Simple Homemade Dog Treats That Can Improve The Quality Of Your Dog’s Diet: Your Dog Will Go Crazy For These Treats
There are so many dog treats on the market, and I should know – I have a brick and mortar company that produces them! There are some fantastic treats that you can easily make yourself at home though. The best thing about these liver dog treats is that they contain nothing else – no additives, dodgy ingredients, preservatives or fillers. Just. Pure. Protein.
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Dehydrated organ meat such as liver, kidney or heart make irresistible dog treats! Imagine your favourite snack, that you just can’t put down… multiply that by four or five and you’ll see how your dog can’t get enough of these organ meat treats. Here’s how to prepare some yourself…
How to make liver dog treats
If you have a dehydrator, great. If you don’t, that’s fine. An oven will do. This same method works for most organ meat. Jerky can be made from pretty much any meat. I’ve dehydrated chicken, heart and kidney in the same way. Liver seems to be particularly appealing to dogs though…
I usually use ox or lamb liver. Note that it’s a good idea to freeze meat for at least a week to kill any parasites in it before you dehydrate it.
Bear in mind that dehydrated treats shrink a lot. You might be looking at a pack of liver, thinking that it’s too much. It probably isn’t. I dehydrate around 600gr of lamb or ox liver at a time for my 2 dogs. It lasts around a week using it as treats on dog walks and in training.
Cut the liver into long, thin slices, around 1/4″ – 5mm thick. If you’re using meat from the freezer, it is easier to cut if it is still slightly frozen. You can dehydrate it in strips like this, or, cut it into small chunks.
I’ve found the easiest way to cut it into chunks, and the safest, is to use scissors. I’m a vegetarian and the only time I handle meat is when I prepare it for my dogs. Slicing slabs of meat up isn’t on my fun-things-to-do list and cutting them with scissors feels more like crafting!
Spread the liver strips / chunks out over some foil on a baking tray. Of course, if you’d rather have liver jerky style strips, don’t cut the strips into little chunks, leave them as thin strips.
Using an oven to make dehydrated liver dog treats
Pop the tray in the oven, and put it on the lowest heat. In my fan-assisted oven this is simply the fan setting (warm not hot). If your lowest oven temperature is higher than 50degC / 120deg F, just leave it at its lowest setting. Leave the oven door open very slightly (use a wooden spoon or something similar). This will help moisture escape and stop the liver from cooking.
Liquid will run off. After 20-30 minutes, remove the foil and pop the meat directly on the tray. That way, it can get more airflow around it and dry quicker. Put the tray back in the oven at the same low temperature and dehydrate for several hours.
The bigger your chunks are, the longer you will need to dehydrate them properly.
Using a dehydrator to make liver jerky dog treats
Put dehydrator liner or baking / parchment paper on the dehydrator trays. Lay the meat strips / chunks out on the paper. This is because at first, the meat will release liquid, and that leaves an enormous mess at the bottom of your dehydrator. Dehydrate at 160°F / 70°C for at least 30 minutes, til most of the liquid has seeped out.
Remove the paper and put the meat directly on the tray. That way, it can get the most airflow around it. Dehydrate for several hours. How long it takes, depends on how dry and crunchy you want the treats to be. However thinly you sliced the meat, it will need to dehydrate for several hours.
When they are ready they snap nicely – they are not at all bendy. If I’ve sliced them super thin, they will be ready sooner than thickly cut slices.
It really couldn’t be simpler than that, could it?
How do you know when they’re dehydrated?
Take a piece of liver and let it cool fully. Then do a snap test. Does it snap in half easily, with a crisp, brittle texture? Or is it still bendy? Liver can be tricky to dehydrate sometimes as it seems to create a tougher outer coating in the drying process. However, slicing it thinly usually avoids this problem.
How long does liver jerky keep for?
If it’s fully dehydrated, it will keep for weeks. However, if you’d rather have slightly softer, chewy treats (ie not fully dehydrated), just keep a small amount out for use over the next 4-5 days and put the rest in Ziploc Bags in the freezer. Remember to label and date the bags. Then just get a bag out of the freezer when you need more treats.
Organ meat dog treats for raw fed dogs
Dehydrated organ meat dog treats are a great option for raw feeders. We raw feeders can struggle to find dog treats that conform with our philosophy, but these fit the bill perfectly.
Organ meat treats make up an important part of my own dogs’ diets. Although my dogs are raw fed, I do not strictly follow the 80-10-10 guideline (this means 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, 10% organs). I buy ready prepared packs that contain an 80-10-10 mix, and I supplement them with organ meat and animal fur.
In this article, Dogs Naturally Magazine makes a valid point that wild animals are made up of about 25% organ meat by weight, so the 80-10-10 mix is very light on organ meat.
Since I use treats in training, enrichment activities and ACE Free Work with my dogs almost every day, these treats are perfect for complimenting my dogs’ nutritional needs. In this sense, they are not treats, but their dinner!
How much organ meat can my dog have?
A warning! Be careful of how much you give your pooch to begin with. If your dog isn’t used to eating organ meat, too much will probably result in diarrhea. Start with small amounts and keep the rest in a container. If it’s properly dehydrated it lasts for ages so it won’t go off quickly.
Plus, bear in mind that small and toy breeds will need very little anyway.
The nutritional benefits of organ meat for your dog
Organs are much more nutrient dense than muscle meat. It pays to vary the organ meat you give your dogs too, since different organs from different animals offer a different composition of vitamins and minerals. For more information see this article.
If you liked making these organ meat liver treats, take a look at some of our other dog treat recipes:
This is an interesting article in Dogs Naturally Magazine about organ meat.