Our dogs are just as fond of ice cream, popsicles, and other frozen treats as we are. But frozen treats, including those sold for pets, can be high in sugar, difficult to digest, expensive, or contain artificial flavors, colors, and even potentially dangerous ingredients.
Fortunately, it’s easy to save money, add variety, improve the nutritional content of your dog’s treats, and help your hot dog cool down as temperatures climb with these homemade frozen dog treats.
WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE THE BEST FROZEN DOG TREATS IN TOWN
Avoid ingredients that are harmful to dogs, such as the sweetener xylitol, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, onions, and chocolate. Prevent unwanted weight gain by limiting fruits, fruit juices, and other sources of sugar, and feed all “extra” treats in moderation.
Many dogs are lactose-intolerant, which can make regular ice cream and frozen milk products indigestible. Substituting fermented dairy products like yogurt or kefir, or using unsweetened coconut milk, which is lactose-free, helps dogs avoid digestive problems.
Recommended equipment includes a sharp knife and cutting board, blender or food processor, and something to hold and shape treats during freezing, such as simple ice cube trays, sturdy rubber chew toys, popsicle molds, paper cups, silicone molds, wooden strips, and edible sticks.
Once treats are frozen, place them in air-tight freezer containers or zip-lock bags for freezer storage. This prevents sublimation, during which frozen foods dehydrate, and it prevents the transmission of odors to and from other foods.
If your dog loves to chew ice cubes, she’s not alone – but ice cubes are potentially hazardous. According to Tennessee pet dentist Barden Greenfield, DVM, “Dogs have a tendency to chew too hard and the force of breaking ice is substantial. This leads to a slab fracture (broken tooth) of the upper 4th premolar, which many times exposes the pulp, leading to tremendous oral pain and discomfort. Treatment options are root canal therapy or surgical removal.”
The risk of breaking a tooth increases with the size of frozen cubes, so avoid this problem by freezing small cubes, offer shaved ice instead of cubes, or add ingredients that produce softer cubes, such as those described here. Small amounts of honey, which can have health benefits for dogs, help prevent a “too hard” freeze.
Use whatever safe ingredients you have on hand, and experiment with quantities. There is no single “right” way to make a frozen treat that your dog will relish. An easy way to predict whether your dog will enjoy a frozen treat is to offer a taste (such as a teaspoon) before freezing. If your dog loves it, perfect. If not, add a more interesting bonus ingredient.
SIMPLE HOMEMADE FROZEN DOG TREAT RECIPES
Nothing could be easier than filling a sturdy dishwasher-safe, nontoxic, hollow, hard rubber toy such as a Classic Kong with any of the following ingredients before leaving it in the freezer. Block any extra holes to prevent leakage, leaving one large hole open for filling. Popular dog-safe ingredient options include:
- Mashed ripe banana
- Pureed soft fruit or vegetables (remove seeds or pits before blending)
- Canned dog food
- Nut butter (look for sugar-free peanut butter or other nut butters that do not contain xylitol)
- Diced apple
- Chopped or shredded carrots
- Shredded unsweetened coconut
- Plain unsweetened yogurt or kefir
- Dog treats
Combine your dog’s favorite ingredients and fill the hollow toy. If desired, seal the top with a layer of peanut butter, squeeze cheese, or a dog treat paste such as Kong’s Stuffin’ Paste. Store the toy so its contents remain in place while freezing. For storage, keep frozen Kongs in a sealed freezer container or zip-lock bag.
Another simple summer treat is a few chunks of frozen dog-safe fruits or vegetables delivered by hand or in a small bowl, such as banana, apple, peach, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, or green beans.
Surprise Frozen Cube Treats
Any liquid that your dog enjoys will work well as a simple frozen ice cube, but adding a surprise in the middle turns ice into a fun game. Some of my dog’s favorite bases include:
- Salt-free or low-salt bone broth
- Water pureed with a small amount of cooked meat or fish
- Broth or water mixed with unsweetened coconut milk
Fill your ice cube tray halfway and freeze. Then remove the tray from the freezer and add in the center of each cube a small treat such as:
- Blueberries, cut strawberries, banana slices, or other cut fruit
- A piece of cooked meat
- A small training treat
- A dollop of peanut butter
Fill the ice cube tray to the top with the same or a different base liquid and place it back in the freezer. After the cubes have frozen solid (usually within 4 hours), store them in zip-lock bags.
Fancy Ice Cube Tray Treats for Dogs
Silicone molds can turn any simple treat into something extra special. (Okay, the dogs won’t notice, but you and your human friends will be impressed!) Place your silicone molds on a cookie sheet and arrange enough freezer space to hold them flat during freezing.
Using a blender or food processor, combine any of the following ingredients to create a puree, one that’s thin enough to pour. The puree can contain bananas, apples, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, peaches, sugar-free (and xylitol-free) yogurt or kefir, coconut milk, cooked or baked sweet potato, cooked vegetables, peanut butter, and/or canned or cooked fish, meat, or poultry. After freezing, remove the treats to zip-lock bags for freezer storage.
HOMEMADE ICE CREAM FOR DOGS
Soft Serve for Dogs
To create a soft, swirly frozen confection, cut ripe fruit such as watermelon or other melon (remove seeds as you go) into chunks and freeze them for at least 4 hours. In a blender or food processor, combine 2 cups frozen fruit with 1/4 cup plain unsweetened yogurt, kefir, or coconut milk. Blend well to achieve a soft-serve consistency. Serve in an ice cream cone, paper cup, or small bowl, place some in a hollow toy, or add it on top of your dog’s dinner.
Pupsicles – Popsicles for Dogs
It’s fun to serve a frozen fruit smoothie or other frozen treat on a stick to your best friend, and there are dozens of do-it-yourself popsicle molds to choose from. Take a look online for inspiration. For convenience, paper cups work just as well. Here’s how to make popsicles for your dog:
In your blender or food processor, combine ingredients such as frozen banana pieces, uunsweetened nut butter, unsweetened yogurt or kefir, bacon bits, coconut milk, and/or meat, fish, or poultry.
Aim for the consistency of a thick milkshake. Fill the popsicle molds and add an edible “stick” such as a dog biscuit, green bean, slice of carrot or parsnip, bully stick, or sturdy chew toy like a nylon bone.
To remove pupsicles from their molds, leave them at room temperature for 2 to 3 minutes or run warm water over the outside of the mold.