The first step to baking your own treats should be to educate yourself about human-grade ingredients (a.k.a. “people food”) that can be toxic to your dog. The kitchen can be a danger zone for our pets, and it is our duty as responsible owners to keep their food safe. Below is a list of some of the most common people foods that are potentially poisonous to dogs. Some of the items are no-brainers, while others are much less obvious. Although it’s a great starting point, this list is not all-inclusive, so please visit the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center website (http://www.aspca.org/Home/Pet-care/poison-control) for more information. And if you ever suspect that your pet has ingested anything potentially poisonous, you can call their 24-hour emergency hotline at 888-426-4435.
Alcoholic Beverages: This one is a no-brainer. Do not ever give your dog alcohol. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, coma, or even death.
Caffeine (Chocolate, Coffee, Soda): Most people have heard somewhere along the way that chocolate is bad for dogs. This is true. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. The root of the problem is the caffeine content, so it’s best to keep your dog away from chocolate, coffee, soda, and any other people food that contains caffeine.
Salt: Large quantities of salt can cause a whole host of health problems in dogs, including death. You may want your dog to have a gourmet-tasting treat, but dog food simply does not need the seasoning that ours does, so there is absolutely no reason to include it. (Remember to also avoid any people foods that are high in sodium. Sneaking Spot potato chips or crackers is a real no-no.)
Onions and Garlic: Large quantities of these items can pose a health risk, but according to the Animal Poison Control Center, onions and garlic are not likely to cause a health problem when ingested in “an occasional low dose, such as what might be found in pet foods or treats.” Just the same, there’s no need to include potentially hazardous items for flavoring purposes—again, remember that dog food does not require seasoning like people food.
Yeast: The Animal Poison Control Center recommends that yeast-raised treats constitute no more than 5 to 10 percent of a dog’s daily caloric intake. Before a yeast dough is baked it poses a bigger threat. The yeast dough can rise in the dog’s digestive system and create painful gas. It’s a good general rule to avoid feeding your pet unbaked dough of any kind (see also” raw meat and eggs” below).
Xylitol: Today xylitol is widely used as a sweetener in gum and other candies, but it can cause liver failure in dogs. Never use it in a treat recipe, and be careful not to feed your dog people foods containing it.
Macadamia Nuts: These nuts are frequently found in human treats like cookies and tarts, but they can cause vomiting and tremors in dogs.
Grapes and Raisins: Grapes and raisins can cause canine health problems even in small quantities. In large quantities, they can cause dogs to have kidney failure. Be very careful not to include raisins in any of your treats.
Raw Meat and Eggs: Just like people, dogs are susceptible to bacteria found in raw meat and eggs (like Salmonella and E. coli). Cooking/baking kills these types of bacteria, so again, it’s best to avoid feeding your dog any unbaked dough.
Apple Seeds, Stems, and Leaves: It’s important to note that the flesh and skin of apples is A-okay for dogs, but the seeds, stems, and leaves are potentially harmful.
Milk and Cheese: Although dairy products aren’t necessarily toxic, be aware that they may give some dogs an upset stomach or diarrhea.
Below are a few of the ingredients that I was concerned about when I first started baking for my dog. I looked them up, and the Animal Poison Control Center affirms that in small quantities the following items are safe for consumption:
White yogurt coating
Almonds, pistachios, peanuts