"Sweet" Dog Treats

Keep those chocolate Easter bunnies away from the pups in your life. Try these ideas for treating Fido with carob and other natural ingredients instead.

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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