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There are so many cozy things about the winter season, from steaming cups of cocoa to snuggly socks and warm cookies. Luckily your favorite four-legged friend doesn’t have to be left out of all the fun!
We asked Jim Carlson, DVM, and owner and holistic veterinarian at Riverside Animal Clinic & Holistic Center in McHenry, Illinois, about the ingredients dog moms and dads should look for to include in seasonal homemade treats, as well as what to look for on product labels at the store.
Carlson enthusiastically recommends seeking out fresh, whole foods. “Fresh foods are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and a great supplement to a packaged diet,” Carlson says, noting that it’s easier for dogs to maintain a healthy weight with fresh foods as a part of their regular diet.
“The thing that works really well for dogs receiving fresh, whole foods is the reduction in weight over time. When looking at kilocalories for pet treats, it’s astonishing how many calories, preservatives and fat conventional treats add to the diet. Using fresh, whole food is a great idea.”
Ingredients he recommends looking for are items such as yogurt, which provides “essential probiotic strains that help dogs digest food and feel more comfortable,” and apples and pumpkin for their high fiber content.
You can offer these foods to your dog in their whole form, such as yogurt “as a meal topper or a small treat during the day,” or a small amount of canned pumpkin mixed into your dog’s daily kibble, but if you’re looking to make this chilly season extra special for your dog, we’ve gathered some of our favorite recipes for the best winter dog treats you can make at home, along with some quality options available for purchase online, that feature these ingredients.
As always when making additions or subtractions to your dog’s diet, it’s best to consult with the expert: your family veterinarian. “Some care should be used with fresh foods and it’s a good idea to discuss which foods are right for your pet with your veterinarian,” Carlson says. “Super sweet fruits like grapes, cherries, and cranberry might be too much for your dog or cat.”
Try one of these easy, make at home dog recipes for your good boy or girl this holiday season.
You can make your dog their own sugar-free eggnog from Greek yogurt, an egg, and organic baby food! Just combine all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender, mix until smooth and creamy and let your dog enjoy. Remember not to add nutmeg because it’s poisonous for dogs (and cats, too).
For the canine version of comfort food, these peanut butter and bacon treats will hit the spot. Made from whole ingredients like eggs, natural peanut butter, unsweetened apple sauce and bacon, these hearty snacks are easy to make and your dog is guaranteed to gobble them down.
For everything from a cookie or biscuit topper to a dollop in your doggie’s own demitasse, this recipe for dog-friendly coconut milk whipped cream is the perfect special occasion winter dog treat. (Remember, real dairy can be problematic for some dogs.)
These dog-friendly gingerbread men are great if you’re hosting a party or putting out a spread where dogs will be present (you know they’re going to be sniffing around to see what everyone’s having, anyhow). Don’t forget the cookie cutters!
Dog-friendly and perfectly seasonal, pumpkin is a versatile ingredient you can put in lots of recipes for dogs (for more ideas, see this list). These cupcakes use gentle, safe-for-dogs ingredients such as oat flour and pumpkin for a palatable and easy to digest treat your pup will love.
You’ll just need a food processor and room in the fridge for these easy, no-bake treats that call for dog-friendly ingredients such as non-fat yogurt, peanut butter, and coconut oil.
The hearty and comforting sweet potato gets a starring role in this dish that you can make for your dog to enjoy when you sit down to your holiday meal.
If you’re running short on time in the kitchen this holiday but still want to offer your dog a special winter treat, consider one of these ready-made treats that feature wholesome ingredients like apples, sweet potatoes, and yogurt.
Whether used as a training treat or a delicious snack, these NUTRO treats are made with real dried apple, which Carlson recommends as a source of fiber.
- Dogs love the crunchy texture, and pet owners love the sweet apple scent.
- Each treat has only five calories.
- These treats are made without artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.
For a high-protein treat option, look no further than these chicken and apple sausage dog treats from Milo’s Kitchen.
- These treats are made with real chicken and apple pieces.
- You can break them into smaller sizes for puppies and toy breeds.
- No artificial colors or flavors are included.
You can’t go wrong with a treat that combines both pumpkin and sweet potato. According to Dr. Carlson, these two ingredients may offer health benefits.
“Pumpkin is a terrific source of fiber that is frequently prescribed for constipation and anal glands that won’t release on their own. Sweet potato falls into the same category as pumpkin,” he says.
- The all-vegan ingredients include pumpkin and sweet potato and grains such as oatmeal and barley.
- These quarter-sized treats are ideal for medium-sized dogs.
- Each treat has fewer than 10 calories.
Made with just one ingredient, dried sweet potato, these all-natural chews are a simple and healthy winter dog treat.
- These treats are minimally-processed, leaving them chock-full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- They have a chewy texture that dogs enjoy.
- No fillers or other ingredients have been added.
These meaty Rachael Ray Nutrish hickory smoked turkey bacon treats are bound to make your dog’s mouth water.
- Reviewers say that these treats are a hit even with picky dogs.
- The ingredients include U.S. farm-raised turkey and potatoes.
- These treats are made without by-products or artificial flavors.
These crunchy baked Fruitables treats utilize all-natural ingredients, including pumpkin, Greek yogurt, and grains like oats and barley.
- Reviewers say that even dogs with sensitive stomachs can enjoy these treats.
- They boast fewer than 10 calories per treat.
- These treats may make your dog’s breath have a pleasant vanilla scent.
This Spot Farms artisanal jerky is like an entire Thanksgiving dinner condensed into a treat for dogs. The treats contain turkey, cranberry juice, and sweet potato puree.
- They’re made with human-grade ingredients, including cage-free farm-raised turkey.
- The soft texture makes it easy for dogs to chew.
- These treats are grain-free and don’t have any artificial ingredients or preservatives.
No one, especially not dogs, can resist a peanut butter cookie, especially when they are as delightful and pet-friendly as these ones made by Bandit’s Biscuits.
- These treats are gluten-free and made with garbanzo bean flour, making them a good choice for dogs with allergies.
- Other ingredients include peanuts, apple juice, flaxseed oil, and egg.
- The treats come in a resealable bag to keep them as fresh as possible.
Formulated specifically for small breed dogs, these bite-sized grain-free morsels feature all-natural winter ingredients like turkey, pomegranate, and ginger.
- These small, soft treats are ideal for training.
- There are only four calories per treat, and there are over 100 treats per bag.
- They’re free of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.
By adding some warm water to this Honest Kitchen powdered mix, you can make your dog his very own cup of eggnog to enjoy this winter.
The ingredients include dehydrated goat’s milk, egg, honey, and cinnamon.
- This liquid treat can be served alone or poured over kibble.
- The ingredients are free from preservatives and GMOs.
- This treat is also available in a “pumpkin spice latte” flavor.
Now cuddle up with your pal(s) and enjoy the coziest season!