If you don't know where gelatin comes from you may want to turn back now before it's too late... If you're brave and love your dog, read on. :) As noted in our post on what we use for homemade dog treats and why, bone broth is a healthy homemade treat for dogs (and humans, if you're keen) and quality gelatin has some of the same health benefits. This post shares how we use bone broth for our dogs as well as a (much quicker!) healthy gummy dog treat.
Gelatin is made by boiling down the skin, cartilage, and bones of animals - yep, the leftovers. Waste not! Yes, the same gelatin as in jello, candy, marshmallows, yogurt, dressings, medicine, cosmetics, and more (the bane of us label-reading vegetarians). The good news is that it's full of health benefits, and it's those benefits that led me to get over my ewwww factor and start making gelatin treats for my dogs. Our senior dog in particular could use all the help I can give him for his aging joints and mobility, but it's also reported to be beneficial for their general health including metabolism, digestion, liver function, bones, skin, coat, etc. I have lots of fun and fancy gummy recipes to share, but will start with two simple healthful basics as an introduction - one from scratch and a quickie shortcut.
Bone Broth Gummies
Bone broth is stock created by simmering all of the healthy goodness out of bones, which makes it very inexpensive but also kind of gross (IMO) although our dogs think it's AMAZING and nearly desiccate from drooling over the smell whenever I make it! Dogs Naturally have a good article on bone broth and dog health - my dogs closely resemble the salivating cartoon. :) You can use any bone broth recipe and bone combo you like, just make sure that any seasonings are dog-safe. Since I can't be bothered bottling broth and lack the freezer space for volume storage, I decided to reduce my bone broth way down into a concentrated stock and see if it would set like jelly - after all, it's the same stuff, right? It came out way better than expected and is the only way I make/store broth for the dogs.
The key to concentrating bone broth into firm gummies is to bring it up to a low rolling boil at the end of your simmering process to further reduce the liquid. Easy peasy! When making mine, around an hour before cut-off time, I bring the pot back up to a boil. As the liquid reduces, I periodically turn the bones so that all parts get continuing exposure to the liquid and cut any loose cartilage bits still on the bones into the liquid for max goodness into the broth. See tips below. Once reduced, I strain the pot into a bowl or pan, refrigerate until set, cut the solidified fat from the top, and then slice the gummy broth into bite-sized pieces. I spread them out, freeze them, and then transfer them to a small container for ready-use individual frozen storage. So convenient.
Tips and Tricks:
- I've found that for a reducing my liquid to around a fifth (rough eyeball...) initial volume works consistently well to set firm with my usual bone combo, but you may need to experiment to find what works best for you depending on your preferred broth and simmering time.
- Since I don't have any leftover bones from human food, I buy bones at the local butcher shop - the more joints and cartilage the better. Depending on the bones and suitability, I let the dogs help with a pre-gnaw to clean off any bits of meat before starting the cooking process - double treat benefit!
- After cleaning the bones, I like to briefly roast them. This is optional, but helps make it less stinky when simmering - a lesson learned during my first attempt. Apparently it's more flavourful too...not that I'm keen to taste test...
- Most recipes tell you to go for 1-2 days, but my dogs go feral and won't sleep if it's sending out delicious stink waves overnight so I start very early and just let it go for the day. Sure, it's probably not max nutrients that we could potentially get out of the process, but it's still goodness!
Quick and Simple Chicken Gummy Dog Treats
If you aren't keen to make bone broth or just want a quick healthy treat, you can use powdered gelatin to make easy healthy dog gummies. These are the most basic gummies I make, and our dogs love them so simple!
1 cup plain homemade (or ready-made unsalted unseasoned) chicken stock
3 tbsp powdered gelatin* See tips below.
Measure broth into a small saucepan. Sprinkle with gelatin powder and let sit for five minutes to bloom/gel. Gently stir the mixture over low heat until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and pour into a glass pan (cut and slice) or silicone molds (shaped gummies). Chill to set.
Tips and Tricks:
- My chicken stock is simple unseasoned broth saved from preparing homemade food. It can be VERY hard to source ready-made unsalted and unseasoned stock.
- Anything not fully dissolved in your liquid (e.g. little bits of stuff in your stock) will settle, as you can see on my treats. You can always strain the stock before making your gelatin mixture if you wish, but since it was all healthy goodness in my stock, I didn't bother. :)
- If you're using shaped pans, keep them simple for easy breakage-free removal.
- In my experience, 3 tbsp of gelatin powder per cup of stock (which is already a little thick au natural) makes firm gummies, but if you prefer, you can use more gelatin for added supplementation or less for a jigglier jelly treat with lower gelatin content. When working with other liquids, I often use 4 tbsp. Individual gelatin powders may be a little stronger/weaker. Find a ratio that works for your preferences and, of course, your dog.
- Once set, they are now ready to eat, but for an even better "real" gummy texture/feel, after you have taken the treats out of the mold, return them to the refrigerator on a plate/tray uncovered to dry for a day before normal container storage.
- These treats should be kept refrigerated and can be frozen for longer storage. If gummies are frozen, I find that defrosting in the fridge uncovered on a plate or dishtowel helps to make sure that they thaw dry instead of getting a little slippery.
Hungry for more tasty treats? See all of our recipes here. Remember, treats are for spoiling your pup in moderation. Some dogs have special dietary requirements and/or food allergies/intolerances. If you are ever in doubt or have questions about your dog's diet and health, have a chat with your vet.