Many dog owners have turned to grain free diets for their dogs. Often this is because of food allergies or food intolerances. Sometimes it is because of a commitment to avoiding processed foods, or seeking to replicate a more natural diet for their dogs.
Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa | Doctor Of Veterinary Medicine
Sara is Wileypup’s Veterinarian Adviser and helped compose this article to ensure the information is up to date and accurate. For more information on Sara click here
Specialized dog treats with limited ingredients are some of the most expensive on the market. If you are looking for a thrifty and fun way to provide your dog with grain free treats, making them at home is your best bet.
Being able to control the ingredients of dog treats requires some research on healthy, tasty and minimal ingredient recipes. We have found some great recipes for you!
First, we will briefly review some concepts related to grain free and gluten free dog foods, followed by 6 fantastic grain free dog treat recipes.
Are Grain Free Diets For Dogs Just Hype?
There is controversy surrounding grain allergies in dogs. Recent trends in human diets with food sensitivities surrounding processed grains have been mirrored in dog diet trends as well. In fact, grains are not the top offenders when it comes to food allergies in dogs.
The most common food allergens in dogs are (in order of frequency):
- Chicken Eggs
Dog allergies happen in proportion to the ingredients used in commercial dog food. Basically, allergies can happen through long exposure to common processed ingredients. The only way to really know for sure about your dog’s potential food allergies is to work with your veterinarian to develop an elimination diet trial.
While traditional vets tend towards being dubious about grain free diets for dogs, holistic vets tend to recommend them. Their argument is based on the fact that, as carnivores, dog’s diets have evolved to thrive on animal protein rich diets. The addition of high levels of grains, they argue, is more about making cheap and shelf stable dog kibble than it is about the actual nutritional needs of dogs.
As bloodwork allergy testing is notoriously poor in diagnosing food allergies, many vets recommend that the only way to know for sure if your dog has a food allergy or intolerance is to do an elimination diet trial.
- In brief, an elimination diet includes working closely with your veterinarian and following a rigid process:
- Identifying a select few ingredients consisting of novel proteins and starches
- Keeping your dog on that diet for 4-6 weeks, or until signs of improvement of allergy symptoms are clear
- Adding in single sources of protein or carbohydrates one by one, allowing for time to see if there is an allergic reaction to identify the culprit
If your dog is going through an elimination trial, then you already know how hard it can be to find dog desserts that respect the restrictions of the various phases of this plan. Making your own food allows you to control the ingredients, a big plus for owners looking to reward their dogs with special dietary needs.
Grain Free Verses Gluten Free
Grain free and gluten free are different things. Gluten is only produced by some grains: barley, wheat and rye. Thus, it is a significantly easier task to avoid gluten then it is to avoid grains all together.
If you and your vet have determined that gluten is the problem for your dog, then you may still be able to use those grains that do not contain gluten in your homemade dog treats, such as: buckwheat, rice, oats and quinoa.
This article is focused on grain free dog treats, which means that all of the recipes are also gluten free.
6 Of The Best Grain Free Dog Treat Recipes:
Our recipes include key ingredients that boost the nutritional value of these healthy homemade dog snacks. We have focused on recipes with limited ingredients, making them easy to include if your dog is in the middle of elimination trials to diagnose a food allergy.
If your dog already has known food allergies or food intolerances, then you will be sure to find a few grain free food options on this list that will avoid the trigger ingredients.
Grain Free Simple Sweet Potato Jerky Chew Snacks
One of the great additions to your dog’s grain free diet is the humble sweet potato. They are an excellent source of fiber, something to be looking out for with any grain free diet. In addition, they offer Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, potassium, iron, calcium, zinc and plenty of beta carotene.
It does not get any easier than this nutritious snack. Your dog will appreciate the satisfying chew of this very inexpensive grain free dog treat. With only one simple ingredient, they are perfect for dogs on a grain free diet or in the middle of an elimination trial.
If you happen to have a food dehydrator then all the better. If you don’t then a baking sheet and some parchment paper is all you need.
- Sweet Potatoes
- Slice sweet potatoes between 1/3” and 1/4” thick
- Lay the slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
- Bake for about 3 hours in a 250° F oven
- Turn once about halfway through baking
- Cool completely on a rack at room temperature before storing
- These treats can last up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator
- Freeze for a longer shelf life of several months
Grain Free Baked Sweet Potato Dog Treats
- 1 ½ cups coconut flour
- 1 ½ cups almond flour
- 1 cup mashed cooked sweet potato
- 2 tsp poultry seasoning
- coconut oil to grease the baking sheet
- ¼ to ½ cup of water (you can also use stock if it fits in your dog’s diet)
- Combine almond flour, coconut flour and poultry seasoning until well mixed in a large bowl
- Add the sweet potato mash and then slowly mix in the water, until the mixture is just firm enough to roll out. It should be dense, but not crumbling apart.
- Roll out until ¼” thick (It may be easier to do this in smaller batches.)
- Cut with a cookie cutter (We love this doggie bone cookie cutter set.)
- Place at least ½” apart on a cookie sheet greased with coconut oil
- Bake for 25 minutes in a 225°F oven
- If using multiple trays, switch their level in the oven and bake another 25 minutes
- Turn off the oven and let these grain free dog treats cool all the way in the closed oven
- Allow to completely cool before storing in sealed jars or freezer bags.
- Store at room temperature in sealed containers for 1-2 weeks.
Grain Free Pumpkin and Banana Dog Treats
Pumpkin is widely considered to be a great addition to your dog’s diet, in moderation. It is particularly recommended as a supplement that may improve digestion, both in terms of stomach issues as well as urinary tract health. It is low in calories and fat, making it a great choice for overweight dogs.
This grain free dog treat recipe is also dairy free. The addition of banana offers extra potassium and a natural sweetness. With only three ingredients, it is perfect for dogs on a limited ingredient or grain free diet.
Consider using a pizza cutter to trim these dog biscuits into small cubes before baking to use for a fun clicker training session with your dog.
- ½ cup canned or fresh pumpkin, pureed
- 2 ripe bananas
- 1 cup coconut flour
- Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl, just until combined
- Kneed gently until the dough is no longer crumbly
- Roll to ¼” thick
- Cut into your favorite shapes. Keep them small, no more than 2” in any direction
- Place on a lined baking sheet, at least ½” apart
- Bake for 20 minutes at 350°F
- Allow to cool completely before serving or storing
- In a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days
- Freeze in freezer bags for up to 3 months
Grain Free Pumpkin Dog Cookies
- 2 ½ tablespoons peanut butter
- 2 ½ cups garbanzo flour
- 2 eggs
- ¾ cup pumpkin puree, canned is fine
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Dough will be sticky.
- On a well-floured surface (use the garbanzo flour), roll to ¼” thick
- Use dog themed cookie cutters to cut into fun shapes
- Place on a parchment lined baking sheet
- Bake for 30-40 minutes until they are golden brown
- Allow to cool completely on a rack before storing
- Airtight container at room temperature for a few weeks
- Freeze for storage up to several months
Grain Free Sweet Potato and Salmon Bites
One of the great advantages to salmon is that it is a novel protein, and many dog owners use salmon as part of the first tier of an elimination diet. This grain free dog treat combines the nutritional value of sweet potato and this novel protein for a grain free snack that is nutritious and delicious.
Expect your dog to go crazy for these treats!
- 2 cups canned or cooked salmon with all bones removed
- 2 cups sweet potatoes, mashed
- 1 ½ cup garbanzo flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 egg (If your dog has an egg allergy, use 1 tablespoon ground flax seed mixed with 3 tablespoons of water instead of the egg.)
- Mix together the salmon and sweet potato in a large bowl
- Add egg (or flax seed substitute), parsley and baking powder, stirring well to combine
- Gradually add garbanzo flour until just fully incorporated (a loose cookie dough consistency)
- Roll into small 1/2” to 1” balls
- Place on cookie sheet then slightly flatten with your thumb or the back of a spoon
- Bake 25-30 minutes at 350°F, for soft bites
- For crunchy bites, flip the cookies and bake for an additional 15 minutes, allowing to fully cool in the oven
- These treats have a short shelf life because of the salmon. Keep them in the refrigerator for a few days, or freeze for longer storage.
Grain Free Apple and Peanut Butter Cupcake for Dogs
It’s just not a puppy party without cake! Top these little grain free muffins for dogs with some peanut butter for a festive look and a nutritious treat that all dogs will enjoy.
This is a single serving muffin for one large dog. You can split it into mini-muffins for smaller dogs. If you are planning a party, adjust the recipe so there will be enough for all of your guests.
- 3 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1 egg
- ½ apple, peeled and finely diced
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Thoroughly mix all ingredients until smooth batter forms
- Fill a greased (use coconut oil) small ramekin or lined large muffin cup
- Bake 20 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean
- Cool thoroughly before serving or storing
- Frost with peanut butter for a festive look (Extra icing is not recommended for doggies watching their waste!)
- These are best fresh. If you want to make additional muffins, store in the fridge for a few days or freeze for longer storage.
There are countless more grain free dog treat recipes that can be created from scratch. Play around with foods that your dog LOVES and discover different ways to make healthy dog treats.
Sharon Elber (M.S. in Science & Technology) - Professional Dog Trainer
Sharon is a professional dog trainer with over 10 years experience. She is also a professional writer that received her M.S. in Science & Technology Studies from Virginia Tech.
For more info on Sharon click here