I suppose I might as well just start off with a story since you know I’m going to get to one sooner or later.
Several years ago, just after I moved into my little house, and got my dogs (Janice and Leroy), and started going nuts with gardening, a friend of mine gave me a food dehydrator.
I thought I’d died and gone to heaven! All the wonderful produce from my garden that I didn’t have freezer room for, and didn’t have enough canning jars for, I could just toss into my food dehydrator, shrink it down to like, one-tenth of its size, and stick it in plastic bags. And it would last practically forever.
Then I got thinking about how this could work for my dogs, and I discovered so many wonderful recipes! There’s a caveat, though.
One thing I learned when using my food dehydrator is that there can be problems with pathogens; in other words, bacteria, fungi and other things that could make the food that you’re drying unpalatable or even dangerous. This is because food dehydrators don’t operate at high temperatures. In fact, sometimes it’s not high enough to kill pathogens.
There’s a way around this, though. And, in fact, it’s what the manufacturer of your food dehydrator will tell you; don’t assume that the dehydrator is going to take out all the pathogens. Set your oven to about 170 degrees, and toss the dehydrated product in on a cookie sheet. Leave it there for about 10 minutes, and you will have a product that’s safe to eat.
Okay, now let’s get down to the basics.
First, wash your hands. You don’t want to transfer pathogens.
Next, keep in mind that high-fat food will spoil faster. So if you’re planning on keeping the treats for a while, make sure that you trim off any visible fat before you start the drying process.
Remember that drying times will vary depending on how thick the food is, how much food you have on the trays, and also on the temperature of your food dehydrator.
Now that you have all this in mind, just cut up some meat into thin strips. The food will shrink a lot when it’s dehydrated. Now, here’s what you do for various items.
You’ve probably seen dried pigs’ ears in pet stores. You might have seen them with various seasonings, too. The thing is, you don’t need the seasonings. You don’t even want the seasonings! A lot of the time, those seasonings come from China, and you don’t even want to think what might be in them.
Here’s another thing that you might want to take a pass on if it’s coming from “not from around here.” You can make it at home, though. Just buy some tripe. Wash it and wipe it, and then cut it into strips. Put it in the dehydrator. Let it dry for about 14 hours. Done. Homemade tripe jerky. All natural, no nasty stuff, just good for your dog!
Slice up some beef. Lay it out on the tray. Leave it for about eight hours.Done.
Same thing here; it makes great treats. It won’t last as long as beef jerky, though, so you should probably freeze it.
Slice up some liver. Pat it dry and cut it in strips. Lay it in the dehydrator and leave it for about 12 hours.
Pretty much the same as salmon. Just dry it and feed it.
Take chicken strips and spread them evenly on the dehydrator’s trays. If you dry it at about 300 degrees for 10 hours, you’ll have a good, safe treat.
Do the same thing aswith chicken.
A lot of people don’t realize that heart is a muscle meat, and should be treated the same way as any other. Dry it for about eight hours, and it’s jerky.
You can dry meat, and you can dry vegetables, and you can even dry fruits for your dogs. Here’s an idea: slice up a bunch of bananas, and run them through the food dehydrator, and give your dog banana chips. They’re good for your dog. So are sweet potatoes and many other things.
You can save yourself a lot of money making your own dog treats. Most foods can be dehydrated, but if you’re in doubt, refer to the manual that came with your food dehydrator, or check out a comprehensive cookbook like The Joy of Cooking for instructions on dehydrating.
Of course, you don’t want to feed your dog anything that’s bad for him, so refer to Your Dog is Not a Human, So Don’t Feed Him Like One to find out which foods are unsafe for dogs.