My family adopted Lily when I was ten years old. That makes her sixteen years old now, 112 in dog years!!! The years have been pretty kind to her, and she still has her puppy moments, but she no longer can jump up into the beds, and stairs are getting hard on her knees, shoulders, and hips. Her joints are often inflamed, she has fatty tumors and cysts, and her eyesight is poor. She has been on an all natural dog food (Blue Diamond) for quite a few years now, but we still buy her the bad mass-produced treats that contain high percentages of filler like corn, soy, and wheat. They also contain tons of chemicals and preservatives that aren’t great for dogs, especially an elderly one.
For a couple years, my mother has been making venison jerky, without the seasonings or marinades, instead of dog treats. This provides Lily with the protein and nutrients of the lean venison, without added filler. She LOVES these, and other family members’ dogs go nuts over them when they come to visit. But, I thought I might take this a step further. Instead of just making treats that aren’t bad for her, why don’t we make treats that can actually benefit her as well? I bring you, my arthritis-friendly dog treat recipe.
Ingredients and their benefits to an aging dog:
I had never heard of this little gem of a spice until I began researching natural remedies for aging joints in dogs. Apparently, it has long been used in Eastern medicines (both orally, and applied topically!) and also is a spice used in a lot of ways like curry when cooking. It has a rich orange color and smells incredible. But it isn’t just a pretty spice. It does a lot of AMAZING things. Turmeric has natural anti-inflammatory properties, which is great for Lily’s arthritis and has been known to help with fatty tumors and cysts in dogs! It also has been said to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, and has antioxidants that are believed to fight cancer! In addition to all of this, it is packed with beta carotene, and can prevent the formation of cataracts! I truly wish I would have known about this natural herb earlier!
In short, Turmeric:
- is an anti-inflammatory (to help joints)
- lowers bad cholesterol levels
- is an antioxidant
- contains beta carotene (to prevent cataracts)
This is an ingredient you will rarely not find in my pantry. I try to keep a few cans on hand if I can help it. I LOVE pumpkin soup, muffins, cookies, pie, pancakes, and pretty much anything else you can do with that glorious vegetable. I recently found out (due to my roommates sick puppy) that pumpkin is great for dogs with upset stomachs! What I didn’t know, was all of the other wonderful things pumpkin can do for dogs! It is a great source of fiber, and can help regulate a dog’s digestive system. It is also a source of Vitamin A, potassium, iron, and, once again, beta carotene!
In short, Pumpkin:
- is a source of fiber
- is a source of Vitamin A
- is a source of potassium
- is a source of iron
- contains beta carotene (to prevent cataracts)
Everyone raves about the wonders of flax, but it is actually good for dogs too! As we know, flax seed is an incredible source of Omega 3 fatty acids. This makes it great for a dog’s skin and coat. Lignans in flax seed also contain antioxidants, and can act as an anti-inflammatory!
In short,, Flax Seed:
- is a source of Omega 3 fatty acids (good for her skin and coat)
- contains antioxidants
- acts as an anti-inflammatory
Every old person I’ve ever met loves oatmeal, and for good reason. It is a great bowel regulator (anyone who eats a bowl pretty much knows, like clockwork, that they’ll be taking a trip to the bathroom in about half an hour). It does the same for dogs! Oats are also great sources of protein and B vitamins. They also help calm nerves, and prevent tumors!
In short, Oats:
- regulate digestion
- are a source of protein
- are a source of B vitamins
- calm nerves
- prevent tumors
- Great source of protein
I imagine most people will be using ground beef, pork, turkey, or chicken, but I used venison. This is partially because venison is inexpensive and readily available (I happen to hunt, so I have a freezer full of it) but also because venison is a much leaner meat than beef, has higher percentage of protein, and is just better for you.
- Leaner than many meats
- Great source of protein
This recipe is extremely simple. You just combine all of the ingredients, mix thoroughly (mixing with your hands helps, which, you’ll note, is going to happen a lot in any recipe I post), form into little treats, and bake at a low temperature for a couple hours.
Pumpkin cookie cutter shapes!
Notes to keep in mind:
- You must store them in the refrigerator, as there is cooked meat in these and you have not added preservatives. They freeze very well, however, and you can wrap a week’s worth (sealed air-tight in a ziplock bag) and move them from the freezer to the fridge after you’ve exhausted the previous bag.
- These are not to be given too frequently. The amount of turmeric I added is consistent with a recommended dosage. It is recommended a dog gets 15-20mg of turmeric per 1lb of dog. Lily weighs roughly 50lbs. That would mean 1gram per treat (1 treat per day). 1 tablespoon is about .067 of a gram. If my recipe makes about 45 treats, I would need about 3 tablespoons of turmeric. Please consider these measurements if baking for your own pet of a different size and weight. It is also recommended that this treat be served with PLENTY of water, as it is possible for turmeric to cause dehydration.
- I am NOT a vet, just a pet owner. If you have questions or concerns please contact your vet before giving these treats to your dog.
- If your dog has trouble with hard food/treats, these can be baked for less time and made into soft cakes. Just bake until the meat is cooked. The treats may not freeze as well, and will not last as long in the refrigerator if cooked this way, but I know many older dogs have trouble chewing hard food and treats.
This recipe cost me roughly $10 when all was said and done. I probably could have found the ingredients cheaper if I’d tried harder, but I didn’t. For only $10 and a little bit of my time I have roughly 40 (more like 50) dog treats. That is at least equivalent to a couple of boxes of dog treats purchased from the store, but I know exactly what ingredients are in these, and I feel confident feeding them to my dog.
ONE MORE THING: I’ve eaten these treats myself! Yup! If they are good enough for my dog, they are good enough for me! I decided the best way to know if they were edible, and if my recipe worked, would be to eat them myself. Admittedly, this is not the first time I’ve eaten dog treats. My nextdoor neighbor, Sarah, and I did blind taste tests as children to uncover which of our dogs’ treats were actually the best. During those experiments, they were all disgusting. This treat, however, isn’t bad! It isn’t a prime rib, but I’d rather eat it than any meatloaf I’ve ever had (I despise meatloaf)! The tumeric gives the treats an interesting flavor (but isn’t too powerful), and the ground flax and oats add a great texture and substance. It is hard to taste the venison, and you get only a hint of pumpkin. By far the best dog treats I’ve ever eaten! 😉
Although it is too soon to tell whether or not the treats are having an effect on Lily, I do know this: She LOVED them. So did Pickles, my roommate’s one year old mut (and my sous chef throughout the testing phase of this recipe).
- 1 cup of ground flax seed
- 1 cup of oats
- 2 eggs
- 3 tablespoons of tumeric (measure according to dog's weight)
- 1lb of ground meat
- 1 can of pureed pumpkin
- Mix all ingredients together thoroughly. Form into balls and press to flatten (you can also flatten it on parchment paper and use a cookie cutter if you wish). Bake at 250 for 3 hours, or until hardened (the thinner the treat, the faster it will cook...if you make your treats thicker, they may take up to four or five hours to cook completely through. Keep refrigerated.
Some helpful resources: