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Healthy Dried Treats

a little girl giving her dog a treat

Many people are looking for homemade, low calorie, healthier treats for their pets, especially if they have weight issues.  Many treats on the markets can be high in fat, salt and sugar.  Using dehydrated fruits and vegetables are not only healthy but tend to be chewy and can aid in dental care.  Homemade treats also have the advantage of not containing any artificial preservatives or sulfites to preserve color.

Fruits and vegetable can be dried in an oven or with a commercial dehydrator. Oven drying can be done by setting the temperature between 140-150°F. Higher temperatures may harden the surface of the fruit or vegetable and prevent dehydration. The oven door should be left open a few inches to allow moisture to escape. 

Fruits that work well include:

  • apples
  • apricots
  • cantaloupe
  • mangos
  • oranges
  • pears
  • pineapples
  • strawberries 

For vegetables, try the following:  

  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • peppers
  • sweet potato
  • tomatoes
  • zucchini

Toxic produce to avoid includes:

  • avocado
  • cherries
  • grapes
  • garlic
  • onions
  • rhubarb
  • wild mushrooms 

In addition, sour tasting citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, and grapefruits are generally not well liked by pets and watermelon can have a very high sugar content. Produce with a thick skin or rind should be peeled.

Fruits and vegetables should be cut thin and evenly so they dry uniformly.  Some fruits dry better when pretreated.  Pretreating fruit with an acidic solution can kill bacteria and increase shelf life, reduce oxidation and preserve color, and decrease vitamin loss.

Pretreatment solutions can be made by mixing any of the following with 2 cups of water.

  • 3¾ teaspoons of powdered ascorbic acid (twenty 500mg vitamin C tablets crushed)
  • ½ teaspoon powdered citric acid
  • 2 cups of bottled lemon juice[i]

Fruit should be soaked in the solution for 10 minutes.  The residue left behind from the pretreatment solution should not affect taste. If you are using a dehydrator, follow recommendations for temperature and time.

The treats are dry enough when they are pliable, and no moisture beads up when pressed between your fingers.  Pack them loosely in an airtight glass or plastic container and store in a dark place to prevent nutrient loss from light.  If moisture is noted on the inside of the container then the treats are not dry enough.

So, if you are moderately ambitious and looking for a healthy, homemade, low calorie treat for your pet(s), dried fruits and vegetables are a good way to go.  By the way, these treats are just as healthy for you, so consider sharing a snack with your friend.