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Beef jerky for dogs. What dog wouldn’t do just about anything for something so deliciously meaty and chewy? Our dogs don’t get nasty processed dog food – if we don’t eat processed food that’s had fillers, chemicals, and who-knows-what-else added to it, why should he? My regular readers know I’m a huge proponent of real food – for the whole family, and that includes the animals. Processed, commercial dog food is hideous, so we avoid it. And the “treats” and “chews” are even worse. So we make our own! It actually works out cheaper and it’s obviously far better for them.
Although, if you’re just getting started, learning how to ensure the diet is balanced can be a bit tricky. Anyway, one of the things people often struggle with when they first make the change to real food is making treats – particularly chews which are good for their dog’s teeth. Not all dogs can tolerate raw bones, and cooked bones are obviously highly dangerous and should never be given to dogs, so bones aren’t an option for everyone. But jerky is. Making beef jerky for dogs is so easy, there’s really no reason not to.
This recipe isn’t technically the regular jerky you’re familiar with because it isn’t made with ground meat. But it’s better, because it’s made with whole meat strips and braided, so it gives your dog’s jaws a real work out and gives their teeth a thorough clean. Think of them as irresistibly tasty, 100% natural, easy homemade dental chews for dogs.
Sourcing Your Beef for Jerky
There are companies who sell meat for dogs, and there are some very good ones, but some aren’t that great – they pack their meat packs full of fat and inferior parts, for example. Or they only sell minced. Or the meat just isn’t good quality. My general rule is, if I wouldn’t eat it because of the quality (not because of the cut), then my dog shouldn’t either. If you’ve got your own livestock or you hunt–great! You’ll have a ready supply of meat, even if it’s not beef.
Wait for the local store to have a good deal on–that’s often how we do it–then purchase big portions or sides of beef in bulk. See if you can get a good deal from the local butcher or a nearby farm that raises cattle. Basically, shop around to find the best deal. Although even if you pay full price, per pound, you’ll still likely pay a lot less than you would buying pre-packed pet store jerky.
Also remember that it doesn’t have to be beef – you can make any kind of meat jerky for dogs. Venison is very popular in our house (I swap seasonal produce and preserved goods and maybe a few $$ for venison trim, offcuts and organs, etc with a local hunter). Lamb makes fantastic jerky although it’s a little fattier than venison – but remember, fat, in moderation, is beneficial for most dogs unless they have a medical issue like pancreatitis. And you can use turkey, chicken, duck, goose, or any of the game birds, but obviously, you won’t get such long strips from them.
Preparing Beef for Jerky (Your dogs will be stuck to you like glue)
I cut my beef into long 1/2-inch strips or ribbons about a 1/8-inch thick. The length, width, and depth of your beef strips depend largely on the size of your dog and how big you want the finished chews to be. Be aware, if you’ve got a big side of beef, this is going to take quite a bit of time. Once you’ve ribboned all the beef, take three strips and braid them tightly. Lay each one aside. Eventually, you’ll have a big pile.
Making the Jerky
Yes, it probably took you a while to cut up all that beef and turn it into braids, but you’re basically done. If you’ve got a dehydrator (we use this one – it’s worked brilliantly for us), simply lay the braids on the dehydrator trays, leaving space between each to accommodate adequate airflow. Set your dehydrator to roughly 120F (50C) and run it for at least 36 hours. Obviously, every dehydrator is different, and they all cook at different speeds. As a rule of thumb, you want to remove as much moisture as possible, so the jerky goes very stiff and dry, and you get no softness when you squeeze them. If you leave moisture in, the chews won’t keep–and they won’t be effective as dental chews.
If you don’t have a dehydrator, get one! Haha. Seriously – it’s okay! You can still make jerky for your dog. Just put the braids in the oven, turn it to 120F and leave the door ajar. You might just have to forego using the oven for 24 hours while the jerky is drying.
Storing Your Homemade Beef Jerky for Dogs
As long as it’s properly dry, you can keep your dog’s beef jerky in an airtight container for at least a month – probably much longer, but it really depends how well you dehydrate it. Another option, if you’ve made too much for your dog to eat within a few weeks is just to dehydrate the amount your dog can get through in that timeframe and freeze the rest. The raw braids freeze fine, and you can get them out to defrost overnight and whack them in the dehydrator the next morning.
If you seal the homemade dog jerky in an airtight container or ziplock bag (squeeze out as much air as possible) you can freeze it. That way, it’ll last for a year or more. If I go this route, I lay the dehydrated treats flat on trays then, once they’ve frozen, I store them in ziplock bags so I can just grab a couple to defrost at a time.
Variations and Additions to Jerky for Dogs
If you want to get all fancy, you can add other things to your dog’s jerky to help balance their diet and make things a little more interesting for them. Salmon oil is hugely beneficial to dogs – for arthritis, skin complaints, digestive issues, and general health. Of course, you shouldn’t overdo salmon oil or any other fish oil without the appropriate amount of vitamin E, but you can simply mix the appropriate amount of vitamin E oil into the salmon oil, then lightly brush the braids with a thin coating of the mixture. Be warned – it’ll have a pretty intense odor while it’s dehydrating, so I’d do this one in an outbuilding, not my kitchen!
You can boost vitamin and mineral content as well as the dental hygiene power of jerky by sprinkling a little canine-friendly seaweed powder, like this organic kelp powder, over the raw braids. The seaweed is great for the teeth and gums, helping to remove plaque and tartar.
What Other Meat Can You Use for Homemade Dog Jerky?
Think outside the box if you don’t just want to go for straight-up dehydrated beef jerky and experiment a little with what you add. Just make sure whatever it is, it is healthy for your dog and will add to their dietary balance and overall wellbeing. And don’t be afraid to try other meats! Got venison? Awesome! Venison jerky is rich and super lean, so is a great choice. Lamb, boar, mutton, elk, ostrich, and so on. Goat is another fine option for dog jerky, although I’d only give small amounts to begin with, as goat isn’t always well-tolerated.
Be careful with poultry, though, because you have to remove all moisture for it to be bacteria-free and safe for consumption.
- Meat of your choice.
- You can make beef jerky dor dogs or you can switch it with venison, boar, elk, goat, lamb, mutton, or any other meat your dog loves.
- Cut your beef into long strips, 1/2-inch wide and roughly 1/8-inch thick. How long, wide, and thick you make your meat strips depends on the size of your dog and how big you want the finished chews to be. Just remember that when you dehydrate these, you're removing 80-90 of the moisture, so they will reduce is size/volume significantly - at least by a third.
- Now you've got all your meat ribbons, take three at a time and braid them tightly. As you finish each one, lay it on a dehydrator tray (or baking tray if you're using the oven).
- Space the strips on the trays to allow airflow and speed up drying time.
- Set your dehydrator to 120F or 50C and let it run for at least 36 hours. How long it takes depends on your dehydrator and the size of your jerky strips.
- Test the jerky by squeezing it a little - if it's still wet and moist, it's not ready. Set the dehydrator for another 12 hours, then check again.
Don't be afraid to experiment! Use other meats and add flavor or extra nutrition to the jerky strips before you put them in the dehydrator.
Salmon oil (balanced with Vitamin E) is great for skin, coat, and joints, and you can just brush some over top of the dog's jerky before you dehydrate it. Just remember that it has a really potent smell when it starts to warm up, so maybe do this one in a shed or outbuilding.
Double up on the teeth cleaning effect by sprinkling the jerky with high-quality seaweed granules before you dry it.
If your dog has a sweet tooth, drizzle a tiny bit of honey over the meat or puree some blueberries and brush it over the meat.
WARNING: NEVER use bone - even ground or powdered. Cooked bone (even if dehydrated at low temperatures) changes its structure and becomes brittle. It's also more liable to clump and is impossible for your dog to digest. And in ground or powdered form can cause a life-threatening impaction or obstruction in the gut.
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Is homemade jerky safe for dogs?
This homemade beef jerky recipe is safe for dogs, but I can’t guarantee all of them are. Avoid any recipes that contain sugar or salt, as these are just as bad for dogs as for humans. If a recipe contains something that’s bad for dogs, then you shouldn’t give it to your dog. I’ve even seen some beef jerky for dogs recipes that includes ground bone! This is awful and potentially fatal, as even ground bone, when subjected to even the low temperatures of dehydration changes structure and becomes dangerous – it can clump in your dog’s digestive tract and cause a lethal impaction. So please, don’t just blindly follow a recipe – make sure it only contains safe ingredients.
How do you dehydrate beef for dogs?
If you don’t have the time to make braided dental chews like the recipe here, or you just want small training treats, that’s totally fine. Just cut the beef into strips or smaller pieces, lay on the trays, and dehydrate according to this jerky recipe. The only difference is that, because the pieces asre smaller, they’ll probably need less drying time.
How do you dehydrate meat for dog treats in the oven?
If you don’t have a dehydrator, it’s totally fine to use the oven to dehydrate meat for dogs – it just means that you can’t use the oven for anything else for long periods while the meat is drying. If you’re making the beef jerky for dogs in this recipe, you follow the preparation guidelines, set your oven to 120F (50C), put the meat strips into the oven, and prop the door open a little, then leave them for 12 to 24 hours.