A special thank you to Kathryn for writing this up for us and teaching others how to dehydrate dog treats.
The main reason I decided to buy a dehydrator to make my dogs’ treats was cost. Already dehydrated liver is very expensive. Why spend $4.00 for 4 ounces if I can buy grass-fed liver for $2.40/pound? I will dehydrate pretty much anything for my dogs. The process is really not unlike carving a Thanksgiving turkey more frequently.
Dehydrating and General Preparation Tips
I bought the Nesco dehydrator and extra plastic fruit roll tiers. I find it easier to clean when the food is not directly on the plastic tier. Just rinse off the fat and throw it in the dishwasher.
I use plastic gloves (either food service or latex), a sharp kitchen knife or kitchen scissors. Total preparation time is roughly an hour depending on what is being cut up.
I cook all the meats at the highest temperature. The unit will be hot and the directions say to make sure nothing is around it so the air can go through. I just have it on my counter with a clear path.
The Meat Source
I must give credit to the co-op, San Francisco Raw Feeders (SFRAW), of which I am a member. SFRAW only sells the best meats from sustainable local farms. If your town doesn’t have a similar co-op specifically for pets, I’d look into farms, Whole Foods, or human food co-ops.
Gizzards come out like leather and I believe they are more beneficial raw than cooked.
I buy a 5 pound bag of duck hearts and it will fill up all the tiers that come with the dehydrator. 10 pounds of turkey hearts will be at least 2 batches, maybe 3. I cut the tops off the turkey hearts with kitchen scissors and then cut them again length wise so they lay flat on the tray. My house smells like Thanksgiving! Duck hearts I cut lengthwise, again, to lay flat. Chicken hearts can remain whole. I do try to lay them in an orderly fashion but sadly I get impatient and just throw them on there for a minimum of 12 hours. I’m sure this adds to the time, but since it’s cooking while I sleep, it makes no difference to me. Simplicity is my motto.
Beef liver is very easy to cut up. I will either use a sharp kitchen knife or kitchen scissors. Depends on my wrists, 30 years of typing have made them worn. I suppose I should cut them up uniform but having astigmatism makes that impossible. I can’t draw a straight line let alone cut up slimy liver in perfect form. The plastic fruit roll trays are a must with liver. Be prepared for a liver smell when cooking. The smell doesn’t linger so I don’t mind. I have also used chicken, duck, or turkey liver and leave them whole. The total dehydration time is a minimum of 12 hours.
How people dehydrate tripe is beyond me. I can only imagine what that smells like so I don’t go there.
I slice as thin as I can until I get bored. Partially frozen is easier to cut versus thawed. The only downfall is the cold while holding onto it. The muscle meat dehydrates quicker than the hearts and liver, so I leave it on for 6-9 hours and check to make sure it’s cooked all the way through.
Ground Meat Patties
I will use ground meat and put some sweet potato puree or pumpkin and mix it together. I then get a spoonful and smash it on the tray. This is time consuming and I don’t make them often enough. I will dehydrate the patties for well over 14 hours.
Once they are finished I will portion them out into baggies and freeze what I am not going to use for the week. If the majority of the food is finished, the ones that are still a little red I just feed to them there when cool. Needless to say, I have an audience at the dehydrator. Like the seagulls or pelicans at the dock when the boats come in, hoping for some scraps. The beauty of raw for the dogs, refreezing is not an issue.
Reviewed by W. Jean Dodds, DVM, June 20, 2013