Natural food diets for pets are on the rise. Since labeling dog food as "natural" comes with some issues due to the lack of regulation on these labels, many pet owners wonder if it would serve their dogs better to make their own. The thought process is that, if you make your own pet food, you have more control over the ingredients. While this is true, and there are some fun ways to incorporate DIY dog food and treat recipes into your pet's diet, it's important to make sure to do so safely.
Making home-cooked food for your dog can be a fun bonding experience for you and your pet. We’ve collected some delicious tried-and-true recipes over the years that you can try! Please note, these foods are not meant to be complete and balanced meals — rather, they’re fun, natural recipes to cook up for your pet.
8 Popular Dog Treat Recipes
From burgers to fancy “drinks” and everything in between, below are eight of our favorite natural dog treat recipes that you can whip up as a tasty way to include your dog in your next special occasion! Remember, these are just treats: These recipes are not meant to replace your dog’s normal meals, so be sure to only feed them occasionally and maintain a balanced regular diet.
1) Blueberry Dog Pupsicles
Blueberries have antioxidants that pack a powerful nutritional punch, and many dogs like the sweet flavor. With healthy goat’s milk, plain yogurt, and tasty blueberries, these “pupsicles” are a treat your dog will surely enjoy. These also come together very quickly, which is great for busy pet owners. All you need to do is add the ingredients to the blender, blend them up, then freeze them in a mold overnight!
Why We Love It
We love this recipe because it is simple with a quick prep time. It's also a great way for your dog to cool off on a hot summer day. Make them in a dog-paw-shaped mold for a cute, professional-looking finish.
2) Burger for Dogs
A nice, juicy burger is the ideal summer treat, and this nutrient-packed dog treat recipe makes it ideal for your dog. It uses our Grain Free Beef Recipe as a base, then adds additional ground beef, parsley, rosemary, green peas, cheese, and healthy vegetable broth — which all comes together in a delicious, dog-approved mixture.
Why We Love It
Our team loves this recipe because it's such a crowd-pleaser — most dogs love beef! If you’re enjoying burgers as a family, mix up some of these tasty patties for your dog and let them enjoy them with you.
3) Cheesy Chicken Delight
If your dog is on the heavier side, you may need to watch what they eat — especially the added fat in their diet. Many dog food recipes are higher in fat due to the proteins and oils they contain, but you can still make food for your dog if you choose the right recipe. The Cheesy Chicken Delight Dog Food recipe is packed with lean protein and vegetables, so you can give your pet something delicious to eat that will not add unnecessary fat to their diet. The recipe includes chicken breast, cottage cheese, eggs, green beans, olive oil, peas, and our Whole Grain Chicken Recipe.
Why We Love It
We appreciate the lean meat in this recipe, and we know dogs love it because it is full of flavor. It also uses green beans, which add nutrients, as well as peas, which dogs tend to enjoy.
4) Party Hearty Birthday Cake
Is your dog having a birthday soon? Or maybe you are having a birthday and want to include your dog in the food and treats. You can celebrate with the Party Hearty Birthday Cake recipe! This recipe contains our instant goat milk, Whole Grain Turkey Recipe, whole-wheat flour, and tasty peanut butter.
Why We Love It
Dogs deserve treats, and they need healthy carbohydrates. This recipe gives them both, and the taste of peanut butter makes many go nuts! It's as cute as it is tasty — at least if you're a dog. Make sure you check your peanut butter carefully and avoid any with xylitol, a common sweetener that is dangerous for dogs.
5) Strawberry “Dogaritas"
It looks like a margarita, but it’s full of nutrient-rich foods that are safe for dogs. Don't worry — there’s no alcohol in this drink! It contains our instant goat’s milk, Greek yogurt, and whole strawberries. Mix it up using your food processor and serve it cold. For an added festive touch, you could even put it in a fun margarita glass and let your dog enjoy the cool drink with you on a hot summer day.
Why We Love It
We love this simple recipe because it's an easy, tasty summer treat. Greek yogurt is popular with dogs because of its creamy taste and texture, and the added strawberries offer a nice boost of vitamin C and antioxidants.
6) Easy Autumn Power Bowl for Dogs
Power bowls are all the rage in healthy dining locations, and we think your dog will appreciate one of their own. Add some instant beef bone broth to fall veggies, like butternut squash, carrots, and kale to make this interesting dish. It includes beef stew meat and a poached egg. Your dog will go nuts for the rich flavors in this unique recipe!
Why We Love It
The fresh vegetables and the rich beef flavor are what stand out about this dish. It’s so tasty, you may be tempted to take a bite for yourself!
7) Cinnamon Sweet Potato Jerky
The antioxidants and vitamin A in sweet potatoes make them a popular choice for dog food recipes. This one takes a unique take on the recipe by making a jerky instead of a baked good or stew. The thin jerky treats made from sweet potatoes are a popular choice among health-conscious dog parents. You can store them in an airtight container for several days for a nutritious dog treat option. A dash of cinnamon makes them a tasty choice.
Why We Love It
The fiber in the sweet potato is a great way to keep your dog’s digestive system on track. They also have a large number of nutrients for your dog’s health. The chewy texture of jerky also feeds your dog’s natural chewing instinct, making it a great alternative to unhealthy (and dangerous) options like rawhides.
8) Bone Broth CBD Gummies for Dogs
CBD carries many benefits for dogs, as it can reduce joint pain and even lessen anxiety and the resulting behaviors. Get some cute little gummy bear molds and mix up this Bone Broth CBD Gummies recipe. It features a pet-safe CBD liquid combined with our Instant Bone Broth. Add a little dog-safe gelatin to give it a gummy texture, and you have a fun, calming treat for your dog.
Why We Love it
CBD can help support pain management and behavior issues in dogs; this is a fun way to add it to your dog’s diet.
Food Preparation Best Practices for Cooking for Dogs
If you’ve never made your own dog food before, it may feel a little intimidating at first. The dog treat recipes we’ve shared above are fairly straightforward, but there are a couple of food safety best practices you’ll want to follow when making any DIY dog food to protect both you and your dog.
Keep some of these tips in mind when preparing homemade treats for your dog.
Watch for Signs of Allergies When Introducing New Ingredients
Whenever you introduce your dog to a food or treat with ingredients they’ve never eaten, it’s important to watch for signs of food allergies. Remember, even dog-safe foods can sometimes cause allergic reactions, so dog owners should watch carefully as they introduce new foods to their pets.
Allergies won't always present with obvious digestive upset like vomiting and diarrhea; sometimes, they manifest as itchy ears, paws, and skin. There can also be subtler signs like abnormal hyperactivity or lethargy, weight loss, or even aggression.
Be Meticulous About Cleaning When Cooking for Dogs
Cleanliness in the kitchen is vital — whether you're cooking for yourself or your pet. Clean before you start, so any potential toxic foods are not present. After making homemade dog food, you must also take the time to clean the area carefully. Even if the treats you made contain only cooked meats and eggs, the residue from the raw food may be on the counters. Since you are likely going to make your own food on these same surfaces later, be hypervigilant about cleanliness to prevent foodborne illness.
Don’t Feed Raw or Uncooked Meats
Even if your dog is begging, don't treat them to any raw meat while you're making a meat-based food or treat recipe. The CDC warns about foodborne gastrointestinal illnesses, like salmonella or listeria, which can occur when you prepare raw meat for your pet. This is why you won’t find any homemade dog food recipes on The Honest Kitchen’s site that use raw meat — it isn’t safe or worth the risk!
There are two reasons to avoid serving raw or uncooked meats to your pet. First, the food itself can make your pet sick. You do not want unnecessary vet bills because you chose to feed your pet raw ground turkey or chicken instead of waiting until it’s been cooked.
Second, handling raw meat regularly can make you sick. These pathogens live on and around your pet’s mouth long after they’ve finished eating and can easily be passed along to you while you pet or play with your dog.
Cook Meat to the Right Temperature Before Giving It to Your Dog
We discussed above that it’s important not to feed raw meat to your pet, but undercooked meat can be just as dangerous. Tufts University warns that improperly prepared dog food can have serious health risks, and some of that risk comes from undercooking the food.
To avoid this problem:
- Make sure you always cook meats for the recommended cook time and the desired final temperature to kill off any unwanted bacteria before adding them to any pet food recipe.
- Consider using the crock pot to make cooking meat easier (and safer). Add the meat to the slow cooker with a couple of cups of water and let it cook for 6 to 8 hours.
Regardless of your cooking method, if you are unsure about whether or not meat is fully cooked, use a meat thermometer to check its internal temperature.
Avoid Seasonings When Cooking for Your Dog
Dogs don’t need extra seasonings in order to enjoy their food the way that humans do. Avoid seasonings unless you are using a vet-approved recipe or one of The Honest Kitchen’s recipes that have been carefully designed for dogs. Some seasonings, like onion and garlic, are even toxic to dogs, and adding them in a dehydrated or powdered form increases the concentration — and, therefore, the risk.
If you want to add more flavor and texture to your homemade meals for your dog, consider adding flax seeds or chia seeds. They add fiber and nutrients without the risks associated with other seasonings. Use moderation even with these, and scale down the serving sizes to meet your dog’s specific and personalized needs.
Strive for a Well-balanced Diet
Recipes like those on The Honest Kitchen’s site should be treats for special occasions — not your dog’s full and complete diet. The exception to this rule is if your dog’s vet recommends a specific homemade diet for a unique health condition. In that case, always follow your vet's recommendation, but watch for signs of missing nutrients. If you suspect a problem, talk to your vet about approved supplements.
Nutritionists recommend a specific mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats for dogs, and they also have recommendations for dietary nutrients. These recommendations change as the dog grows, with different requirements for puppies than for adult dogs.
You also need to ensure the nutrients like potassium, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, fish oil, and others are in the right proportions to support your dog’s health. Unless you have a vet or nutritionist’s specific recommendations in hand while shopping for ingredients, you may not know exactly what your dog needs.
Tufts University also warns that the recipes most pet owners use to feed their dogs at home lack at least one of the major nutrients their dogs need. Sadly, the results of poor nutrition often don’t show up until years after the pet has been eating the diet. Nutrient deficiencies can lead to health risks for your dog, so it's important to ensure that their food is balanced.
For this reason, vets usually recommend feeding your dog store-bought food as their primary source of nutrition, and incorporate natural treats like the recipes listed above only for special occasions.
Be Cautious About Substituting Ingredients
There are many extremely healthy human foods, like avocado and coconut oil, that can be dangerous to dogs. Some, like grapes and raisins, are toxic, while others, like coconut, can cause digestive upset for dogs. If you are not aware of the full list of dangerous foods for dogs and you start making substitutions when preparing homemade dog treats, you could unknowingly hurt your dog.
If you do make your own dog food, only make substitutions you are fully confident are safe. For instance, avocado cannot substitute for diced sweet potato because many parts of the avocado (including the skin) contain persin, which is harmful to dogs.
Use trusted dog food recipes and only substitute if you are certain the food has the right nutritional profile and is safe for your dog. Check out our resource that breaks down safe and unsafe natural foods for dogs.
Try The Honest Kitchen Today
One alternative to making your own dog food recipes is using a trusted store-bought option like The Honest Kitchen. The Honest Kitchen uses whole-food, human grade ingredients with the right blend of protein, carbs, and fat to support optimal health for your dog. Each product is made from wholesome ingredients, and many are dehydrated to preserve their shelf life. Simply add water, and they are ready to serve to your pet. Our products are tasty, too, with recipes dogs love.
Looking for more dog-approved homemade treat recipes? Check out our full list of recipes to try.
Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.