When you were little, your parents probably told you to eat your veggies, with the promise that you’d grow up to be strong. As humans, eating vegetables is important for us as it provides us with the nutrients our body needs to function, and some of these nutrients can’t be obtained from eating only meat. For dogs, it’s slightly different. No, vegetables aren’t essential in a dog’s diet, but they can help in providing extra nutrients, and they make great low-fat snack alternatives (this is ideal if you need to manage your dog’s weight).
Sean McCormack is the Head Vet at tails.com and co-author of The Happy Dog Cookbook, which is full of delicious, healthy recipes for your dog. Here, he shares his love of plant-based foods, and gives us a recipe to try at home!
It’s no secret that as well as being a vet, animal lover and self confessed nature nerd, I’m also a massive foodie and total plant geek. I love growing my own delicious, organic food and planting for wildlife on my allotment. So, combining my love for dogs with my love of food was a no-brainer, and The Happy Dog Cookbook was born!
It’s a selection of 24 seasonal recipes that celebrate the incredible bond we have with our dogs, offering a fun way for all the family to get treating in a healthy, nutritious and delicious way. Even better, all profits from the book are being donated to an incredible veterinary charity, StreetVet, who offer free, accessible care to the pets of those experiencing homelessness.
When Michael asked me if any of the recipes in the book were plant based, and if I’d like to write about them, the answer was: “Yes, and yes!”. So why did I create plant based recipes for dogs, who are carnivores after all?
Well, here’s the thing. Dogs, despite what you may have heard, are true omnivores. One of the main things that sets domestic dogs apart from their wolf-like ancestor is their ability to digest plant material as well as meat. Dogs are not wolves. They became dogs by scavenging on our leftovers when we became farmers rather than hunter gatherers. Cereals, grains, fruit and vegetables are very much on the doggy menu.
I also wanted to create healthy treats, some that were lower in calories than many on the market, because – as a nation – we are facing a pet obesity epidemic. Treating is an important part of feeding our pets and building our relationship with them but, over 50% of UK dogs are overweight or obese. So healthier treating is a good idea.
Delicious fruit and vegetables feature heavily in my book, alongside meat based recipes dogs will love too. And all have passed the scrutiny of the tails.com office dog tasting panel with wagging tails and smacked lips.
Plant-based dog treats
One of my favourite plant-based recipes is the Carrot and Parsley Minty-Fresh Bones which are not only bursting with immune-boosting antioxidants but can help banish the dreaded doggy breath too. Rice flour, oats, carrots, parsley, mint and peanut butter. “Dee-lish!” say doggos everywhere. Check out my recipe and try them for yourselves.
And what better way to spoil your pooch and share how much you love them, than by baking my super cute Cranberry and Linseed Valentine Hearts? Although there is an egg in this recipe, it can be easily replaced with apple sauce or mashed banana instead to make it fully plant-based.
For nervous pups, especially around the bonfire and fireworks times of year, my Calming Halloween Pumpkin Chews are the perfect plant based occupier treat. Chewy and delicious, and rich in L-tryptophan and glutamate that the brain uses to make its own happy hormones. They also contain soothing chamomile, so they’re designed to be anxiety busters through and through.
All of these great recipes for happy hounds can be found in The Happy Dog Cookbook, written by myself and featuring Annabel Karmel, renowned family feeding expert, author and absolute dog lover. It’s available now online on Amazon, Foyles.co.uk and Waterstones.com.
So please buy a copy for any dog lovers in your life, and know you’ll also be supporting the great cause that is StreetVet.
Carrot & Parsley Minty-Fresh Bones
Makes: About 30 (depending on cutter size)
Prep: 20 minutes Cook: 25 minutes
- 200g rice flour, plus extra for dusting
- 25g rolled oats
- 2 carrots, washed and grated
- handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
- handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
- 45g xylitol-free peanut butter*
- + a bone-shaped cookie cutter
*IMPORTANT! Some peanut butters contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. Make sure you choose a xylitol-free peanut butter.
These treats are not only highly nutritious, but can help with doggy breath and provide dental health benefits too! Parsley and mint have antibacterial and deodorising effects – great for freshening breath. Along with carrots, these plant ingredients are also rich in antioxidants to boost immune function. Dog breath be gone!
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan)/gas 6 and line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
- Combine the flour and oats in a large bowl, then stir in 150ml water. Add the grated carrots, chopped herbs and peanut butter. Stir thoroughly, until a thick dough is formed.
- Sprinkle some flour on a work surface and roll out the dough to 6–8mm thick. Cut out individual treats with the cookie cutter and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake the bones in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes until golden brown. The cooking time will vary according to the thickness of your treats. Allow to cool on a wire rack before serving.
Store the biscuits in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze for up to 3 months.
Would you try this recipe for your dog? Let me know in the comments below!