By Morieka Johnson, Mother Nature Network
Q: It’s hot and I would like to make some cool treats for my pooch. Any ideas for some creative and safe options I can make for my pet to beat the heat?
A: Weekend errands get scrapped when the temperature rises. Socializing involves a shaded patio and pitcher of something cold, and meals consist of super-quick summertime staples. That’s why Mark Bittman’s list of 101 quick and simple meals feels like a glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade on a hot summer day.
Creativity truly is the mother of invention. With a nod to Bittman — and a little help from my friend Jojo Pera of Atlanta — I offer 20 dog treats that beat the heat. Pera and I volunteer together, and she is my go-to friend for all things pet-related. As the owner of five dogs and three cats, she always provides great tips on how to keep pets busy and distracted while she’s away at work.
Since the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that more than half the dogs in this country are obese or overweight, use moderation when adding these or any treats to your pet’s diet. If your pet is as finicky as mine, trial and error may be part of the process as well. Without further ado, here are 18 cures for the common kibble:
1. Grab a bowl, fill it three-quarters of the way full with water and place it in the freezer overnight. As the ice melts, your dog will have a second bowl of water during the day.
2. Pour chicken or beef broth into ice cube trays. When frozen, place a few of these yummy pooch ice pops in the food bowl with your dog’s kibble, or simply add to the water bowl for a flavored beverage.
3. Pera relies on super tough Kong toys to keep her crowd occupied. Kongs feature hollowed centers that can be filled with anything yummy. “I fill them, freeze them and then pull them out when I leave,” she says. Seal the small hole of a Kong with peanut butter then add chicken broth and a stick of beef jerky. Freeze for a yummy yet messy outdoor treat.
4. Add water or broth to your dog’s kibble then place the moistened mixture inside the hollow portion of a Kong or other hollow chew toy. Freeze overnight.
5. Scrub sweet potatoes, score with a fork and then bake until soft. Add mashed sweet potato, along with the skin, to your dog’s kibble for a healthy dose of beta-carotene
6. Chill a carrot in the fridge and give it to your pooch. It’s a super-inexpensive chew toy that works best with indiscriminate puppies. Spoiled pooches like my Lulu are a little more finicky.
7. Mash a ripe banana and mix with one tablespoon of all-natural peanut butter. Stuff the mixture into a Kong and freeze or simply place in ice cube trays and offer one treat a day. “Give this to your dog and you’ve hit the puppy distraction lotto!” Pera says.
8. Thinly slice apples, bananas, carrots, sweet potatoes or zucchini and place in a food dehydrator for a chewy treat.
9. Stir a tablespoon of plain low-fat Greek yogurt into your dog’s kibble. Do not use flavored yogurt, which contains added sugar.
10. Thickly chop carrots and barely cover with beef, chicken or vegetable broth. Cook in the microwave until soft then add to kibble.
11. Wash, core and thinly slice apples with the skin on. Place slices on cooking sheet and bake on low heat until crispy.
12. Mash two ripe bananas and mix with four tablespoons of low-fat Greek yogurt and a few sprigs of chopped parsley or peppermint to aid digestion and promote fresh breath. Freeze and scoop out when your pooch is particularly good.
13. Stock up on tins of sardines in spring water. Mix these oily little fish in with kibble to promote a healthy coat.
14. Buy frozen green beans and use as treats, particularly for portly pooches who need a little calorie reduction.
“They have to be frozen,” Pera warns. “Once they thaw, my dog Shock won’t eat them and gives me a look that says, ‘What’s that slimy green thing on my food?’”
15. Low-fat cream cheese is your friend, she says. Add a bit to your dog’s favorite hollow toy and freeze overnight.
16. Steam fresh broccoli florets and use as treats or mix with kibble.
17. Dehydrate slices of cooked chicken for bite-size doggie nuggets. (Here are some good dehydrating instructions.)
For those who seek a treat for the feline population, Pera offers one simple solution: “I give the cats peace and quiet … away from the dogs.”