She dehydrated what?!? Oh yes. We did. We dehydrated cottage cheese. This simple treat or food topper can be as basic as a single-ingredient or as fancy as you’d like with optional add-in ingredients. I did both as an experimental demo dehydration for this post.
Pups and Purines
For different reasons, many of our furfriends are on restriction diets, especially some of our Dal pals. Dalmatians differ from other dogs in how their bodies metabolise purines, which places them at a heightened risk of kidney and urinary crystals and stone formation. Yeouch! See our post on Dalmatians and purine issues for more information and linked resources.
We’re fortunate that none of our dogs have, thus far, had issues. Still, it’s better to lean on the side of safety, so we aim to moderate their purine intake. Our dogs get a variety of meats and fish in moderated quantities, but also lots of less traditional dog foods, including dairy, eggs, gelatin, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and more. Gelatin is one of our favourite treats and bridges all sorts of doggy dietary models, including being a low-purine protein. One more of the many reasons we love gummies!
Eggs and cottage cheese are also doggone delicious nutritious lower purine protein sources. They’re common ingredients in purine moderated diets, so we’re going to do a few special dehydrator experiments for our furfriends and see whether we can successfully dehydrate those to make them into bite sized treats, food toppers, or a just to be little more portable for taking with you on road trips, camping, etc.
Cottage Cheese Considerations
Our dogs don’t have any issues with lactose, but dairy isn’t for everyone or every pup. Aged cheeses have the lowest levels of lactose. Fresh unripened cheeses, like cottage cheese, are higher but generally still in the low-lactose range. Since lactose is milk’s natural form of sugar, you can check the sugar content of plain dairy product to help gauge the lactose levels. For example, our usual cottage cheese is ~2% by weight by label (2g/100g). Alternatively, lactose-free products are available (double check all ingredients for safety) or you can make a homemade cottage cheese. The latter may have a different consistency than traditional cottage cheese so you may need to strain, drain, or adjust the basic dehydrating process to suit.
Skip the Salt
Cottage cheese can be very high in added salt, which isn’t good for dogs (or people). As with any food, treat, or ingredient, always check the labels. Look for lower or low-sodium or no-salt added options where available.
Cottage cheese is generally very low in fat compared to other cheeses; however, different levels of fat content are available. Reduced fat cottage cheese will dehydrate quicker than standard cottage cheese and with a slightly different consistency, but I’ve tried both successfully.
Cost and Storage
Our dogs both love cottage cheese. It’s a nutritious lower purine goody that I happily share by small spoonfuls or let them help clean out the empty container for recycling. Unfortunately, it’s something that’s often quite expensive here and has a short fridge life. So how to take advantage of those sales? Hmmm. Freezing is one way to extend the storage, but after experimenting with the dehydrator, crunchy little nuggets of dehydrated cottage cheese are a pretty doggone interesting option, too. Humans might also enjoy them as well.
How to Dehydrate Cottage Cheese
Selecting and Preparing Cottage Cheese for Dehydration
See notes above on selecting a suitable cottage cheese.
Our cottage cheese is very thick and doesn’t have a lot of watery juice, but if yours tends to be on the wet side, you might find it helpful to strain before dehydrating and/or opt to start the process of drying the curd on a fruit leather tray or with parchment paper instead of the open racks. I was pleasantly surprised to have zero issues with using the racks since rack drying is faster and flip-free.
Dehydrating Cottage Cheese
Place cottage cheese in thin dollops on a dehydrator rack (or prepared tray). Dehydrate according to your specific dehydrator’s settings/instructions. The mid-range temperature settings (typically ~55C) are sufficient for cottage cheese. It’s better to dehydrate low and slow than try to rush things along with higher heat. This helps ensure it dries evenly all the way through. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can substitute an oven-safe baking/cooking rack, drip tray, and a fan-forced oven.
Cottage cheese is safe for raw eating (by people and pets). Unlike meats that need to reach higher temperatures for jerky safety, it isn’t necessary to use high temperatures with cottage cheese. If you wish, you can still use a finishing hit of higher heat to safety “cook” the curd after it’s been dried.
The dehydration time will depend on your machine, how thick your curds are spread, and the moisture content. As the cottage cheese dries, it will change in colour and take on a firm crispy texture. When fully dry, it will be solid with a snappy crunchy texture.
As noted in our jerky posts, lower fat foods dehydrate faster and generally store better. Reduced fat cottage cheese may dehydrate a little quicker than standard cottage cheese, although I’ve tried both trim (<1%) and standard (~5% by weight, by the label) successfully.
Allow to cool thoroughly before storage. The dried curd is brittle and can be broken into crunchy little nuggets for treats or even whizzed into a fine crumb for a sprinkle topper. I prefer chunks. Simple and flexible as a treat or a topper. Sealed cold storage is recommended.
In theory, thoroughly dehydrated cottage cheese should be shelf stable if kept completely dry. However, as with all of our homemade dehydrated treats, I prefer to err on the side of food safety caution and keep mine in the fridge (or freeze if making a large batch for extended storage). The dehydrated cottage cheese takes up a lot less space in the freezer than fresh.
Making Flavoured Cottage Cheese Dog Treats and Food Toppers
Plain vs. Seasoned
Cottage cheese is absolutely delish on its own and our dogs went wild for it. There is no need to jazz it up with extra scents or flavours. Unless you feel like playing, of course! Imagination is the limit! Cottage cheese has the advantage of being able to work with sweet or savoury, although I tend to lean towards the side of savoury. Adding heat-safe ingredients can also be a way to combine extra nutrition or supplements with your treats or toppers in small quantities.
If you would like to flavour your cottage cheese, strain or drain the cottage cheese in preparation (if needed) first so that you don’t strain out any of your seasonings. Then mix in your add-ins. Remember, add-ins can affect the dehydration process and/or the texture or consistency of your cottage cheese (when wet and/or dried). Once mixed, the basic process is the same as shared above.
Different Types of Add-In Seasonings
The easiest add-ins are powders or small dried ingredients as they are least likely to affect consistency and outcome. To keep things simple, crunch, and delicious, dried dog-friendly herbs work particularly well. Rosemary is one of our dogs’ favourite herb scents (drool drool) and our experiments with rosemary and parsley cottage cheese came out fabulously!
Using add-ins that are moist and chunky may complicate getting a consistent dehydrated result. If you’d like to use something like that, for example fruits, veggies, etc.), you can puree the add-ins and mix thoroughly for a more homogeneous blend. Adding purees or liquids will later the consistency of your cottage cheese and may affect the dehydration process. You may also need to use parchment or tray to compensate for the additional liquid.
The Cottage Cheese Dehydration Experiment Verdict
It was easier to successfully dehydrate the cottage cheese than I expected and the end texture was lovely and crispy. I wasn’t kidding when I said that the humans might enjoy it too! The dogs found both the plain and the seasoned to be doggone delicious. Moderation is key. You’ll be amazes at how much things reduce during dehydration, so don’t be overly generous on the size or quantity. No matter how big those puppy dog eyes may be!
The crunchy dehydrated cottage cheese was a combination of bite sized nuggets and crumbly bits. The nuggets were fine for treats (handle with care as noted below), but the overall consistency was better suited to being a sprinkle or a topper. The dried cottage cheese can be crumbled by hand or ground into a powder for easy small servings.
Portability: Handle with Care
Unlike jerky, these crumbly nuggets definitely aren’t pocket treats! In a jar, however, they’d travel ok. As a topper, no worries at all. It could be a good option for short term portability if you’re travelling with a diet restricted pet. As noted above, even with thoroughly dehydrated treats, I still prefer freezing for safer storage long term.
Would I Do it Again?
Maybe. If our dogs had issues that required a more restrictive feeding plan, it would be an interesting option. Because we’re flexible, I’m more inclined to bake treats with the cottage cheese and stick with dehydrated meats. It’s nice to know that it works and the consistency limitations, though. You never know when it might come in handy.
🦴 Hungry for more tasty treats? There are all sorts of different DIY dog treats here on the blog. Woofs! Remember, treats (bought or homemade) are for spoiling your pup in moderation. We share ideas here from treats that we make ourselves for our pets, but different animals will have different preferences (likes or dislikes) and dietary needs. Some pets may have special dietary requirements and/or food allergies or intolerances. If you are ever in doubt or have questions about what’s suitable for your pet, have a chat with your trusted vet.