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Satisfy pets for Christmas with some fresh-baked treats
Holiday dog cookies are among the items sold at Pet Pleasers Bakery in Oakwood. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Why make your own pet treats?

Ingredients: You have complete say in what goes into (and stays out of) your dogs snacks.
It's easy: The recipes involve just a few ingredients and can be made by even a novice baker.
Size: When you bake your own treats you can size them to fit your - and your pet's - needs.
Special diets: If your dog needs some diet cookies, you can make treats to fit its needs.
Cost: Stretch your budget by making your own pet-friendly treats.
Dog Treat

Help a US war dog

Pet Pleasers Bakery in Oakwood is in the midst of a fundraiser for the United States War Dog Association, a nonprofit organization made up of former military dog handlers that aims to honor the dogs who are working with soldiers.

The bakery will be sending dog treats to Afghanistan where some of the dogs are working, and is looking for donations of packing and shipping supplies, along with donations to cover the cost of sending the packages.

So far, said Pet Pleasers co-owner Ina Griffin, they are planning to send 38 boxes of treats for the dogs.

"They can drop by with packing materials, they can drop by with donations for packing materials," Griffin added.

Donations may be made at the store, located at 4324 Mundy Mill Road, Oakwood. For more information, call 770-534-3843.

At Pet Pleasers Bakery in Oakwood, customers who enter the store are greeted by the fresh-baked smell of ... liver brownies?

Believe it or not, this savory morsel is one of the best sellers at this pet-oriented bakery, which specializes in dehydrating meats and mixing up protein-rich baked goods especially for dogs and cats. Oh, and there's even some goodies for horses, too.

If you're looking for a gift for the pet lover on your list, you probably can't go wrong with homemade treats for their dog or cat.

"We have a lot of special orders that we're taking, and we have a lot going on for Christmas," said Ina Griffin, who co-owns Pet Pleasers with her husband, David. "We have to double-bake everything" to keep enough stock in the store.

The store sells 16 flavors of dog treats, incorporating various forms of meats or peanut butter, and dog biscuits are cut into shapes of candy canes, snowmen or reindeer. Other items include "tail mix," and the dehydrated liver brownies, which are a big seller.

"It's all fun," Griffin said.

Homemade pet treats offer an alternative to pet owners who want to know what's going into their dog's or cat's food. And for some indoor pets, weight may be an issue, so by making your own treats you can incorporate lower-calorie foods that are better for a pet's diet.

Julie Lowe, a registered veterinary technician at Browns Bridge Animal Hospital in Gainesville, said she has a cookbook at home that's all about recipes for cat treats — but she tweaks the recipes to feed dogs, too.

"My particular recipe has chopped turkey; it's leftover Thanksgiving turkey," she said. "It's got a cup of turkey gravy, corn meal and whole-wheat flour."

The gravy acts as a binding agent for the cookies, which she rolls out and cuts into bone shapes with a cookie cutter.

"They love 'em," she said. "The dogs love 'em, the cats love 'em."

But before you start piling your leftover meats into treats for your pets, keep in mind your dog isn't a garbage disposal.

Stay away from ingredients that are high in salt and sugar, and try to keep the fat content low. For example, moisten a biscuit recipe with low-sodium, fat-free broth.

And while some dogs can tolerate some fat in their diets, you don't want to overwhelm them with it.

"Most house pets are a bit overweight anyway, and the fat can upset their stomachs," Lowe added.

Lowe and Dr. Denise Funk of Animal Medical Care in Gainesville both recommended cooking with lean meat and staying away from salty, fatty items like ham or bacon.

And Funk cautioned dog owners against certain fruits, too.

"They don't want to use grapes or raisins, and of course chocolate," she said. "There's some kind of fruits that have seeds, like apples or apricots, and the seeds can have cyanide in them and can cause some toxicity there."

Broccoli and onions are also ingredients to stay away from — but pets can load up on carrots or green beans.

And don't go heavy on the milk, either,

"Most dogs can tolerate a little bit of milk products, but some can get diarrhea from dairy products," Funk added.

In general, this is the time of year pets end up eating a lot of table scraps, so if you're making a treat for them, don't think about something you'd like to eat. Instead, Funk said, think about key ingredients that are good for a dog or cat and keep it simple.

"This is upset tummy season for dogs," she said. "And ham is the worst. They can have boiled chicken without the skin, any meat boiled with the fat drained off is fine — except, I'd still say stay away from the ham."

Griffin added that certain dogs have certain tastes, so it helps to play around with different recipes until you find something that your pet seems excited about.

"We're thinking about a new flavor of cookie, but we haven't got it done yet," she said, adding that they get a nutritional analysis of all their treats sold at the store. "There's not many (dogs) that turn down our liver brownies, which is one of our specialties."