Dish of homemade dehydrated beef heart dog treats next to dehydrator tray on red background

In this special post, we’re making heart-healthy grass-fed beef heart dog treats. Beware, squeamish humans. This DIY might not be for the faint of heart, but heart might be good for helping faint hearts. It’s not something we would usually make for our Dalmatian due to dietary purine moderation, but if you’re a supporter of glandular therapy and eating what ails you, heart for heart might be a treat you’d like to read more about. Let’s take a sniff at the supplemental feeding concept, and then look at how to make DIY dehydrated beef heart dog treats.

Before You Start with Heart...

In the Dalmatian diet, extra organ meats are usually avoided because of their high purine content. But the highest purine organs are secreting organs, like the liver. The heart is a muscular organ, and is classified as a muscle meat in most dog dietary plans. It’s still at the higher end of purines for lean beef muscle meat, so something that may not suit purine moderated diets and should be avoided for purine restricted diets. If you are in doubt or have any questions or concerns, chat with your trusted vet and/or vet nutritionist for advice on your dog and their diet. 

In our case, if Humphrey was a younger Dali, had any history of urinary issues, and/or didn’t have a serious heart problem, this probably isn’t something we’d be making or feeding. For dogs without a need for purine moderation or other special dietary concerns, heart can be a tasty treat, treat ingredient, or food ingredient with fewer worries. See below on the potential benefits and options for adding heart to a dog’s diet.

Benefits of Feeding Heart for Dogs

If beef is on your dog’s diet menu, perhaps beef heart could be as well. It’s a protein-rich muscle meat that’s also packed with a huge dose of heart-healthy vitamins and minerals (see below). As with most foods, the better the quality, the better the nutritional value and safety. Pasture-raised grass-fed meat is usually higher in nutrients than standard, and the same is true for the mighty heart’s muscle meat. We’re very lucky here in New Zealand to have easy access to quality pasture-raised meats. And we also have an excellent local butcher.

As an added bonus, organ meats aren’t the most popular choice of cuts with most consumers. That means that the price for quality and quantity can be really reasonable. Heart can be exceptional value compared to other beef muscle cuts, if you can source it. You might need to ask your butcher for a custom or special order. Organs, like heart, might not be displayed up front or stocked on a daily basis. Our locally-owned and locally-farmed butcher shop was happy to hook dogdad up with some of their high quality pasture-raised grass-fed beef heart.  

Glandular Therapy

Feeding organ meats has long been part of the balanced feeding plan for raw dogs, and organs are often ingredients in homemade or commercial diets. Supplementing with organ products works on a similar nutritional basis, but is often targeted towards specific issues or ailments. Glandular therapy is the concept of consuming organs to get the nutrients, and in some cases secretions, needed to support the healthy functioning of the corresponding organs and systems within your own body. Or, in this case, your dog’s body. For example, eating pancreas or taking a pancreas supplement to support pancreatic health as well as to gain the benefits of the natural pancreatic enzymes.

Heart is a muscle rather than a secreting organ, and the benefits of eating heart are focused primarily on the nutrients. Most organs are nutritionally dense, and by eating healthy organs you can consume the proteins, vitamins, minerals, or other factors needed to support your own organs and general nutrition. Beef heart, like we’re using to make the treats in this post, is a rich source of taurine, coenzyme Q10, B vitamins, and more. Sound familiar? Those are all also part of Humphrey’s DCM diet and supplement treatment plan.

If eating organs directly is problematic for you, either from a quality organ meat sourcing perspective of the general ewww factor, you can look for supplements instead. They’re an easy option if you’d like a boost for you or your dogs, but always remember to check the ingredients and portion-sizes for suitability, especially if you’re not using a pet-specific product for your pups. I’ve used Ancestral Supplements for other health purposes, and purchased our capsules from Optimising Your Health here in New Zealand (not an affiliate link, just a shout out to a local business in appreciation of their great service). Overseas furfriends can go to the supplier or sniff around for alternative products. 

Freeze-dried organ supplement capsules next to open jar

Adding Extra Heart to a Dog's Diet

As noted above, if you’re a raw feeder, heart might be in your ready-to-feed minces or part of your homemade feeding plan. For other types of dog foods, heart (and other organs) might also be on the list of ingredients. Looking for extra heart? If you’re keen to add more fresh heart, you’ll need to find a prep and storage method that suits your pup. A whole cow’s heart is mighty big! The richness of organ meats makes moderation extra important for feeding or treats, a little heart goes a long way. 

Gently cooking and drying in the dehydrator helps maintain nutrient quality while making the heart safer for handling/feeding, and it’s much easier to store and serve in very small quantities. They freeze well, and a heart’s worth of treats lasts a very long time. In a purine moderated diet like Humphrey’s, a small strip of dehydrated heart as an occasional treat can be measured and managed in his overall dietary intake. It’s much harder flying blind on quantity in a ready-to-serve food pre-mix or other multi-ingredient prepared foods and treats. It’s still a very small quantity special treat, and as noted above, may not be suitable for some dogs or owner preferences. 

Why beef heart? For us, it’s the easiest option to source from a known supplier at known quality. Some of Humphrey’s current dog foods contain heart from other sources, so using beef heart here also adds a little extra nutritional variety. Different animal sources and qualities will vary in nutrient profiles, but other hearts, like chicken heart (also fairly easy to source in many areas), sheep heart, etc. can be similarly prepared, as can some other types of dog-friendly organ meats. Depending on your meat and source, added safety steps may be required.  

How to Make DIY Dehydrated Beef Heart Dog Treats

Sourcing and Selecting a Cow Heart

As noted above, quality ingredients make for quality treats. And potentially extra nutrients for dietary supplementation. If you can’t get your paws on pasture-raised grass-fed heart, look for the best quality available to you. Talk with your local butcher about what’s available, as noted above, organs are often backroom products or special order. Eagle eyes will spot two hearts in the pictures below. That’s because our local supplied us with a special order of two seperately vacuum packed whole fresh grass-fed beef hearts for us – one for dehydrating now and one to freeze for later. Which brings us to the prep… 

Preparing the Heart for Making Jerky

Bless dogdad for doing the dirty work for this DIY! If your butcher pre-trims and preps the heart, it might just look like pieces of lean roast and you can hop on down to the jerky details below. If you get a whole heart, you’ll need to trim it yourself. The starting point will look like a huge version on your high school biology lessons on hearts, upsized to cow. Not for the squeamish, but also rather interesting.
Cut your heart open so that you can access the inner chambers. Grossly fascinating, right? Trim out any inner tissues, gristle, etc. Remove any icky valve bits or other nasties. We’re going to be using only the nice red muscle meat of the heart for these treats. You can pre-trim any excess fat or gristly bits from the outside, or do it as you slice below, whichever best suits your heart and cutting style. Either way, you’ll want to remove as much visible fat as possible from the heart for making the jerky treats. As with all meats for making jerky, leaner is better. Fat dehydrates poorly, is messy on your trays, and more likely to go rancid and spoil depending on how you store your finished jerky treats.
Cutting and trimming a whole cow's heart for making jerky dog treats

Dehydrating Beef Heart into Jerky Dog Treats

Whew! And now onto the easy stuff. The rest of the process is much the same as making our usual types of homemade jerky dog treats. Beef heart is beef muscle, just like our simple beef jerky dog treats. Just a little extra rich and extra-full of heart-healthy nutrients.

Treat Ingredients:

  • Trimmed beef heart muscle meat (see above)

Making the Treats: 

  • Cut your heart muscle meat in preparation for dehydration. You can cut or break treats to smaller pieces for serving, or cut them as small serving-sized pieces before you dehydrate. Thicker strips will be chewier, but will take longer to dehydrate thoroughly. 
  • Optional: Pre-heat for added food safety (see tips below) prior to dehydrating.
  • Optional: If your heart muscle meat is particularly wet, you can pat it lightly before placing on the dehydrator trays to remove excess moisture. This isn’t necessary, but can make tray clean-up a little easier if that’s an issue. Ours went straight onto the trays.
  • Arrange the heart muscle meat on dehydrator racks or prepared trays.  Maximise your layout for volume and efficiency, but allow space for good air circulation through the racks. Good airflow is important for efficient and consistent dehydration.
  • Dehydrate according to your specific dehydrator’s settings/instructions for meat. Dehydration time will depend on your machine as well as how thick your pieces are, but it takes quite a while. Our new dehydrator defaults to 10 hours, and that’s my current go-to starter with extra time added if needed. Make sure that your meat is cured thoroughly. It will turn dark in colour, firm up, become dry to the touch, but still have some chewy flex. The heart muscle meat here took quite a long while to dehydrate, but the end result is dried beautifully!
  • Allow your fresh batch of DIY dehydrated beef heart dog treats to cool thoroughly before storage. See the tips and tricks below.

No dehydrator? If you don’t have a food dehydrator (affiliate link) for making the treats, you can use your oven. Place your prepared heart on a heat-safe wire rack (you can flip, but a rack is easier and gives better airflow) over a lined baking tray. Use your oven to replicate the function of a dehydrator, with a fan setting is even better if you have that option. As always, be careful with any sniffing dogs lurking nearby. Note that it is recommended to pre-heat meats to ~75C then dehydrate at ~60C. Refer to the additional safety information and links below.

Food Safety for Making Dehydrated Dog Treats

If you have a suitable dehydrator, you should be able to make jerky-style dog treats without extra prep steps. Easy as! If you’re not sure about your dehydrator, check the manual, and you can always add extra safety steps, like pre-heating, for extra assurance. You can read more about making jerky safely via the FSIS, noting that they currently recommend pre-heating when making jerky for human consumption to ensure the meat hits a suitable temperature early in the process while still wet. You can use this as an optional extra safety step when making treats for dogs, if you wish. Dogs usually have a more robust gut than we humans, but you’ll be handing the finished dehydrated treats, so a little extra caution might still be warranted. See below for extra tips and tricks, including notes on treat storage and handy reference links.

Additional Dehydrated Beef Heart Dog Treat Tips and Tricks

  • First time making jerky dog treats or new to dehydrating? There are lots of different types of jerky dog treat recipes here on the blog, but a great starting point is the comprehensive pet chef help post on making and storing homemade jerky and other dehydrated dog treats. It will take you through the basics of dehydrating treats, different types of dehydrated treats, food safety, and treat storage tips.
  • For safety, start with quality beef heart, practice safe food handling, trim well, preheat (optional for added safety), and dehydrate with care using meat/fish dehydrator settings or oven temperatures. As noted above, you can read more about jerky safety via the FSIS.
  • Struggling with slicing? Sharpen your meat knife and being careful is usually enough for us, but partially pre-freezing (or cutting when partially defrosted if starting from frozen) can help since the meat is firmer. To help ensure you get that wet safety heat, make sure your meat is fully thawed before you start the jerky prep and/or use the optional preheat step to make sure it gets hot before it gets dry.
  • Want to season your beef heart treats? They’re doggone delish plain, but you can season, marinate, or dry-rub your prepared beef heart strips before you heat/dehydrate, just like any other type of meat for making jerky. 
  • Although jerky treats are often kept at room temperature, we like to freeze all of our dehydrated jerky dog treats to be on the safer side since they don’t contain any preservatives or added salt. Jerky freezes really well, and our dogs enjoy it as treats straight from the freezer or defrosted in small quantities. Excellent for long slow consumption and serving moderation with rich treats like heart.
  • Most dogs would love a little nibble of heart jerky any time of the year, but this would be a particularly puptastic spin on hearts for making special Valentine’s Day dog treats. We’ll drop a Valentine tag on here for furfriend sniffing for special holiday ideas. Woofs!

Hungry for more tasty treats?  There are all sorts of homemade dog treat ideas in our blog archives. You can use the category and tag labels to find other recipes that might be of interest or use our internal search tools to find something specific. Remember, treats (bought or homemade) are for spoiling your pup in moderation. We share ideas from treats that we’ve made ourselves for our pets, but different animals have different preferences (likes/dislikes), just like people. Some pets may have special dietary requirements and/or food allergies/intolerances. If you are ever in doubt or have questions about what’s suitable for your pet, have a chat with your trusted vet.

How to make DIY dehydrated beef heart dog treats
How to make DIY dehydrated beef heart dog treats

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