Are Homemade Dog Treats Really Safe?

Everyone seems to have a homemade dog treat recipe these days, present company excluded. Aside from the eagerness of some pet parents to overfeed homemade treats, not all biscuits are created equal. In fact, some homemade dog treat ingredients can be dangerous to your dog’s health.

Before we get started on the ingredients to avoid, how many of these statements do you believe to be true?

If a gorgeous dog treat image appears on Pinterest, the recipe is likely safe for my dog to consume.

Pumpkin spice blends are safe to use in dog treat recipes.

Keep reading and we will reveal the answers at the end of this article.

How safe are homemade dog treats

Human Foods Toxic to Dogs

We all know about chocolate, but there are other lesser talked about ingredients that have the potential to harm or kill your dog. These include, but are not limited to:

Nutmeg: This spice produces volatile oil, which can cause psychological effects on a dog. The larger the amount, symptoms such as vomiting, seizures, and abdominal pain may occur.

Fruit Seeds and Pits: These may contain cyanide, which can poison a dog. Signs of cyanide poisoning include dilated pupils, dark red mucous membranes (gums), panting, heavy breathing, and even shock.

Xylitol and Other Artificial Sweeteners: Xylitol is toxic. Period. Xylitol is used as a sugar substitute in many recipes for people, so do not share your Xylitol laced treats with your dog. Although other sugar substitutes are not toxic in the way Xylitol is, they can cause issues and gastrointestinal upset.

Caffeine: According to the Pet Poison Helpline, caffeine exposure can result in vomiting, agitation, panting, pacing, and increases in heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature along with seizures and even irregular heartbeats.

Watch for any ingredients like Green Tea, Green Tea Extract and Green Coffee Extract, as they all contain caffeine.

Grapes, Raisins, Currants: Any recipe that calls for grapes, raisins, or currants: These ingredients are known to cause kidney failure in dogs.

Proceed With Caution

Baby Food: Many different varieties of baby food contain onions or onion powder. When my previous Cocker Spaniel developed Irritable Bowel Disease, we occasionally fed her canned baby food and kept a close eye on the ingredients. Baby food can also contain salt or sugar.

Liver: Liver seems to be a common ingredient in many dog treats. I feed our dog the occasional dried liver biscuit, too. Too much of a good thing can actually be a bad thing. Large amounts of cooked liver can cause vitamin A toxicity.

Macadamia Nuts: Even just a small amount of macadamia nuts can cause neurological problems in dogs. Walnuts also fall into the toxic category for dogs. So do not share your people cookies or treats with your pooch either. Be on the safe side.

Salt: Salt is very dangerous to dogs. This time of year, folks are engaged in homemade cookie making, kids are doing their play thing with Play Doh, and homemade ornaments are popular. These all contain salt and salt is dangerous to dogs. Large amounts of salt can cause kidney issues, too.

TIP: You just don’t want to resist those pleading eyes when your dog stares at you as you eat a delicious homemade cookie. Save the danger and keep some of Fido’s favorite treats with you. When you take a bite, give the dog a piece of his doggie treat. I break my dog’s treats up into pieces.

Side Note

Unbaked yeast bread dough is toxic to dogs. Again, from Pet Poison Helpline: When ingested, the unbaked bread dough expands in the warm, moist environment of the stomach and can result in a bloated stomach (called “bloat”); this can then progress to a gastric-dilatation volvulus (GDV), which is a twisted stomach.

Five Key Points of Safety in a Homemade Dog Treat Recipe

1 Avoid ingredients in this post and on this ASPCA dangerous people food list in any homemade dog treat recipe for the reasons mentioned.

2 Just because the author or creator says it is safe for dogs does not necessarily make it so. People make mistakes, no matter who they are. Double check each ingredient and refer to your dog’s veterinarian, the info in this article, and/or a veterinary nutritionist before feeding anything you are not 100 percent certain is safe for dogs.

3 Calorie counting: Some homemade dog treat recipes are very high in calories. Treat recipe authors often omit the caloric intake to determine how many treats is enough or too much.

4 Know Thine Flour: Brown rice flour gives a dog biscuit its crunch and may even help the dog better digest the treat. Some dogs are unable to tolerate wheat flour, as it may induce itching or stomach issues.

5 Yogurt Alert: Yes, yogurt is a probiotic. Yes, many dogs love it as a treat and occasional snack, even straight from the container or as a food topping. You should only select yogurts that do not contain artificial sweeteners or added sugars.

Toxic food for dogs

Want More Tips to Keep Dogs Safe? Check these out:

The Bewitching Powers and Dangers of Pumpkin for Dogs

Dog Paws Are in Danger

Do you ever make your dog homemade dog treats? Are you paying close attention to the recommended ingredients?

By the way, the answer to both points is false:

If a gorgeous dog treat image appears on Pinterest, the recipe is likely safe for my dog to consume. FALSE – not always.

Pumpkin spice blends are safe to use in dog treat recipes. FALSE. NO!


  1. I have yet to try homemade dog treats, but this post makes me want to start baking. Previously I did not make treats because I had yet to research what was safe for my dog or not. Thanks for sharing

  2. Thank You Carol for your article today. It does not matter if it is store brought or homemade check it out …our dogs are family and our babies. We always want the best for them and us. When I make new recipe for myself or my dogs I use a program to get the nutrition data. I put in all the ingredients and the amount of ingredients which tells me the fat, carb, salt, sugar, protein and calories. Very interesting because some of the recipes are very high in calories and fat.

  3. I try to make homemade snacks that I know are good for my pups. Sometimes I will find a recipe and like the looks of it, but I may substitute certain ingredients for healthier ingredients. I told my husband if we ate as healthy as our dogs we would be in good shape!!

  4. I think like anything online, you need to make sure it is what it claims to be. Some people have no idea about what dogs can or can’t eat and post recipes accordingly. Things like garlic are safe in small amounts, some things are always dangerous like grapes. The internet is not safety proofed so no matter what info you get off it, you need to verify first before becoming a believer.

  5. This is a great reminder!

    I don’t make treats for my dogs very often, but when I do, I’m careful which recipes I pick. Nelly has a wheat sensitivity, so I have to substitute oat or rice flour for her.

    If there is anything in the recipe that I’m not sure about, I research it or just skip it.

    I never add sugar or salt because my dogs don’t complain if something isn’t sweet or salty enough!

  6. Your article is very timely. I recently decided to make treats for my dogs, the first time ever. I made a couple of things I knew were safe because I consulted with my vet first. I did wonder about many of the ingredients I noticed in my search, and questioned whether they were really safe. I never assumed because someone published a recipe it was safe. I would always consult with my vet to be sure, especially if my dogs have issues that may make some ingredients potentially problematic. Thanks for this very informative post.

  7. This is a subject close to my heart, as I used to make homemade treats a lot. Lots of research went into it. It surprises me to this day how many folks aren’t aware of the things in their very own pantry that can harm their dogs. Thanks for sharing! Important to know.

  8. We make a lot of homemade treats and meals and always ensure the ingredients are dog-safe. We like to know what goes into our pup’s food – this way can exclude chemicals, bad ingredients, etc. This is a good post, it’s a wonderful reminder for all of us to be fully aware and attentive when we’re dealing with our pup’s food!

  9. Great tips for pet parents . We’re always super careful about what we feed the cats, with an IBD kitty you can never be too careful and flares aren’t fun for either of us.

  10. I make 90 percent of Layla’s treats and food as that way I know what she is eating as since all recalls I do not trust many dog foods or treats. If I do buy its something that I cannot make like dehydrated or freeze dry.

  11. This is such an important post. Sadly, there are many people who think that because something’s on the internet, it’s true. Some online recipes you definitely have to be super careful and double check ingredients. I make a lot of treats and meals for these goons, but I have a couple reputable pet-specific cookbooks that I reference before I make anything!

  12. We think doggie parents should be very careful about making treats. Same thing for kitties. Mommy doesn’t make them because she isn’t confident enough that they will be safe and nutritious.

  13. Great points. I do like making treats sometimes so I know exactly what is in them and can control Kilo the Pug’s diet but still reward him training or celebrating occasions. When we made our Dog Licks recipe series, we checked ingredients very carefully and made sure to note that we are not vets (or scientists) and to link to our post on foods you should not share and emergency responses- love the ASPCA Poison Hotline and had to use it when Kilo stole onion quiche. We had no added salt and cut sugar or oil or butter versus traditional human recipes. I just had to cut salt myself so that was a good reminder as even worse for Kilo. We found a healthier replacement for chocolate for humans and dogs if you really want one- carob. We also made sure to note that Kilo only gets to taste little bits at a time, especially cookies, as he has to watch his weight. His favorites were Muttloaf or baked sweet potato – both pretty low cal and safe in the quantities he gets.

  14. Oh wow, this is eye opening. I sometimes see dog recipies with flour in them & I wonder if they’re safe. I haven’t tried any of them. I use 100% pure pumpkin, sweet potato & organic plain yogurt in many treats I make for my dogs. I think the ones I use are all safe but I’ll swing over to the pumpkin post you mentioned here to make sure!
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  15. Such an important reminder! I think we often forget that just because an ingredient is healthy for us, it isn’t necessarily for our dogs. I really need to set aside more time for making homemade treats for the fluffies this year.

  16. Love it! I cringe more often than not when I’m reading a dog treat recipe online. Another point on yogurt (and Dex does lick my lid) is that dogs do not tolerate dairy very well and some yogurts have lots of sugar. Great tips!

  17. Your last tip is excellent and this is what I do for our Lyla. She is a big time begger so we keep frozen carrots (her favorite) or other small treats which we break up into smaller pieces so she eats HER food while we eat ours. Sometimes I will share with her a bite of unseasoned chicken or beef too. We make sure that we keep her meats separate from ours and unseasoned when cooking.
    I have only one treat recipe on my blog and made sure to mention Xylitol which comes in so many products these days it is scary!
    I love your infographic and will pin it.

  18. Excellent post, Carol! I use pumpkin here for many years, and yogurt. I’m amazed at how many folks ask about pumpkin pie filling (no!) and any yogurt (again no!) Pinning this important post to share.

  19. You have such a good point here. No matter what we are feeding our pets or what company has created it, we need to take a look at the ingredients ourselves. No one is more responsible for the health of our pets than we are as the pet owners. I don’t really make any treats at home for my kitties. The truth is that cats have really strict dietary needs and the best home made treat to give them is just a bite sized piece of fresh meat. It doesn’t make for great holiday social media posts, unfortunately.

  20. I didn’t know that giving your dog salty treats was bad for them. I can see that making sure you know this can help you take better care of your pet and make sure they are happy. It is important to remember to look at the ingredients when getting dog treats and make sure they are the right one for your breed of animal.

  21. I really want to make treats for my dog, but I don’t want to make her sick. So I’m going to check on the ingredients first to make sure there safe!

  22. Great Article! Its so hard to find a quality dog treat at the store right now, you really never know what you are getting. I have been thinking about making homemade treats, but it is so difficult to know serving size. Thanks for this resource!

  23. It’s interesting to know that you should select yogurts that do not contain artificial sweeteners or added sugars if you are looking for a dog treat. My husband and I adopted a dog last month, and we are looking for advice about healthy treats. We noticed that he loves yogurt, so I will choose yogurt that does not have any added sugar for him.

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