Note: These recipes use baby food. While many baby foods are purees of meats and veggies or fruits and water, some may contain garlic, onion powder or other ingredients that aren’t good for dogs. Check the ingredients before buying.
When you have an older pet, a variety of things can cause them to turn their noses up at previous crunchy favorites. They may have gum disease or bad teeth (see a vet — they can help), but sometimes it’s more complex than just a cavity or gingivitis. That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a treat from time to time, though. We came up with a very basic recipe for meat- and plant-based treats that will satisfy your elderly pooch’s need for culinary recognition without giving him a toothache.
Soft homemade treats for older dogs
- 1 (2.5 ounce) jar chicken, ham, turkey or beef-flavored baby food
- 4 teaspoons dry milk powder
- 4 teaspoons dry Cream of Wheat
Veggie or combo treats:
- 1 (4 ounce) jar baby food (in any flavor your dog likes but doesn’t contain doggie no-nos)
- 6-1/2 teaspoons dry milk powder
- 6-1/2 teaspoons Cream of Wheat
Note: Different brands of baby food may contain different amounts of water. Be prepared to add extra dry ingredients if necessary. You can also use fresh purees you make yourself instead of baby food.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix all ingredients well in a small bowl. The resulting batter should be shapeable (not too thin); it’s OK if it’s a bit sticky, as long as it will form a ball. If it’s too thin, add equal amounts of additional dry milk powder and Cream of Wheat. Just add a bit more at a time. Unlike your cookies, you can’t over-mix this, but if you add too much of the dry ingredient, they can become hard treats. It just needs to hold together well enough to ball up (sticky is good!). Let it sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Wet your hands and form the dough into small (nickel-sized) balls and place them on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Wetting your hands will allow even sticky dough to roll into a ball without much trouble. Don’t worry if your balls aren’t perfect.
- Using a fork dampened with water, press the balls into a flat disc about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick. It’s nice if it leaves pretty tine marks on the cookie, but your dog won’t mind either way.
- Bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before giving them to your pet. Feel free to taste them. All the ingredients are people-friendly and some of them are quite good! (You can give them to cats, too.)
- Store the treats in the refrigerator for about a month (depending on the type of baby food you used) or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
This recipe is pretty forgiving, so feel free to experiment. Whatever you do, use the internet to research what types of foods can be harmful to your pet before you make them. Don’t assume that cats or rodents can eat something just because it’s OK for your dog.
Here are some things to avoid for dogs, though the list is massive and you should always look up an ingredient before you use it. (Asterisks indicate extra-dangerous foods.)
We do have some ideas for doggy-approved treats, though. This recipe is actually so easy, you can skip the first step you take with people cookies (following the directions to the letter before daring to experiment) and have a little fun. At most, you lose less than a dollar of ingredients (your dog will probably eat the resulting abomination anyway). Again, if your mixture is too wet, just add equal parts of the dry ingredients to make it thick enough to make a ball. Too dry? Add a bit of water.
Some of these flavors you can buy off the shelf, but some may require you to vary the recipe.
- Chicken and sweet potatoes (may need a lot more dry ingredient)
- Pea and carrot (together or separately)
- Oatmeal apple
- Oatmeal apple and peanut butter (add a tablespoon of peanut butter to prepared baby food)
- Beef and mint (add fresh mint to help freshen your pup’s breath)
What dog-safe flavor combinations do you think Fido would like? Tell us in the comments below.
More on dogs and "people food"
Which human foods can you feed your dog?
The 411 on dogs and food allergies
Homemade healthy dog food recipe