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Are homemade treats better for dogs?

Many dog owners enjoy giving their furry friends homemade treats as a special snack or reward. Homemade dog treats have become increasingly popular as more pet parents want to know exactly what’s going into their dog’s food. But are homemade treats actually better for dogs than store-bought ones? There are pros and cons to both options.

Benefits of homemade dog treats

There are several potential benefits to making your own dog treats at home:

  • You control the ingredients – With homemade treats, you decide what goes into them. You can avoid preservatives, artificial colors, extra salt and sugar, and other unhealthy additives commonly found in store-bought treats.
  • Tailor recipes to your dog’s needs – You can customize recipes to your dog’s health requirements. For example, you can make treats with extra glucosamine if your dog has joint issues or add in an egg for a high-protein snack if your dog needs to gain weight.
  • Use healthier ingredients – Home cooking often allows you to use wholesome ingredients like shredded chicken, carrots, apples, whole wheat flour, rolled oats and natural peanut butter.
  • Avoid allergens – If your dog has food allergies, homemade treats let you control what’s included and avoid problem ingredients.
  • They’re less processed – Homemade treats don’t go through the high-heat manufacturing process store-bought treats undergo, preserving more nutrients.
  • May be cheaper – Making treats at home can cost less than buying specialty treats, especially when using ingredients you already have on hand.

Downsides of homemade dog treats

However, there are some potential downsides to keep in mind with homemade dog treats:

  • Time commitment – Baking homemade treats takes more time and effort than just grabbing a bag off the shelf at the pet store.
  • Ingredient safety – Unless you’re very careful, you may inadvertently use something toxic for dogs, like raisins, chocolate or xylitol.
  • Storage – Homemade treats usually don’t preserve as well or stay fresh as long as commercial treats, and improperly stored treats can grow mold or bacteria.
  • Missing nutrients – Unless you carefully formulate recipes, homemade treats may not provide complete, balanced nutrition the way commercial treats designed by pet nutritionists do.
  • Calorie control – It can be harder to control portion sizes and calories in homemade treats versus pre-portioned store-bought treats.
  • Expense – Using high-quality ingredients like fresh meat and organic grains and vegetables can make your homemade treats cost more than the average commercial treats.

Benefits of store-bought dog treats

There are also several benefits of choosing commercial dog treats instead of homemade:

  • Convenience – You can conveniently pick up a bag at the pet store in a variety of formulas, flavors and shapes. There’s no baking required.
  • Predictable nutrition – Commercial dog treats are designed by pet nutritionists to give dogs balanced calories, carbs, protein and fat.
  • Portion control – Bagged treats usually come in handy individual sizes or with nutritional info for calorie tracking.
  • Food safety – Store-bought treats are manufactures according to USDA, FDA and AAFCO regulations to be safe and have proper shelf life.
  • Allergy options – You can easily find treats free of common allergens like grain, chicken or dairy.
  • Variety – Pet stores stock dozens of treat options with unique combinations of flavors, textures and nutrition.
  • Price – Mass-produced treats tend to be very affordable, costing only a few dollars per bag.

Downsides of store-bought dog treats

However, there are also some drawbacks to store-bought treats:

  • Preservatives and additives – Manufactured treats contain more preservatives, stabilizers and artificial colors and flavors.
  • Processing – Store-bought treats undergo more heavy processing like high heat exposure that may diminish nutritional value.
  • Lower-quality ingredients – Cheaper treats especially tend to use less expensive fillers like corn and wheat flours instead of more nutritious whole foods.
  • Uniformity – While homemade treats can be customized, mass-produced treats offer less flexibility or personalization for your individual dog.
  • Less control – With manufactured treats, you have to trust what the company claims is in them versus knowing exactly what’s included.
  • Allergies – Despite allergy-friendly formulas, traces of allergens like chicken are more likely in an industrial production setting.

Best practices for homemade dog treats

If you do opt to make your own dog treats, here are some tips to do it as safely and nutritiously as possible:

  • Consult your vet, especially if your dog has health conditions or allergies, to review your recipe ideas.
  • Select high-quality whole food ingredients – Lean proteins like chicken or salmon, whole grains like oats or quinoa, and fresh veggies and fruits provide the best nutrition.
  • Avoid toxic ingredients – Never use grapes, raisins, chocolate, macadamia nuts, xylitol or onion. Check safety of other less common foods as well.
  • Read up on canine nutrition standards from authorities like the FDA and AAFCO to ensure recipes provide balanced nutrition.
  • Measure carefully and account for calorie density to control portions.
  • Make small batches and refrigerate or freeze extras to ensure freshness and avoid waste.
  • Label treats with the recipe name and date baked so you know what’s inside and when they expire.
  • Select dog-safe shapes and textures your pet can enjoy and digest readily.

Comparing calories and cost

To get an idea of how homemade and store-bought treats compare nutritionally and cost-wise, let’s look at an example recipe for each and break down calories, ingredients and pricing per ounce:

Treat Type Recipe Calories per Ounce Cost per Ounce
Homemade Peanut Butter & Banana Dog Treats
– 1 banana

– 1/2 cup peanut butter
– 1 egg
108 calories $0.27
Store-bought Milk-Bone Original Dog Treats 96 calories $0.15

In this example, the homemade treats provide slightly more calories per ounce compared to the store-bought Milk-Bones. However, the homemade treats are made with whole food ingredients like banana and peanut butter, while the Milk-Bones’ contain corn, wheat, preservatives and artificial colors. The Milk-Bones are more affordable, costing about $0.15 per ounce versus $0.27 for the homemade treats.


Determining whether homemade dog treats are better than store-bought ones depends on your priorities. Homemade treats allow more control over quality ingredients, nutrients, and customizing for your dog’s needs, but they require more effort. Store-bought treats offer convenience and affordability, but the ingredients may be lower quality. For optimal nutrition, you’re probably better off choosing high-quality commercial treats or consulting with your vet on homemade recipes. For the highest quality, you could opt to purchase premium commercial treats made with wholesome ingredients. Regardless, both homemade and store-bought treats can be healthy in moderation as an occasional snack, as long as you choose recipes wisely in each case.