By Dr. Becker
Have you been wanting to dip your hands into the realm of homemade pet treats? It's not nearly as overwhelming as it may seem. With a few whole-food ingredients and a bit of elbow grease, you can whip up a batch of crave-worthy treats that both your cat and dog can enjoy.
The recipe that follows calls for a food dehydrator, which turns chicken livers into a semi-crunchy, semi-chewy treat that stores well for up to a week (but your pet may find them so tasty, you'll be lucky if they last that long!).
Dehydrated Liver Chunks Pet Treat Recipe
- 1 cup chicken liver
- 1 T sesame seeds
- 1 T hemp hearts
- Parchment paper
- Food dehydrator
- Mix seeds together in small dish.
- Coat livers in seeds and place on parchment covered dehydrator trays.
- Dehydrate at 155 degrees F for 2 hours.
- Reduce temp to 140 degrees F for 4 more hours, or until liver is thoroughly dried.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
What Makes Dehydrated Liver Chunks So Good for Your Pets?
Many commercial pet treats are lacking in a key area – they don't provide species-appropriate nutrition. Your dog or cat is not designed to thrive on byproducts, fillers, and cheap grains, which make up the foundation of most treats.
Real meat, like liver, however, is incredibly healthy for dogs and cats, and when it's combined with sesame seeds and hemp hearts, well it's even better!
Organ meat is a nutritional powerhouse, loaded with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other compounds vital to your pet's health. Liver in particular is packed with nutrients, which is why predatory animals eat it first and why it has been so highly prized throughout history. Liver contains more nutrients, gram for gram, than any other food:1
- Liver is nature's most concentrated source of vitamin A (retinol)
- It contains an abundant, highly usable form of iron
- Liver is one of the best sources of copper and folic acid
- It also contains a mysterious "anti-fatigue factor," possibly because it improves the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood cells; this means it may help improve endurance and strength
Organ meats in general offer important nutrients to your dog or cat, in concentrations hard to find anywhere else. The most significant examples include:2
High-quality protein B complex, including B12 and folate (folic acid) Minerals, including a highly bioavailable form of iron Fats (especially omega-3 fats) Choline (another B vitamin, important for cell membranes, brain and nerve function, and heart health) Trace minerals such as copper, zinc and chromium Cholesterol CoQ10, which is essential for energy production and cardiac function; potent antioxidant (animal hearts offer the highest levels of coQ10) Vitamin D Vitamin E (circulation, tissue repair, healing, deactivation of free radicals, slowing aging) Pre-formed vitamin A (retinol) An unidentified "anti-fatigue factor" Purines (nitrogen-containing compounds that serve as precursors to DNA and RNA) Vitamin K2 Amino acids
Ideally, look for organic liver from pasture-raised chickens. It will be higher in nutrients and come from an animal exposed to fewer toxins. While many express concern that the liver shouldn't be consumed because its job is to filter toxins, these substances are not actually stored in the liver, making it safe to eat. As reported by Dogs Naturally magazine:3
"It is the liver's job to neutralize toxins in the body from drugs or other chemicals, so obviously the best choice for liver is the grass fed kind, without added antibiotics or hormones.
But don't let that scare you away from liver: it filters toxins but doesn't store them. Muscle meats are typically higher in unwanted toxins than liver."
Sesame seeds are an important source of fatty acids, including oleic acid and linoleic acid. They're rich in protein and also contain vitamin B3, folic acid (vitamin B9), vitamin E, and essential minerals such as calcium, manganese, copper, iron, and phosphorus.
Rich in antioxidants, sesame seeds are also an incredibly rich source of beneficial plant compounds called phytosterols. Sesame seeds also contain a healthy amount of fiber along with zinc, which plays a role in several important biologic processes.
Many pets enjoy the flavor of sesame seeds as well, which is part of what makes these treats so irresistible.
Hemp hearts, or shelled hemp seeds, pack a powerful nutritional punch. Two tablespoons of shelled hemp seeds contain about 11 grams of protein and 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. And, as TreeHugger reported, hemp seeds have a:4
"…perfectly balanced 1:3 ratio of naturally-occurring omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids... unlike other seeds and nutritional oils, such as flax…
Hemp seeds also contain super omega-3 stearidonic acid and super omega-6-gamma-linolenic acid in nutritionally relevant amounts that help to reduce inflammation and improve mental functioning, as well as make up for potentially impaired fatty acid metabolism."
Looking for more homemade pet treat recipes? Check out my free e-cookbook, Homemade Treats for Healthy Pets: Nutritious Recipes for Your Cats and Dogs. This e-book is filled with homemade dog and cat food ideas, which are personally formulated by me and my mom, and that I'm sure your pets will love. Over 20 species-appropriate recipes – crunchy morsels, savory treats, and even pet-friendly desserts – are included for your cats and dogs.