More and more pet owners want their animal companions to eat as well as they do.
Home-prepared meals of raw meats and vegetables usually provide the best nutrition for man's best friend, says Kathy Blackshear a holistic veterinarian based in Ashland. But the commitment to cooking for one's dog or cat often doesn't extend to pet treats, she says.
"They're so highly processed," says Blackshear of commercially manufactured pet foods and treats. "And they're full of preservatives and chemicals."
The home cook usually can do better than all the gourmet pet treats on the market, says Blackshear, a "rather rabid proponent" of home cooking for pets since relocating her house-call practice four years ago from New Mexico to Ashland. She plans a workshop on the topic of cooking for pets this summer at Ashland Food Co-op.
Doggone good treats, in some cases, can be produced in the home kitchen at a fraction of the cost with ingredients already in the pantry. Caution should be taken, however, with ingredients bound for the dog dish, tempting as it may be to simply fill it with what's left of tonight's dinner.
Onions, for example, can make dogs anemic. Even a single serving of grapes or raisins can lead to rapid renal (kidney) failure. Fat trimmings can trigger pancreatitis, and raw yeast dough can expand in a pet's digestive system, causing pain and possible rupture of the stomach or intestines. Chocolate can make dogs extremely sick.
From three new cookbooks geared toward pets, here are a few treats — all made with "people food" — that cooks can feel good about feeding their dogs.
An entire section of Gayle Pruitt's "Dog-Gone Good Cuisine," More Healthy, Fast and Easy Recipes for You and Your Pooch" (St. Martin's Griffin; 2014; $21.99) is devoted to equal-opportunity recipes the entire family can share. Pairing creamy, cheesy spinach with heart-healthy salmon, Salmon Florentine would make any dog beg for leftovers.
Each of the following recipes has some potential health benefit, according to the authors. Plain, unflavored gelatin, for example, can help to prevent arthritis, arthrosis and other degenerative joint disorders in dogs.
Peanut butter is a good source of protein, vitamins and healthy fats. As anyone who's ever had to sneak a pill into Fido's mouth with a spoonful of the stuff knows, it also tastes good. Choose an all-natural brand without added sugar or salt.
A good source of dietary fiber and vitamins B6 and C, sweet potatoes make a great base for doggie treats. These easy biscuits get extra crunch from oatmeal.
"Dogs love to crunch on things," says Blackshear, who recommends some of the same snacks for pets that their owners enjoy: baby carrots and good-quality jerky.
Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. McClatchy News Service contributed to this story.