Let’s admit it - sometimes your dog’s treats are a little boring. Sometimes you give them a treat or chew, and by the time you’ve turned around just to close the bag, they’re already looking at you with puppy dog eyes and begging for seconds. And this doesn’t just happen with treats - even your dog’s meals can be a bit of a snoozefest! Standard stainless steel or ceramic bowls don’t provide any oral or mental stimulation, and many dogs scarf their food down in just a few minutes, which is not only boring, but can also increase the risk of bloat.
So how do you add enrichment to your dog’s treats or meal times? Simple - with fillable toys or chews! One of the best chews for filling is beef trachea (or beef aortas for smaller pups)! If you are unfamiliar with them, beef tracheas are one of the most common chews on the market and are available pretty much anywhere dog treats are sold (but check where they’re sourced -opt for “made in the US” when possible and avoid treats from China). They come in a variety of sizes, but the most common are 6” and 12” in length. Additionally, tracheas are classified as muscle meat because they are made of cartilage and not bone, making them a great heavy chew option for dogs that may have issues chewing or digesting bone. But aside from all this, one of their best features is that they are hollow! Tracheas are an edible interactive feeding toy - they help clean your dog’s teeth while he chews, they’re a great source of glucosamine (for joint health), and they provide a mentally stimulating (and tasty) way to enhance your pup’s meals! Below are some fun DIY recipes you can try at home to enhance your pup’s meals, and add some extra enrichment to their chew sessions!
To start making dog cannolis at home, all you need is a moisture-rich food as a base (something that will stick to the sides of the “cannoli” and not fall out once frozen), beef tracheas or aortas, and extra goodies for added health benefits or a special treat! It’s also important to keep in mind that your base mix can contain multiple items! For example, you can mix green tripe with raw meat and kibble, or mix yogurt with pumpkin and goat milk - the possibilities are endless! For some ideas on how to get started, check out our list of popular trachea stuffing ingredients below.
TRACHEA STUFFER INGREDIENTS
For Probiotics and Digestive Health
Yogurt: yogurt is a very popular snack for dogs that makes a great trachea stuffer! Yogurt is full of probiotics that help support a healthy digestive system and is also high in calcium and protein. However, yogurt does contain lactose (which can cause mild digestive upset in some dogs), so you can either offer a small amount first to see how your pup reacts, or add some slippery elm bark powder to your cannoli mix to help stop digestive upset before it starts!
Goat’s Milk: raw goat milk contains an abundance of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, protein, and fatty acids, making it an amazing source of nutrients for your dog! Goat’s milk has fewer milk sugars and lactose than cow’s milk, making it easier to digest for some dogs, and makes it a great supplement for dogs who need digestive and immune support. When incorporating this into a trachea cannoli, only add a few tablespoons and always add it to a more solid mixture (e.g., pumpkin, ground meat, etc) - you want your cannoli mix to hold its shape and not become too runny.
Pumpkin: just like you love pumpkin, most dogs do too! Pumpkin is a great source of fiber which helps your pup’s digestive system stay “regular,” and it is also full of essential vitamins that help boost immune health. However, if your dog needs to stay away from sugar, it is best to avoid using pumpkin, as it is higher on the glycemic index.
Green Tripe: green tripe is the nutrient-rich stomach lining of a ruminant animal that has not been bleached or cleaned for human consumption. It contains healthy bacteria and digestive enzymes that help boost your pup’s immune system. Green tripe is available in canned, dried, and raw options.
For Antioxidants and Vitamin Boosts
Blueberries: blueberries are low in sugar, and high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals! They can help fight cancer, support brain health, and even reduce chronic inflammation. When adding blueberries to your pups meals or trachea treats, you only need a handful. And as always, be sure to add fresh or frozen unsweetened blueberries, and always make sure to rinse the fruit before use.
Veggies: if you’re up for a little extra prepwork, making a pureed veggie mix or fermenting vegetables for your dog can be a great way to add some extra vitamins and antioxidants to their trachea treats! Popular greens to add include kale, spinach, swiss chard, parsley, and dandelion greens - all great sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and fiber. Additionally, carrots provide extra fiber, potassium, and vitamin C, and are a naturally sweet treat that many pets adore! A sample of a homemade veggie mix can be found here!
Blackberries: blackberries are a great source of antioxidants, fiber, manganese, and Omega-3s! They’re also high in vitamins C, K, and E. Fiber can help promote regular bowel movements and a healthier gut, while manganese is vital to healthy bone development and helps the body metabolize carbs and amino acids. They are also low in sugar, so they’re the perfect treat for dogs that have to watch their sugar intake.
For Extra Omega 3s
Whole or chunked fish: adding air-dried, single ingredient fish to your pup’s trachea treats is incredibly easy, and is a great source of essential Omega 3 fatty acids! Having a proper balance of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids is incredibly important, because while Omega 6 fatty acids can increase inflammation, Omega 3 fatty acids decrease it. Many commercial diets have a higher ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids, so supplementing with whole fish every once in a while is a great way to keep your dog’s immune system balanced. Both fats are essential to proper immune function, but one is much easier to come by in traditional pet food diets. Some popular types of fish to add include…
Salmon (air-dried, chunked)
Smelt (raw or air-dried, whole)
Sardines (air-dried, whole)
Alaskan Pollock (air-dried, chunked)
When adding these to a trachea, you can stick whole fish in at the end, and mix chunked fish into your filling! You can also use your Real Dog Box seafood treats as trachea toppers as well!
For the Calorie Conscious
Daily Dinners: counting calories or trying to limit your dog’s treats? You can stuff tracheas with their normal dinners! This is easier if your dog eats wet or raw food, but you can always add a little something as a binder if your dog eats kibble. Mix your dog’s normal meal (with any supplements) with a few spoonfuls of a wet/moist food and simply stuff it into a trachea or aorta and freeze until solid! Popular wet foods for stuffing include things like…
Canned or ground green tripe
Pumpkin (canned, single-ingredient)
Ground raw meat (chicken, turkey, beef, etc)
Wet or canned food
Raw Meat Grinds: raw meat is a great trachea stuffer, as it is packed with nutrients and low in carbohydrates, making it a great option for all dogs - especially the ones that need to shed a few pounds! Most pre-made raw foods have an adequate balance of calcium, phosphorous, vitamins and minerals, but if you don’t already feed raw, you can certainly pick up some ground turkey or beef from your local grocery store and use it as the main ingredient for your trachea “cannolis.”
Extra Treats and Tidbits
Air-Dried Treats: to spice up your cannolis, you can add some air-dried treats for extra flavor, texture, and variety! For example, adding some of the organ or muscle meat treats from your Real Dog Box can give your pup’s treat an extra flavor boost, in addition to providing additional vitamins and minerals.
Peanut Butter: best fed in moderation, this nutty spread is a favorite of most dogs. Always be sure to check the label and buy a brand that is 100% peanuts and is free of artificial sweeteners like xylitol, which can be toxic to dogs.
So many dog owners underestimate the benefits of adding mental stimulating activities to their dog’s daily life. Making “cannolis” for your dog can decrease meal time boredom, help clean their teeth, and is a great way to incorporate extra nutrients into their regular diet. Don’t be afraid to have fun and get creative with it, and always remember to research new ingredients before adding them to your pup’s diet.