Did you know that dogs evolved extra facial muscles when they left the forest for the campfire?
This was specifically so they could communicate with their human companions through expressions, including the well-known Mommy-I’m-so-hungry-dinner-was-like-daaaaays-ago-and-I-am-starving-don’t-you-think-I’m-a-good-boy-anymore? look.
Yes, that’s the one.
In addition to setting tails a-wagging, treats are an excellent training tool. And not just for dogs, but also for cats.
The only problem is that they’re ridiculously expensive: some of them cost more than the jerky and cookies I eat. And every bag seems to disappear more quickly than the one before, even if Fifi the Destroyer doesn’t manage to open the sacred cabinet door.
Luckily, pet parents have a pretty simple solution at their disposal. Just make your own tasty pet treats.
This is much less labor-intensive than you’d think, all you need is a good food dehydrator. The results can be stored for weeks to months in an air-tight container and, best of all, you only have to pay for the ingredients – you’ll never have to choose between pleasing your doggo or kitty-cat and staying within your grocery budget ever again.
Some of Our Favorite Food Dehydrator Treats for Cats and Dogs
Dogs most certainly recognize special occasions. They typically don’t own calendars, but they do get excited when you’re excited and they’re always ready to party. Why not include them in the fun with a snack?
Cats, of course, pretend not to care, but they won’t say no to a tasty nibble either. There’s every reason to think that they will remember your kind gesture and not, when the time comes, murder you in your sleep.
Jerky, Any Way Your Pooch Wants It
Jerky makes for an excellent doggy snack. Especially sliced thickly and with the grain, they actually have to chew it rather than just gobbling it down and asking for more.
Much like the human variety, it can also be made from a variety of meats (even fish, which is high in essential nutrients). Rover.com tells us exactly what to do, including suggestions for mixing up a marinade in case your dog is a gourmet kind of pooch.
There’s one important point to keep in mind here. Unless you want to scrape poodle puke out of the carpet or even make an emergency vet visit, it’s essential to get the internal temperature of your meat up to at least 140 °F while it’s drying. Most food dehydrators can manage this easily, but it’s best to use one that can definitely kill all germs.
Canine Apple Slices
Dogs are natural carnivores, in fact, several fruits and vegetables are actually toxic to them (avocados, green tomatoes, onions, grapes, etc).
Apples, minus the seeds which contain trace amounts of cyanide, are pretty harmless and even beneficial, though. Still, don’t forget that dehydrated fruit is essentially concentrated – don’t give them too much of this somewhat sugary dog treat.
Kimberly at keepthetailwagging.com describes exactly what you need to do, which isn’t much at all. Like with many food dehydrator recipes, all you need is a little patience.
In general, pet treats made in a food dehydrator are suitable for either cats or dogs. This isn’t true in every case, though: slicing jerky into pieces small enough for a cat is difficult, while the meat won’t dry well as tiny fragments. And good luck getting the average cat to remember about a large slice of jerky long enough to finish it, never mind sharing!
These flavorfully addictive seafood bites are just perfect, however. Excalibur Dehydrators shares this incredibly simple recipe, along with some pretty useful information on feline diets and the herbs they like.
Fruit Leather Treats for Dogs and Cats
Natural carnivores do require some meat in their diet, or health problems are sure to result. This doesn’t mean that they don’t benefit from the nutrients found in fruit and vegetables – in fact, they enjoy some of these immensely.
Just make sure that whatever you plan to feed your pet is safe for them. Then, as long as you own a dehydrator, a blender, or a food processor, you’re good to go with this fruit leather recipe tweaked specifically for pets. The nice thing about these animal snacks is that you can tear off larger or smaller pieces as needed.
Easier, Tastier, Healthier
All of these animal treats can be made in large batches and stored in air-tight containers for quite a while. This is fortunate, as you will probably end up “taste testing” more than a few yourself.
Making your own pet snacks in a food dehydrator has a number of advantages, especially in terms of cost. It’s worth thinking about all the bad stuff you can avoid feeding them, too: unless you buy your pet snacks from premium brands, you can expect to get plenty of preservatives, fillers like grain, and even bits of euthanized pets. What is certain is that government standards for non-human food are alarmingly low.
Assuming that you already own a food dehydrator, this doesn’t need to concern you. These appliances are useful for more than just preserving fruit – in general, all you have to do is slice up your ingredients, set the timer, and find a way to ensure your cat can’t open the door while you’re away.