(ARA) - Sixty-two percent of U.S. households include a pet, and 78.2 million of those pets are dogs, according to the American Pet Products Association's most recent survey. Dog lovers want good nutrition and flavor to ensure happy, healthy animal members of the family.
Today, professional chefs are creating delicious, healthy foods and treats for dogs as well as people. "Understanding nutrition for dogs - and how it differs from what is right for humans - is key," says Chef Jim Gallivan, department chair of culinary arts at The Art Institute of Atlanta. Here are some tips to ensure a healthy diet for your canine friend.
* Provide the right balance of fats, minerals, carbohydrates, vitamins, protein, and - especially during the summer months - lots of water.
* Understand that the right balance for dogs is different from what's right for humans. Dogs have different dental capabilities and a shorter digestive tract so foods need to be able to be processed quickly.
* Avoid foods toxic to dogs, including chocolate, onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, avocados, caffeine and fruit seeds.
Dogs love treats, but be sure you don't undermine your dog's healthy diet with the wrong treats. "One way to ensure an overall healthy diet for our dogs," says Gallivan, "is to prepare dog treats at home from healthy ingredients. And it's not very difficult."
These easy recipes for healthy dog treats were created by chefs at The International Culinary Schools at The Art Institutes. For instance, Gallivan prepares "Pup-sicles" in the summer for his dog, Cammie (short for Camembert). They take only a few minutes to make and your dog is sure to rank Pup-sicles high on the list of favorite treats, just as Cammie does.
3 cups plain yogurt
1 ripe banana
1 cup smooth peanut butter (Cammie prefers Reese's)
1 tablespoon honey
1. Puree all of the above until smooth in texture with a food processor or blender.
2. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze.
3. Pop one out and reward your best canine friend.
Chef Richard Matthews, a culinary arts faculty member at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, adapted this recipe from his sister. Since it bakes in the microwave, it's great for summer.
Homemade Dog Treats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
3/4 cup beef or chicken broth, plus 1/4 cup to adjust consistency
1. Combine all dry ingredients and 3/4 cup of broth.
2. Mix until it forms a firm paste and all is moist. Use the remaining 1/4 cup broth to adjust the moisture if needed.
3. Roll out to a 1/2-inch thick, cut into 1-inch squares and place on an ungreased glass baking dish.
4. Microwave 4 minutes. Turn each piece over. Cook one additional minute.
5. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
Note: Microwave ovens vary in power. Watch the treats closely for the last minute.
This produces a very hard biscuit. It can be flavored with bacon, cheese, peanut butter, cooked carrots, fruit or any other non-toxic flavor your dog enjoys.
Chef Jeffrey Floyd, department chair of Culinary Arts at The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta, says that although table scraps are a no-no, our dogs can still celebrate important holidays with their human families. His most recent canine friend, a cocker spaniel named Jordan, loved hot weather inspired treats like this one.
1 1/2 cups oat flour
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups skim milk (or coconut milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Combine all ingredients, roll into small balls, place on greased or non-stick cookie sheet and flatten to about 1/4-inch thick.
3. Bake until edges are golden brown, about 30 minutes.
4. Cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Your dog will love these treats - and you will feel good about giving them to your best friend.
To learn more about The Art Institutes schools, visit www.artinstitutes.edu.