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Healthy Dog Treat Alternatives and Homemade Recipes

Since communication between humans and their dogs is limited, giving treats is one way to show your love and give rewards for good behavior.  Although treats are not an essential part of a dog’s diet, they can provide a supplemental snack during the day and even deepen your bond. However, the ingredients that go into many standard dog treats are questionable at best and could actually decrease the quality of your dog’s diet.

Here is some information about what is in dog treats, how to choose healthy ones that your dog still finds delicious, and a couple recipe ideas for homemade dog treats.

Photo credit: Michael via Flickr

What Is in Standard Dog Treats?

The most basic dog treats are dog biscuits, which are dry food products that contain carbohydrates, fiber, protein, fat, and other additives for flavor and preservation. There are also many types of meat-based treats with a varying array of ingredients. As you walk through the treat aisle of your local pet store or shop online for treats, you’ll be bombarded with options in bright and shiny packaging. Some dog treats are definitely healthier than others, and it all comes down to the ingredients inside that packaging.

Choosing Healthy Dog Treats

As a general rule, the more processed a dog treat is, the less nutritional value it will have. For instance, you’ll want to choose a treat with the ingredient “wheat” over “wheat bran” or “wheat germ.” Also, avoid treats with generic terms like “animal fat” and choose ones that specify recognizable terms like “chicken” or “beef.” Look for organic ingredients in dog treats because they are less likely to be filled with potential contaminants. If possible, it’s also a good idea to know where your dog treat ingredients are coming from because locally grown ingredients tend to be fresher and reduce the carbon footprint of your dog’s treating habits.

Overall, look for dog treats with the least amount of ingredients and avoid ones that have artificial preservatives and colors, chemical humectants, and glycerin. Also, look for healthy dog treats that have no added salt, no added sugar, no soy, no grain, no dairy, and no gluten if your dog has sensitivities or allergies. While not all treat manufacturers list the caloric content of their treats, look for companies that provide this information so that you know how many treats to give your dog without causing weight gain.

Commercial brands that provide good quality treats for dogs include the following:

Photo credit: leis bell via Flickr

Homemade Dog Treat Recipes

However, you’ll quickly notice that high-quality and organic dog treats usually cost considerably more than the mass-produced versions with more questionable ingredients. If you have a little extra time on your hands and want to know exactly what goes into your pet’s treats, you can also make simple dog treat recipes at home. Homemade treats can help you save money too if you buy the ingredients in bulk and make them last for a long time. Here are suggestions for meat-based treats and meat-free treats.


Homemade Peanut Butter Cookie Dog Treats


  • 1 cup oats
  • 2 cups flour (type of your choice
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • ½ tablespoon fish oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 ½ cups water


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix dry ingredients until smooth and then blend in the remaining ingredients.
  • Roll dough about ¼ inch thick.
  • Create shapes in the dough with a cookie cutter.
  • Bake cookies for about 40 minutes.


Homemade Chicken Dog Biscuits


  • 1 lb. cage-free chicken giblets
  • ¾ cup broth from boiling the giblets
  • 3 eggs,
  • 3 tbs. coconut oil
  • 2 cups flour (type of your choice)
  • 1 cup cornmeal


  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Boil a quart of water and cook the chicken giblets.
  • Blend the giblets in a blender with the broth, oil, and beaten eggs until mixed well.
  • Pour the mixture into a bowl and add the dry ingredients.
  • Add spoonfuls of the mixture onto a greased cookie sheet.
  • Bake the biscuits for about 20 minutes.
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