Homemade Sweet Potato Treats
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Food & Nutrition

Homemade Sweet Potato Dog Treats

We go through a lot of dog treats in our house. A lot. I may be well educated on how to create a happy, healthy lifestyle for your dog, but I've never said I wasn't a pushover. I mean, it's not like my dogs aren't well behaved and trained, so it's ok if they get a treat every single time they go inside or outside, or before bed, or into their kennels, or if they go and stare adorably at the treat container...

Fortunately, all of the brands and varieties that I purchase have great ingredients that supplement their regular food, so I feel good feeding them to Jackson and Tinkerbell. With my strict criteria for treats, though, it can be extremely expensive to purchase organic, grain free options, and you can easily spend over $100 a month on just treats. Enter...the food dehydrator!

It wasn't too big of an ah-ha moment when I stood and looked at the bags of sweet potato chips, carrot chips, and green bean chips in the healthy pet product store selling for $8 and up and realized, "hey, I could make those in that food dehydrator that's  collecting dust in our cabinet!"

So far we have just done sweet potatoes and carrots, but I will be adding other options like green beans, spinach, and kale soon. And yes, my dogs adore all of those and many other fruits and vegetables, which I've blogged about before: Jackson and Tinkerbell's Top 7 Produce Picks.

Here is the super easy process for making your own dehydrated treats!

I prefer to peel the potatoes and use a kitchen mandolin to slice them because it is easier to get a uniform thickness. You can slice either direction to create smaller round slices or longer slices. If you do not have a mandolin, slice with a knife and try to keep your slices the same thickness. Our mandolin is ancient and scary; please get one with more safety features than this! 

Jax and Tink like to hover as soon as I start peeling...

If using a kitchen mandolin, make sure you use the accompanying safety holder so you do not remove any human parts. 

All sliced and ready to be dehydrated! 

Place slices in a food dehydrator, placing larger pieces toward the bottom. If you do not have a food dehydrator you can use your oven at around 140 degrees or your lowest setting. 

During the dehydration process, I suggest checking on them and moving the trays around depending how each layer is cooking. 

Viola! A few hours ready your treats are ready to give to your dog! I store in food storage containers right by the door to our yard.

This blog contains affiliate posts:

When you shop through an affiliate link, I receive a small commission from the merchant in return for merchant or product recommendations. Your price does not change and I never have access to your financial information, order information, or contact information. Your shopping experience remains the same as if you were to go directly to the website.

Advertisements
How Much To Feed Your Dog
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Food & Nutrition

How Much To Feed Your Dog

How Much To Feed Your Dog

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

How Much To Feed Your DogThe other day I came across a conversation in a Labrador Retriever focused Facebook group in which a dog owner was asking fellow dog owners how much they fed their dogs. Their puppy was still growing and they were not sure if he was gaining too much weight too quickly and if they were feeding him an appropriate amount of food or if they should pull back his food intake.

IMG_3199I watched the conversation continue as different owners chimed in with the number of cups that they fed to their own Labrador Retrievers as puppies and as adults. Some owners said that they fed three cups split into two meals, others fed four cups of food, others gave two cups. What I found interesting was that nobody mentioned the number of calories that they fed their dogs or took into consideration the brand and formula of pet food that they were each feeding, meaning that their answers were not even remotely close to being helpful for the particular dog owner. It was like comparing apples to cucumbers for the dog owner who had asked the question. Of course this made me wonder how many other dog owners struggle with this question.

Jackson and Tinkerbell both consume roughly 1797 kcals per day, split into three eight once cup servings. Most adult dogs do not get three meals a day but mine are creatures of habit and we just kept on that schedule after puppyhood. In fact, they know the phrase “puppy lunch” quite well and know that it happens at 11:30 on the dot. This amount is perfect for them in the winter months. Tink weighs in around 65 pounds which is perfect for her and Jackson is around 78. They both have a nicely tucked up waist and a lean layer of fat over their rib cages which is ideal for their breed, neither too skinny nor too fat.

Think of kcals as you would think of the number of calories in a serving of human food. A serving of dog food is measured as an 8 ounce measuring cup, so instead of 140 calories for your container of human yogurt, you will see “Kcals per cup” on your dog food bag or manufacturer website. If you want a very detailed explanation of how Kcals are actually calculated you can find it at the Association of American Feed Control Officials, otherwise known as the AAFCO. Since pet food manufacturers have to provide the information, as well as the guaranteed analysis of other nutritional  information, you can just go with the information that is provided instead of figuring it out on your own. It is an interesting read, though, if you have the time.

Brands of food vary dramatically in how many kcals per cup are in their food. I am a committed customer of holistic, organic dog food Canine Caviar, which has around 599 kcals per cup in most of its formulas with the exception of their Special Needs formula, which is just one of the many things that I love about their food. A low quality food like Purina Beneful Originals in beef flavor has 333 kcals per cup, so you would have to feed your dog nearly twice as much of that food in order to match the kcals per day that I feed in Canine Caviar. Zignature Whitefish formula, which is my backup brand for Jackson and Tinkerbell has 424 kcals/cup so I have to increase their portions each day to meet the same caloric count if I feed them that food.

Here are some other brands of food and their kcals/cup:

Wellness Complete Health Adult Deboned Chicken & Chicken Meal Recipe: 386

Fromm Four Star Nutritionals Whitefish & Potato: 360

Hill’s Science Diet Advanced Fitness: 363

Royal Canin Labrador Retriever Adult: 276

Nutro High Endurance Adult Dog Food: 365

Each brand should have feeding guidelines on the bag for a variety of activity levels. It is important to be honest with yourself on how active your dog truly is and also monitor your dog’s weight carefully throughout her life to ensure that she is growing at an appropriate pace during her puppy years and is neither underweight nor overweight as an adult. It is likely that you will need to adjust the number of kcals that you feed your dog as he/she goes through different phases of life and sometimes at different times throughout the year. For example a hunting dog will burn more calories during duck or pheasant season than when just hanging with the family in front of the fireplace. IMG_3200

With both Jackson and Tinkerbell we hit a point where their puppy metabolism slowed and I had to reduce their calories accordingly as they gained more than the desired “layer of fat” between their rib cage and skin. This happened with each of them as they left puppyhood and became adult dogs. I have also learned that they are far more active in the fall, winter and spring than they are during summer, so I reduce their kcals slightly during the summer months when the Chicagoland heat and humidity soars and they take up their residency on top of the air conditioning vents. Usually cutting down to a half a cup at puppy lunch and leaving their breakfast and dinner the same works just fine. I signed a “No Fat Labs” promise when I picked both of my puppies up and I make sure that I abide by it for their overall health.

If you are raising a puppy that you purchased from a professional breeder, go with the guidelines on your bag of food but also make sure that you check with your breeder to find out how much to feed and how quickly your puppy should grow.  Exemplary breeders should be more than happy to answer these questions and provide information on nutrition and other topics throughout your dog’s entire life.

The rate of growth is particularly important for large breed puppies who could have joint issues from too many calories and growing too quickly or becoming too heavy while their joints are growing. You can also ask your veterinarian during your first puppy visit, which should occur within days after bringing that puppy home, and then consult about your puppy’s weight and progress at each of your subsequent puppy vaccination appointments.

IMG_3198Another very interesting resource is a Google Hangout that I was fortunate to participate in with Jeff Baker, the founder and President of Canine Caviar, when I was a content writer for them. He shares what I consider to be extremely interesting information on how the amount of food that you feed to small breed puppies can impact their colon and cause incontinence or colon issues. He also talks about how you can gauge whether or not your puppy is growing too quickly by whether or not their paws turn out to the side or face front.

A great resource on how many calories to feed your dog can be found on the Dog Food Advisor website using their Dog Food Calculator. Also check out their page about How To Determine Your Dog’s Ideal Weight. 

Thank you for reading and following me. Love, Laugh, Woof, and give your dog a tummy rub from me.

 

 

Fruits and Veggies for Dogs: Jackson & Tinkerbell's Top 7 Produce Picks
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Food & Nutrition

Fruits and Veggies for Dogs: Jackson & Tinkerbell’s Top 7 Produce Picks

Fruits and Veggies for Dogs: Jackson & Tinkerbell’s Top 7 Produce Picks

By Lynn Stacy-Smith

Fruits and Veggies for Dogs: Jackson & Tinkerbell's Top 7 Produce PicksYesterday was National Biscuit Day and I shared my favorite and trusted brands of dog treats, so today is a perfect time to share some of Jackson and Tinkerbell’s favorite fruits and veggies for dogs. My teenagers joke that our dogs are “nerds” of the dog world because they beg for things like kale and cucumber slices but don’t even wake from their slumber if we cook a nice juicy steak or burgers on the grill.

It doesn’t help that I do not allow the dogs to eat wheat, corn, soy, white potatoes, chicken, any other poultry products, beef, or any of the more “mainstream” brands of food or treats that you might find at a big box retailer. By-products and anything with the word “animal” is a huge no-no in this house and I have not shopped at big box stores for pet products for over six years. Part of this list of things they cannot have is due to food sensitivities in one or the other dog, and part is simply because I am extremely cautious with what they are allowed to ingest. Losing two dogs in a row to cancer will do that to a dog owner.

Here are the produce department items that send Jax and Tink racing into the kitchen waiting for their portion to be handed to them or for something to drop onto the floor. These are Jackson & Tinkerbell’s Top 7 Produce Picks:

1. Kale, spinach & green leaf lettuce: I make my salads with my own mix of kale, spinach and green leaf lettuce and both dogs come running into the kitchen the moment they smell the greens coming out of the fridge. They stand patiently, one dog on each side of me, eyes firmly on the counter top, and I had them small bunches of leaves that they wolf down happily. Sometimes I will put a handful into their bowls like their very own salad. I try not to do this when any other humans are around; they already think I’m a bit dog crazy so the last thing I need them to catch me doing is making the dogs a salad.

2. Cucumber slices: I can eat just plain slices of cucumbers as a yummy snack and so can the dogs. They were particularly happy the summers we grew our own in our veggie garden. According to Modern Dog Magazine, cucumbers are good sources of calcium, potassium, and beta-carotene.

dog eating carrot
photo credit: Canopener Sally Carrots, oh yum. via photopin (license)

3. Carrots: Carrots are legendary as dog treats, and according to the American Kennel Club, they provide some dental benefits with their crunchy texture and contain vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. Jax and Tink know the word “carrot” very well, to the point that it is almost a reliable recall word. Carrots make an easy to purchase treat when running to the local healthy pet store is not convenient as you can pick up a bag of organic mini carrots at most stores.

4. Bell peppers: Red, yellow and orange bell peppers are right up there with cucumbers as veggies that I love to just eat plain. They are one of my favorite nearly zero calorie treats for me, and the dogs love them too. Just don’t give your dogs any hot peppers, only sweet bell peppers are ok.

5. Bananas: I have officially given up any hope of eating an entire banana on my own, and that’s just fine because there’s nobody I’d rather share it with than Jax and Tink. In fact, on those days when they are so interested in the smells of the yard that they come down with the “selective hearing” that Labradors are prone to get, all I have to say is “Who wants to share a banana with me?” and they will run as fast as they can to the kitchen door while I hope that nobody ate that last banana that was on the counter earlier.

6. Watermelon: We eat a lot of watermelon in this house. Every last one of us loves it and the dogs are no different. We will cut a huge melon into chunks and put it into a massive Tupperware bowl. It usually lasts two days and you end up with two dogs sitting in front of you with drool streaming out of their mouths while you eat it. Pavlov’s dogs had nothing on these two! Just make sure you take the seeds out before giving any to your dog.

7. Celery with peanut butter: Ants on a log are a holiday tradition in our house. Jax and Tink are obsessed with peanut butter so we’ve started making them their own ant-less (aka raisin free) version on Thanksgiving and other holidays. I limit them to one or two small pieces each, though. And always make sure your peanut butter does not contain the potentially deadly fake sweetener xylitol!

Jax and Tink have enjoyed strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, cooked sweet potatoes and green beans from time to time, although not enough to recognize them by smell like the seven items listed above. Tinkerbell is hilarious with blueberries and an odd cherry tomato here and there because of the shape and texture. She spits it out, rolls it around, tries again, looks at Jackson as if to say, “really, I’m supposed to eat this?” before finally consuming the fruit.

Remember that all dogs are different and some will love fruits and veggies as snacks and others will not. Always research whether a dog can safely consume an item before giving it to them as not all fruits and veggies are safe for canine consumption. Here is a nice list from Trupanion so you can make your dogs part of the club of canines who enjoy dog friendly produce.

 

 

Photo credit, Carrots oh yum, photo credit: Canopener Sally Carrots, oh yum. via photopin (license)

 

National Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Food & Nutrition, Products & Places I Love For Dogs

National Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day: Jax and Tink’s Five Favorite Brands

National Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day: Jax and Tink’s Five Favorite Brands

By Lynn Stacy-Smith

National Dog Biscuit Appreciation DayToday is National Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day! If it seems like I’ve had a lot of “national (fill in the blank) day” posts, you are correct. February is chock full of them. Some are for extremely important educational topics and some, like this one, are just plain fun!

Dog treats do serve a function when used for training. In addition to training and getting your dog’s attention, most dogs just love to have a little treat here and there. Since chewing crunchy food can help keep dogs’ teeth clean you might get a few dental benefits out of larger biscuits.

On the downside, treat calories do add up, so make sure you incorporate those calories into your dog’s day and adjust their amount of food accordingly. Treat ingredients matter and it is important to avoid allergens in treats just like you do in your dog’s food, reading labels carefully and thoroughly. And just like food, the quality of treats varies wildly across brands, so make sure you are looking for companies with a good reputation and quality ingredients, made in the United States.

“Did you say fish cookies??”

Jackson and Tinkerbell, typical Labradors who love, love, love to eat, are dog biscuit connoisseurs. They love to train for treats, they get treats when they come inside, when they go into their crates, and before bed. (I told you I’m an expert dog owner, I never said I wasn’t a pushover!) We even have a little series of tricks that they do at bedtime, both sitting side by side on our human bed and showing us Shake Hands, High Five, Speak, and Touch, in which they reach up and touch our hand with their noses.

Here are some of our favorite trusted brands that Jackson and Tinkerbell give four paws up and a wagging tail and get my approval as a careful dog mom:

Dogs Love Kale: My dogs love kale. My teenagers joke with me that our dogs are nerdy dogs because they don’t beg for meat or normal things, but the moment I start to make a salad they come running into the kitchen, at which point I give them dog friendly veggies, including kale. When I found this brand I did a happy dance and promptly ordered one of every flavor! You can purchase from Amazon in a single package in a variety of flavors, including quite a few that are made without chicken or poultry.

Fruitables: I switched to Fruitables for Jax and Tink when Zukes sold out to Purina. I use the Skinny Mini variety for training because they are tiny and have a strong smell. I buy the small crunchy treats for everyday treats. They also offer dental chews and meat jerky strips. Jax and Tink love the salmon strips! I purchase either from my local independent pet food store or through Petflow.


Fruitables Chewy Skinny Minis Pumpkin Mango Flavor Dog Treats – $8.99

from: PetFlow.com


Fruitables Crunchy Pumpkin and Apple Dog Treats – $5.99

from: PetFlow.com


Fruitables BioActive Fresh Mouth Grain Free Dental Chews for Dogs – $15.99

from: PetFlow.com


Fruitables Whole Jerky Alaskan Salmon Dog Treats – $10.99

from: PetFlow.com

Cloud Star: Cloud Star makes a grain free line and I like the Peanut Butter option for Jax and Tink. The Buddy Biscuits are larger than Dogs Love Kale or Fruitables and are more of a traditional biscuit size. These I feed less frequently but I like them because they give a little more crunchy chewing than the small options.

Canine Caviar: I feed Canine Caviar food and so I also trust their treats with my dogs. I prefer the Paddywacks which are a part of the buffalo “other” than the bully stick or pizzle. Sure, the dogs love bully sticks, but the thought of what they are is kinda a turn off for a lot of humans. I’d rather they chew on “other” parts.

You can get a huge box of them from PetFlow with free shipping!

Canine Caviar Buffalo 12-Inch Paddywack Dog Treats

from: PetFlow.com

Earthborn Holistics: I purchase the peanut butter treats and what we call the “fishy cookies” in our house. The fish variety has a very strong odor but the dogs get very excited for them so I can’t deny them their fishy cookies!


Earthborn Holistic EarthBites Peanut Flavor Dog Treats – $5.99

from: PetFlow.com


Earthborn Holistic Grain Free Oven Baked Biscuits Whitefish Meal Recipe Dog Treats – $9.99

from: PetFlow.com

 

 

 

 

 

Isle of Dogs: This is the newest brand that I’ve tried after stopping in to a more mainstream store to see what they had. After a very long time browsing the treat aisle and not finding anything I would consider giving them, I found these. So far I’ve been happy with several varieties like this blueberry option and the “Breath” formula even though neither of my dogs has a breath issue because of good nutrition and overall good health.