt flour...just to name a few. Some of these flours are gluten free, and some are not. Flour is used to keep dog cookies together. The problem is that flour of any type is made from grain and grains are not a good source of carbohydrates for dogs.

Flour is considered a high glycemic index food. That means it has the ability to spike your dog's blood sugar very high, very quickly, just like in humans. That will put a huge burden on your dog's pancreas over time. In nature, dogs don't eat anything made from flour. Flour is a processed end result of processing grain, something humans do (and probably shouldn’t, but that’s a story for another day).

Many dog treats also contain sugar. This is a serious no, no !!! Just like in humans, with their ever-increasing consumption of carbs, diabetes in our companion animals is also on the rise. Look no further than the carbohydrate content of the foods they are consuming. Diabetes is rampant in cats as well. How crazy is that? Cats are obligate carnivores! They have no dietary requirement for carbohydrates at all.

When making dog treats, or buying dog biscuits at the store, choose a carbohydrate source that is low glycemic. That means it will not raise your dog's blood sugar level too high, or too fast. For this, sweet potatoes and flax meal make excellent choices. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins and minerals and are high in fiber. Although sweet potatoes might be higher in natural sugars, the high fiber content regulates the effect of the natural sugars. This keeps blood sugar at a consistent lower level. Flax seed meal supplies fiber, lignans (antioxidant and phyto-estrogen) to fight abnormal cell growth, and alpha-linolenic acid, a plant version of Omega 3 fatty acids. 
Gluten Free Dog Biscuit Recipe

- 1 Lb ground meat ( lamb, beef, chicken, turkey ) Lamb and beef tend to be higher in fat. Chicken and turkey might be a better choice for an overweight dog.
- 1 large sweet potato ( cooked and mashed )
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder ( not garlic salt )or one large clove pressed
- 4 tbsp. ground flax seed meal

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mixing up very well.
Very lightly, grease a cookie sheet with olive oil. Dump ingredients on cookie sheet and spread evenly and flatly to the sides of pan. This should be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Bake for one hour at 350 degrees.

Remove pan from oven and use your cookie cutter at this time, if you want. If you don't have a cookie cutter, just score the cookie dough with a knife or pizza cutter, into squares. Put back into the oven and bake for another hour at 250 degrees.

This will dry the treats out. Keep an eye on your oven. The time could be more or less, depending on how hot your oven runs. The treats should be fairly dry and a little crispy, but not burned.

Allow to cool completely. While you’re waiting, I suggest cuddling with your pooch.

Happy Baking!

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