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"Sweet" Dog Treats

I love any holiday that comes with chocolate, so when Easter rolls around next month, I’ll fill a basket just for me with as many dark-chocolate bunnies and gooey chocolate eggs I can stomach.

And I’ll be sure to eat every last bite so my treat-loving Terrier, Tessie, doesn’t get her paws on my stash. Because chocolate, while an endless source of pleasure for me, is poison for my pup.

Thanks to a naturally occurring stimulant in cocoa beans called theobromine, Tessie could get very sick – even die – if she ingests large amounts of chocolate.

What’s a “large amount”? It depends on your dog’s weight and the type of chocolate. Generally, the “darker” the chocolate, the more theobromine. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), as little as 2 to 3 ounces of baking chocolate or 16 to 24 ounces of milk chocolate can be fatal to a 20-pound dog such as Tessie. If your dog ingests any amount of chocolate, however, call your vet immediately.

Effects can range from vomiting and diarrhea to excessive thirst and urination to hyperactivity to seizures and, in severe cases, death. Oh, and while white chocolate is “safer” in this regard, its high fat and sugar content can still make your dog very ill.

These are horrible consequences for eating something that seems so harmless to humans, but it doesn’t mean our four-legged friends have to be deprived of sweet treats – even ones that mimic chocolate. In fact, I’m making an Easter basket just for Tessie this year, filled with treats from Whole Foods Market – and some that I’m whipping up on my own using my favorite chocolate “cheat” – carob.

Located in our baking aisle, carob looks, smells and even tastes like chocolate but contains only trace amounts of theobromine. In addition, carob contains very little fat, no caffeine and 60 percent fewer calories than chocolate, making it a great substitute for people, too. Much like cocoa beans, carob beans are often dried and roasted, then turned into powder, chips or syrup.

There are plenty of recipes online for making dog treats with carob, so try experimenting with some that look good to you. As always, consult your vet before introducing any new ingredient to your pet, and be sure to “treat” in moderation.

Here’s a super simple, Tessie-approved recipe that I culled from a few of my favorites:

Carob-Oat Cookies

  • 1/2 cup brown rice or oat flour (wheat flour can give some dogs an upset tummy)
  • 1/2 cup carob powder
  • 1/2 cup whole rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup carob chips
  • water to mix

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 2. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, adding water slowly until the dough sticks together (enough to form solid scoops). 3. Scoop out tablespoon-size balls of the dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. 4. Bake for 10-12 minutes. 5. Cool and refrigerate for up to a week. (Makes 30-40 cookies.)

Don’t have time for homemade dog cookies?

Melt some carob chips to dip your dog’s favorite biscuits into instead. Cool the chocolate-dipped biscuits on wax or parchment paper before serving. Tessie is partial to Whole Paws Dog Biscuits in Lamb & Rice flavor (because who doesn’t love a sweet-savory combo?). These crunchy, bone-shaped biscuits are made with no artificial colors or artificial preservatives.

For a wheat-free treats, try Newman’s Own Peanut Butter biscuits, made with organic barley flour.

Tip: Since carob chips don’t contain as much fat as chocolate, they don’t melt as easily. To help them melt, add a spoonful of virgin coconut oil, which also has multiple health benefits for your dog. If you want something less time-consuming, pick up a bag of Good Buddy Pumpkin and Apple oven-baked cookies (available at select Whole Foods Markets).

Made with all-natural ingredients, such as pumpkin, apple and rolled oats, these crunchy bites are naturally sweet – and sound good enough to eat yourself.

I hope Tessie enjoys her Easter basket as much as I’ll enjoy mine!

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Anne says …

I am glad to see you are not using wheat. Wheat can do a lot more than just cause an "upset tummy". My dog nearly died from wheat. She developed neuromuscular problems. She stopped barking, difficulty eating and swallowing, difficulty walking and was urinating in her sleep. I took wheat out of her diet and within 3 days she started to improve. She did even better when I got rid of all the grains. Oats are very contaminated with wheat unless they are certified gluten free. Dogs are carnivores.

Susan says …

How about some Whole Dog Food recipes to supplement a normal, healthy diet. Ann is correct. Dogs are carnivores

Cass says …

Anne - Dogs are actually omnivores in the wild. They can eat, and digest, all sorts of fruits and vegetables. In fact, fruits and vegetables are GOOD for dogs. Dogs can flourish on a vegan diet (not that I would recommend it, but it can be easily done and I've known people to do it due to allergies their dog has), whereas cats will slowly deteriorate with a lack of taurine. Just because an animal cannot eat wheat, does not mean they are carnivores. There is much argument that wheat/gluten is harmful to humas as well (not just those with gluten intolerance), but we certainly are not carnivores.

Erikka says …

Dogs are omnivors, my one dog loves fruits and veggies and thrives on them. She eats the fruits and veggies as snacks instead of dog biscuits. I would rather feed her whole foods that benefit her body than make her gain weight and is potentially harmful for her. I usually give her scraps of my green smoothies.

Desiree Cole says …

I work at Whole Foods Market in Chicago, and one of my coworkers pointed this recipe out to me today. I just made these treats for my dog and... needless to say, he is in love with them. I love the idea of having a extra special treat on hand during his training months. Great post! I wish I could post a picture so you could see how happy he is. :) Thanks!

Pet Owner says …

Dear Whole Foods, You need to stop carrying a line of treats called Dogswell. These are made in China and as we all know, the Chinese production standards, even for human quality foods and goods, are low. Please consider selling a more healthful and trustworthy brand such as Plato. I don't buy treats at your store because of this. I do buy the HALO dog food, a trusted, American brand. Thanks for the consideration.

Candy Marshall says …

In addition to the Dogswell, DO NOT FEED YOUR DOG ANY OF THE "HAPPY" products. Like Happy Hips, Happy Breath, etc. These products are made in China and I have no desire to take a chance that they are safe. I have shopped at WFM since it was a cute little store in Austin, but I just can't trust my animal's health to you any longer. Combine that with you allowing American processed soy on your shelves, I guess I need to go elsewhere. I'm so disappointed in WFM's attitude of late, even with John talking about how much better off people are eating healthy. All talk and no action. Here is the link detailing how soy manufactured in the US is so toxic versus the soy in Asia. http://www.janethull.com/newsletter/0605/safesoy.php

Sonia says …

I read some of the comments about you carrying treats made in China. I really hope you will change this immediatly, because I was looking to come to Whole Foods to pick up some dog treats and even change my dog's food because of crap that they put in them in Chinese factories.

Kate says …

Treats for Georgie