The One Homemade Treat Everyone Is Trying for Their Pets
Any pet lover knows your family would not be the same without your fur child. If you're prepping your fam for the summer season while always on the lookout for a special—but simple—way to love a little extra on your pet, we've talked with an authority at Chewy.com to fetch all you need to know to try out an adorable trend that is all bark, all bite, and truly too cute.
Taste of Home recently dished on "barkcuterie" boards, a concept that harnesses the beloved charcuterie board first intended for humans, but in a totally fun, new way. Dr. Katy Nelson, Senior Veterinarian at Chewy, spoke exclusively with Eat This, Not That! to explain how this version of the platter can be super safe for your puppers if you have just the right ingredients.
Follow these essential dog-safe steps to make a barkcuterie board your buddy will beg for—and if you're tuning in to nutrition news for you, don't miss Popular Foods That Are Wrecking Your Body, Say Dietitians.
Start with a pet-friendly plate.
While your dog may be brilliant, one sniff of the barkcuterie board may make it tough for them to stop once they get chomping—so, says Nelson, "Think about what you're serving it on. Dogs are not always the best decision makers, and they chomp down on or chew on [the plate]. So be mindful of the platter." Choose one that will be safe for your dog, and that you won't mind getting a little roughed (ruffed?) up.
It can be a good idea to go with something dishwasher-safe if you're big on sanitizing afterward, but Nelson says "however you normally wash things" should be OK when the feast is through.
Account for the calories.
It's important to remember that this is not an epic, human-sized cheeseboard, so go small. "It needs to be in proportion in your pet," Nelson says. "Don't put a massive amount in front of a chihuahua unless you want to pay for the emergency room."
And, just like humans, Nelson advises, if a dog is going to enjoy a special meal, "All calories for the day still need to be counted." If you're serving up a barkcuterie board, "Be sure to pull out a little bit of their kibble," she says, to help keep their day in balance.
Know your dog's G.I. tract.
"If your dog has an ironclad stomach, something like this is great and fun," Nelson says, adding an important point: If your pet has a sensitive stomach, then some of these foods—especially the higher-fat choices—"can lead to pancreatitis or at minimum some upset stomach and diarrhea." Remember, she says: "Every single dog is an individual."
Choose lean protein.
"The leaner, the better when it comes to our pets," Nelson says in reference to meats. She lists chicken breast with no skin, a little salmon or white fish like halibut or tilapia—again, sans skin—as well as low-fat ground beef (think in the ballpark of 93% lean) or ground turkey among the foods that can be safe for your dog. Consider forming ground beef into bite-sized meatballs, or chopping a patty into bites or whatever you think will be "an aesthetically pleasing manner," Nelson says.
Also make sure all meat is cooked, as Nelson says for our pets, "Raw meats are just not safe to have sitting around."
Choose the right peanut butter.
Peanut butter is a popular treat for dogs. For the barkcuterie board, Nelson advises that "one little tablespoon would be enough," since it's high in fat. Another "major call-out," she notes, "is that [peanut butter] needs to be regular, not sugar-free." That's because sugar-free peanut butter often contains xylitol, "which can be toxic to dogs," Nelson says.
Dogs dig dairy.
Lots of dogs love them some dairy—yes, Nelson says, even cottage cheese can be a win (and here are nutritionists' five favorite brands for humans)—but it's important to follow these guidelines so you don't upset your dog's stomach: Yogurt should be unflavored, and don't go beyond "a couple little pieces of some low-fat cheese," Nelson says, explaining cheese should be served "very judiciously, because they can always be high in fat."
Some veggies can be good for dogs, too.
Nelson says string beans, sweet peas, and spinach are all great for dogs, while her own dog loves it when she washes carrots, thoroughly dries them, slices them "just a little thicker than a quarter," she says, and freezes them. "My dog thinks they're little popsicles, they're so nice and crunchy," she says. She adds that pumpkin (while, we admit, is technically a fruit) is also a great choice.
Try "sweet potato jerky."
Nelson says sweet potatoes "are super yummy and have lots of vitamins in them for our pets." She recommends making sweet potatoes into "a super fun jerky," by slicing them with a mandolin, placing the slices in a dehydrator or "in the oven at 180 degrees for a couple hours," Nelson says. "This dries [sweet potato] right out and makes something pretty for your board."
Fruits can be pretty sweet to dogs.
Fruits not only make a board pretty, but if you know, you know: Some dogs love fruit. Nelson says bananas can be sliced or smashed up with some peanut butter mixed in (also consider freezing this blend for a chilly sweet treat). Apples can also be great for dogs, but in small doses, since they're a little higher in sugar. Blueberries are not only amazing for humans but "delightful and delicious" for our doggos too, Nelson says. Meanwhile cranberries, interestingly, can be great for dogs' urinary health—but they're sour, so perhaps a cranberry sauce with all-natural ingredients might be the way to go. (Note dried cranberries are not ideal, since they're high in sugar and usually have added ingredients.)
You can make this mealtime adventure happen for a dog on prescription food, too.
Nelson knows well that some dogs have specific diet needs, but that shouldn't prohibit you from mixing it up from time to time… just don't stray too far. "Don't introduce things outside their diet if they're on prescription food," Nelson says. If you've got a pet with a sensitive tummy, consider soaking their prescription kibble in warm water and make little biscuits out of it, or slicing their canned food and baking it—just like the sweet potato jerky, Nelson says.
Avoid dog diet dangers.
As for definite dangers, Nelson says: "Big things that come to mind are grapes and raisins—stay as far from these as possible." Also avoid tomatoes, avocado, and, while a dog-safe peanut butter is fine, "Stay away from the nut category." Also don't include anything spicy or seasoned, or garlic or onion since "higher amounts can have toxic properties."
And while pepperoni, salami, deli meats, and high-fat or stinky cheeses can be popular for a human charcuterie board, due to their fat and sodium, they're not good for dogs. "We want to avoid these as much as we possibly can," Nelson says.
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