Sophie Jackson is a dog lover and trainer living in the UK. She competes in agility and obedience with her four dogs.
When I first came across doggy gummies I was curious at this new way of making dog treats. I soon grew excited as I realised the possibilities for this healthy alternative to regular treats, that not only look amazing, but are simple to make. Best of all, dogs love them and you know you are feeding them something that is low fat and full of goodness, what could be better?
The basic ingredients of doggy gummies are simple - a setting agent and a flavour. Of course, once you have the hang of them there is no reason not to experiment and create treats that are both beautiful and tasty. Adding things such as turmeric or yogurt makes them super treats with health benefits. Just as important, by making your own treats you will know exactly what your dog is eating.
Gummies can be incorporated as treats into a low-fat diet for dogs suffering from pancreatitis as the basic ingredients (water, beef gelatin or agar) contain almost no fat. They are also great for dogs with allergies as you can be very specific about the ingredients. They are also ideal for dogs on a diet, as they are tasty but low calorie.
Two types of setting agents are used to make doggy gummies - beef gelatin and agar powder. They both have advantages and disadvantages, and when choosing which to use it is important to consider what you want from your dog treats. Whichever setting agent you use, it is best to keep your finished gummies in the fridge.
Beef gelatin makes a wobbly gummie that resembles jelly (jello in the US). Beef gelatin contains collagen which is important for the health of the musculoskeletal system, which in turn is vital for good mobility. Collagen maintains healthy skin and digestion, but is also key for protecting the bones and joints by supporting the tendons and cartilage. It may also reduce joint pain and helps the body to absorb calcium to keep bones strong. As our pets age, their bodies' natural ability to make collagen declines and so adding collagen to their diet through beef gelatin can help maintain them physically.
The best bit about gelatin is that it is high in proteins but low in fat, meaning it is a good way to improve your dog's healthy without worrying it will cause them to gain weight.
Gelatin comes in sheets or powdered form. Due to the amount needed for gummies, it is best to use powdered. This can be bought in bulk relatively inexpensively.
The advantages of beef gelatin is that it melts easily and remains liquid at room temperature, making it easier to get into moulds. It then has to be set in the fridge.
The disadvantage is that the gummies will melt if left out of the fridge too long. This is not a treat to take to training class as you will end up with a wet mess in your pocket, but the gummies can be out of the fridge for around an hour and remain firm, as long as it is not too hot.
Beef gelatin gummies are best used as supplements in meals or as treats to feed direct from the fridge.
Powdered Agar (sometimes called Agar Agar) is a setting agent made from algae. Because it does not derive from animals it is vegan and contains no fat, however, this also means it does not have the health properties found in gelatin.
Agar has a much higher melting point than gelatin and will begin to set at room temperature. This can make it challenging to work with as it becomes thick and difficult to spread very quickly. However, this also makes it more suitable for using as a training treat for your dogs. I have taken agar gummies to an outside dog show on a sunny day and they have remained perfectly solid for the duration.
To make your agar treats even more resilient to melting, you can dehydrate them at around 40C for 4 or 5 hours. This causes them to shrink and become firm but rubbery. You can still cut up the treats, if required, and they will last outside of a fridge for several hours without deteriorating.
Unfortunately you can't dehydrate gelatin treats, they simply melt.
In consistency, agar gummies are much firmer than gelatin gummies, and retain their shape even when cut up, making them easier to handle when using as training treats.
Moulds, Measures and Extra Equipment
While making gummes is very easy, there are a few items of culinary equipment you will need. The most important of these are your moulds. Gummies are set in silicone moulds, these are essential to your cooking process.
Moulds are easily obtain from internet shops such as Amazon and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Consider how big you want your final gummies to be when picking moulds. My biggest moulds are the bones and paws ones, which I use to make my gelatin gummies that I feed as supplements or bedtime treats. I have smaller bear moulds and dot moulds for making bite size training treats. I recommend buying a selection of moulds before you start making gummies, so you can experiment with the size.
The next essential in your gummie making kit is a silicone spatula. I use this to help spread the gummie mix into the mould. This is vital for agar gummies where the mix is thick and needs to be pressed into the moulds, particular when it starts to harden.
In terms of measures, most gummie recipes come from America and the quantities are listed in cups. For conversion to UK measurements, 1 cup equals approx. 250ml. I use a jug that has both cup measurements and millilitre measurements on it.
Basic Gummie Recipe
Gummies are very simple to make and there is only a slight difference between using gelantine and agar when creating them. Once you have the base recipe you can adapt it with new flavours and ingredients.
Beef Gelantine Gummies
1/2 Cup (125ml) water
1/2 Cup (125ml) Chicken Stock (you could also use goat's milk, fish stock or fruit juice such as blueberry) Please note, the stock needs to be homemade or a 0% salt version. If using juice, it should be unsweetened either with sugar or sweeteners.
3 Tablespoons of Powdered Beef Gelantine
Pour the water into a saucepan and sprinkle over the gelantine. These should be level tablespoons not heaped. Leave for five minutes to allow the gelantine to soak in. Heat gently while stirring until the gelantine has dissolved. If the mix is very thick, added a little more water. Once the gelantine is all dissolved, take off the heat and add the chicken stock, mix well. Pour the mix into moulds and allow to set for at least an hour before trying to remove them. Keep gummies in fridge. Do not freeze.
1/2 Cup (125ml) Water
1/2 Cup (125ml) Chicken Stock (see note above)
3 Tablespoons Agar
Pour water into a saucepan and sprinkle over the Agar. Leave for five minutes. Whisk through the Agar. Heat gently to a low simmer and then simmer for two minutes while stirring. Take off the heat and add the chicken stock.
Agar hardens fast, I pour a good dollop over my moulds and then spread it with a spatula. Remove any excess and chill in a fridge for an hour before removing from the moulds.
If your Agar becomes too hard to work with, you can reheat it to melt it again. Once set and removed from the moulds, the Agar treats can be placed in a dehydrator at 40C for 4-5 hours. This shrinks them and makes them more stable for use as training treats. Keep in fridge. Don't freeze.
To make a stronger flavour treat you can use chicken stock instead of the water and then top up with more chicken stock or another flavour, for instance, natural yogurt.
Goat's milk, kefir and yogurt both work well to make tasty treats. Yogurt and kefir have the advantage of containing probiotics which are good for your dog's tummy. When adding a probiotic liquid to your gummies always do so after you have heated the setting agent, as heat can kill the probiotic bacteria and defeat the purpose of using it.
When using yogurt with agar the mix will set very quickly and you must work fast to get it into the moulds. You can reheat it in the saucepan to make it workable again, but remember this may damage its probiotic qualities.
When using fruit to flavour gummies, you don't need much. Take a handful of fresh fruit such as blueberries, place in a pan with water and gently bring to the boil, then simmer for five minutes. Strain the liquid through a sieve to get the juice.
If using shop-bought juice make sure it has not been sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners (including Stevia). Be aware that the sweetener Xylitol is poisonous to dogs.
Baby food can be used to flavour gummies. Just check the ingredients to be sure it is dog safe.
To make multi-coloured gummies, first make up a half quantity of the mix using water and a natural colour, such as the blueberry juice mentioned above. Pour into moulds, then make up the remaining quantity with water and goat's milk or yogurt. Pour over the top of the first layer and then put in the fridge to set.
Don't use ordinary food colouring as this can contain ingredients that are not good for your dog. Natural food colouring is available through specialist sellers, or you can make your own using fruit and vegetables.
You can add powdered supplements to the mix once it is off the heat, but bear in mind it is tricky to make sure the correct amount of supplement ends up in each gummie.
If you want to make a gummie you can fit a pill into, to make it easier to get your dog to take their meds, cut up drinking straws and place in the moulds before filling them to create a little pocket for the pill. This is fiddly!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.