It's no secret that our four legged family members are spoiled rotten. Our sense of responsibility goes well beyond the basic needs of food, water, and shelter. They also get our undying love, embarrassing levels of affection, ridiculous nicknames, the best healthcare available, fashionable outerwear, permission to snooze on any surface or piece of furniture in the house, a high quality diet, and homemade treats.

After going through the wringer on our first dog Oliver's battle with cancer, we learned a lot about the low quality if not downright harmful ingredients that are used to make many well known brands of pet food and treats. In order to give Ollie the best chance at a long life, we started home cooking his meals, specially formulated for his dietary needs while undergoing chemo. It was a decision we're proud of, and was something that made a lasting impression on how we decided to feed all our future pets (and actually ourselves as well).

After adopting Lulu, we learned that she was susceptible to chronic ear infections. (Largely due to her being 1/2 shar pei.) Our vet suggested a special diet, where the dry food contained a protein source of fish and a carbohydrate source of sweet potato. Much to our delight, the change in diet has nearly all but eliminated her previously chronic ear and skin issues.

To her dry food each day we add a pet friendly cod liver oil, along with fresh fruit and vegetables. This helps to vary her meals while providing many critical nutrients that dogs are often short on. Best of all, she absolutely LOVES most fruit and veggies, including romaine lettuce, kale, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and more. Here she is, guiltily sneaking brussels sprouts from our grocery bag.

However, being on such a strict diet does bring a lot of limitations in terms of supplemental treats. Nearly all biscuit-type treats contain flour or corn, a non-approved carbohydrate for our little lady. Therefore a couple years back I started baking sweet potato "chips" for her as her go to snack. They're still a huge hit, and although you can purchase commercial dehydrated sweet potato strips, making them myself is quick, easy, and incredibly inexpensive. 

Over the past month, especially during some of the hotter periods of the year, I've been casually looking to expand her treat selection. After a recent indulgence in a frozen treat from Lulu's favorite local pet supply shop in town, The Dog Park, I realized fruit and vegetable smoothies might be a good addition to her lineup. 

These small treats come in small plastic cups, similar to the containers for snack sized applesauce, and are available in a wide variety of flavors. So I got to thinking, why can't I make these at home? 

Over the last couple months we've been saving the cups from small yogurts and individual applesauce containers, so I had amassed a supply that would be enough for my first experiment. 

Using items I already had in the pantry or freezer, I was able to whip up two options using my trusty Magic Bullet. (A blender or food processor would also work.)

The two recipes I tried both combined many of Lulu's favorite fruits and veggies.

Blueberry Kale Sweet Potato Smoothies

  • 2/3 c. frozen kale
  • 2/3 c. frozen blueberries
  • 1 small cooked sweet potato
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened natural applesauce
  • 1/4 c. water (or more to thin out consistency)

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothies

  • 2 frozen ripe bananas, partially thawed
  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened natural applesauce
  • 1/4 c. water (or more to thin out consistency)

For either of the options below, simply add the ingredients to the Magic Bullet and blend until smooth. 

It might take a moment or two to get the mixture blending easily. If needed, add more water to facilitate the process.

Once the mixture is blended to a smooth consistency, it's taste test time. The experience felt like the old Life cereal commercials where the family sits around with baited breath waiting to see if Mikey likes it. In this case, Lulu approached the smoothie with a bit of trepidation, but after a sniff and a small lick, decided she was on board! Admittedly I was curious as well, and sampled it too. They were tasty, and after all, there isn't anything in them that makes them any different from a "human" smoothie other than the fact that I was careful to use ingredients that work with her diet.

With Lulu's feedback in hand, I started portioning out the smoothie mixture. It looks a little bit like baby food in both color and consistency. Not particularly appetizing to look at, but at the same time, nothing particularly bad about it either.

The above recipe quantities made four smoothies each, but could easily be increased to make larger batches. I wrapped each in a small square of foil, labeled them for easy identification, and popped them in the freezer. What would have cost $20 at the store, probably ran roughly $2 for the ingredients.

But the best part of the whole thing is watching Lulu enjoy each and every lick of her special treats. She really starts going to town on them and I think she resembles a baby cow sucking on a bottle. It's really hysterical to watch, especially when we gets so into it that she ends up laying on the ground while she eats.

This doggie-friendly culinary adventure took less than 20 minutes, and now I have a supply of smoothies on hand for when our oripei (that's what they call shar pei pug mixes) and her friends have a hankering for a frozen refreshment. I'd call that a success!

Do you have any favorite treat recipes for your four legged friends? We'd love if it you share. And if Lulu really likes it, maybe we could do a writeup on it in the future.

Comments 12

Comments

Anne
9/27/2013 at 9:40 AM
we buy the trader joe's banana chips for our dog, it's a little over a dollar for a bag, which lasts quite a while. Also, dried pumpkin seeds, and roasted banana ice-cream (which we make for us, but also give some to the dog since it's basically just bananas and milk and dairy doesn't bother our golden retriever).
Wendy
10/5/2013
Great ideas, and your roasted banana ice cream sounds delicious!
Kelly
9/27/2013 at 11:08 AM
OMG so adorable! Her coat is so shiny too, must be all those veggies and cod liver oil.

I have two black-coat dogs, a black brindle french bulldog and black lab/pitbull mix. The bulldog has kind of a sensitive stomach, so I also can't really buy off-the-shelf commercial treats, with a few exceptions. Sucks for the lab, she can handle anything but I'd feel bad giving them different treats.

I usually just grill meats like liver or give them cubed cheese. In the summer I'll freeze plain non-fat frozen yogurt, applesauce, cream cheese or their canned food inside kongs and hooves.

Last week I tried baking their canned food (has to be ground-style, not gravy cuts)to make a crunchy treat. Rolled into balls, baked on silpat. Turned out ok, but wasn't completely hard/dry like a biscuit, it was chewy in the middle.

Recently I saw this recipe to make crunchy treats using babyfood and flour and might try that next: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNL3WJwIjew
Wendy
10/5/2013
Thanks, Kelly! We frequently receive compliments on her coat, even from our vet, which we largely attribute (as you mentioned) to her diet. Your four legged babies are so lucky to have such a devoted mama! I love that you tried baking their food to make treats. Even though it didn't yield the results you were after, it's a great idea!
lindsey
9/27/2013 at 11:28 AM
I make homemade frosty paws for my dog:
32 oz plain yogurt
1 banana
2 T honey
2 T PB
Blend and then fill the gladware mini rounds halfway and freeze (www.amazon.com/GladWare-Round-4-Ounce-Containers-8-Count/dp/B000EGBLBM).
My
dog loves blueberries and sweet potato so I will have to try your recipe.
Wendy
10/5/2013
Thanks so much for the recipe, Lindsey. And what a smart idea to put them into the small gladware containers!
9/27/2013 at 3:55 PM
This post hit home - we have two pug mixes (puggles) and they're super, super sensitive as far as food goes ... feeding times, too!

Our favorite thing to give them is crispy kale - just take some kale, bake it at 350 until it's crisp, and voila! (I love it too - which is really funny, because I don't like raw kale, and neither do the dogs, but they L-O-V-E the crispy stuff) They love the crunch, and I had some toasted nori as a people-treat the other day and they were pouting because they thought it was a kale puggle-treat :-/

This is a really inspiring post! Lulu is beautiful, and she looks sooo healthy and happy, which I know first-hand is a difficult process for a pug mix!
Wendy
10/5/2013
Thanks so much for your comment, Deirdre! I love that you have two puggles. Our first dog Oliver was often mistaken for a puggle, even though he was a Daug (dachshund pug mix).

Thanks for your tip on baking kale. Lulu loves kale, and loves the crunchy ribs of lettuce, so I expect this will be a huge hit!
pat b
9/27/2013 at 8:19 PM
Lulu is so pretty and shiny. I love how much you love her (and all your pets, past and present). We have a shiny black cat who gets all sorts of love and spoiling. She is on prescription cat food from the vet to calm her digestive system; I'm too leery about exploring other avenues to expand her diet lest we upset the apple cart. Love your blog!!!
Wendy
10/5/2013
Thanks so much, Pat! You're right -- we absolutely adore our four legged family members. :-)

I hear you on upsetting the apple cart. Once you get things...err...straightened out...with a pet's diet, you don't want to mess things up!
Jan
9/30/2013 at 12:47 PM
Oh, those little applesauce containers are great for dog treats! I microwave a cup of peanut butter for a minute, mix in 32 oz of nonfat plain yogurt, and sometimes toss in carob chips. Excellent frozen poochie treats and much much cheaper than store-bought. But I don't cover or label them ;-) I've also frozen baby food (applesauce, sweet potatoes). We have a beagle who will eat anything (ask me about the time she ate the fingers off my leather garden glove ... $250 for emergency vet visit!). She loves her frozen treats, and loves baby carrots and apple slices, too. I've made these biscuits, which were a huge hit: www.best-dog-treat-recipes.com/dog-bone-treats-2.html
Wendy
10/5/2013
Thanks so much for sharing your tips as well as the biscuit recipe, Jan! Lulu goes crazy for carrots and apple slices too!

Your beagle ate part of your garden glove?? Oh my goodness. I'm glad she's ok, and hope she's lost her appetite for accessories. :-)
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