Warning: If you don’t know where gelatin comes from you may want to turn back now before it’s too late! If you’re brave and love your dog, read on, furfriends! Bone broth is a healthy homemade treat for dogs (and humans, if you’re keen). Taking it a step further, here’s how to make healthy homemade gummies for dogs completely from scratch using bones. Since quality store bought gelatin shares many of the benefits, I’ve also included a (much quicker!) shortcut for making gummy dog treats.
Gelatin is Made from WHAT?!?
Gelatin is made by boiling down the skin, cartilage, and bones of animals – yep, the leftovers. Waste not! Yes, the same gelatin as in jello, candy, marshmallows, yogurt, dressings, medicine, cosmetics, and more. It’s the bane of us label-reading vegetarians. Sigh. The good news is that gelatin is full of health benefits, and it’s those benefits that led me to get over my ewwww factor and start making gelatin treats for my dogs.
The Benefits of Gelatin for Dogs (and People)
Our senior dog in particular could use all the help I can give him for his ageing joints and mobility, but bone broth (and gelatin) is also reported to be beneficial for their general health including metabolism, digestion, liver function, bones, skin, and coat. I have lots of fun and fancy gelatin gummy dog treat recipes to share, but will start with two simple healthful basics as an introduction – one from scratch and a quickie shortcut.
Making Gelatin Gummies from Scratch
Making Homemade Bone Broth for Dogs
Bone broth is stock created by simmering all of the healthy goodness out of bones. You can read all about making bone broth for dogs in our post, including my go-to methods, how we store our broth, and uses for dogs. You can use any bone broth recipe and bone combo you like as the base for gummy making, just make sure that any seasonings are dog-safe.
Experimenting with Homemade Gummies from Scratch
Since I can’t be bothered bottling broth and (when this was first posted) I lacked the freezer space for volume storage, I decided to reduce my bone broth way down into a concentrated stock and see if it would set like jelly. After all, it’s the same stuff, right? It came out way better than expected. For a long time, this was my preferred way to make/store broth for the dogs.
In the years since writing this post, I’ve experimented with a lot of different dog treats and recipes. I still make bone broth (its a go-to-favourite), but I’m not focused on getting it to gel super firm. I just freeze it in a tray and then store the cubes for ready use. I use high quality gelatin for making homemade gummy dog treats, and use the bone broth either on its own, defrosted to a liquid for on food, straight from the freezer (pupsicle, anyone?), or as part of my other homemade treat recipes, including gummies.
Getting Bone Broth to Gel and Set Extra Firm
Typically, if all goes well, homemade bone broth with gel, but isn’t usually firm enough to set and handle like a gelatin gummy. Key elements to getting gelatin to set extra firm are:
- Using collagen-rich bones (and connective tissue) to create the broth
- Simmering long, low and slow to increase extraction
- A lower water-to-gelatin ratio in the final broth
Collagen Rich Bones and Connective Tissues
Collagen is the fibrous protein that forms the soft framework of bones, which are strengthened and hardened by calcium. It’s also high in tendons and cartilage, as well as other body parts like skin and other connective tissues. Including lots of joints, knuckles, and connective bones in the broth mixture will help ensure there are good collagen sources from which we can, hopefully, pull enough gelling power to set firm gummies. The dogs will love the taste. Kids would probably prefer the powder!
Simmering Long, Low, and Slow
Using our well-selected quality bones, the next step is no different than when we make normal bone broth for dogs. Combining the bones with water, a splash of apple cider vinegar to aid extraction, and sufficient water for simmering, we then cook long, low, and slow. We want to simmer out as much goodness as we can, including our gelling collagen. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat and try and shortcut the process. Overheating can reduce gelatin’s setting strength. It is still healthy, but counterproductive to our firm setting homemade scratch gummy making efforts.
Getting a Lower Water-to-Gelatin Ratio
Simmering without excess water is a great head start, but getting enough water coverage to soak and leach the bones is also important. Pack the bones in as closely fit as you can to minimise the gaps and thereby reduce the required amount of water from the beginning.
For a better chance at setting firm, you can concentrate the bone broth to further reduce the liquid at the end of your usual liquid-covered bone simmering process. I’ve found this to be a key step for gummy success. As you near the end of your usual bone broth simmering time, stop topping up (if you normally top up), remove the lid, and continue to simmer. Again, don’t be tempted to speed things up by going too high on the temperature as overheating will break down the gelling proteins.
As the liquid slowly evaporates and reduces, I periodically turn the bones so that all parts get continuing exposure to the remaining liquid. I also cut any loose cartilage bits still on the bones to try and soak as much as I can into the liquid. As liquid levels drop, you can remove some / all bones, if you wish. How much to reduce is a matter of choice (and patience), but the less water, the more concentrated the broth and the better your chances of setting firm.
Setting the Finished Bone Broth into (Hopefully!) Gummies
Once reduced, similar to standard bone broth, I strain the contents into a bowl or pan, then refrigerate the broth until set firm. Once chilled and set, I can cut any solidified fat from the top. If successfully set firm enough, I can then slice the solidified broth into bite-sized pieces. They can be kept in the fridge for a couple of day, or frozen for longer storage. I spread them out on a tray, freeze, and then transfer to a small container for ready-use individual frozen storage. Very convenient.
Didn’t Set? Don’t Fret!
If your experiment fails to set firm enough to use as a from scratch gummy, don’t fret! Your concoction is still a normal healthy bone broth that can be used for tons of other doggone great purposes. Instead of slicing as gummies, you can freeze it in cubes, like I do with my usual bone broth.
Alternatively, if your heart is set (sorry, couldn’t help myself…) on getting it to set firm for slicing or making gummies, you can rescue it using gelatin. I’ve added an additional section to the end of this post, below the full shortcut recipe on making standard gummies with gelatin, about using gelatin to thicken partially gelled or runny bone broth. Check it out for tips!
Shortcut to Quick and Simple Gummy Dog Treats
If making gummies from scratch sounds like too much effort, it’s not really. Most of the process is hands-off time waiting for the simmering process to work its magic. Time, however, is a big factor. Fortunately, there is a super simple (and quick!) shortcut for making homemade gelatin gummy dog treats that are still delicious and pretty doggone healthy, too!
My favourite shortcut for a quick and healthy treat is to use quality powdered gelatin to make easy healthy dog gummies. There have been a lot of different gummy recipes added to the blog since this post was first shared, but these are still in our personal rotation at home. They are one of the most basic gummies I make, and our dogs love them so simple!
Choosing a Gelatin Product
Shopping for a Quality Gelatin
Because gelatin is essential a by-product protein, made with bones, skin, hides, and such, I’m happy to pay a bit more and be more confident in the quality. Trying to decide on the quality of gelatin is similar to looking at other animal products. Considerations may include
- Reputation of the company or brand
- What (if any) additives are used
- Protein sources, including the type of animal proteins in the gelatin and the way in which the animal was raised (e.g. grass or pasture fed vs. unspecified or factory / feedlot farming)
- Country of origin (food safety standards, animal welfare standards, etc.)
- Any special product standards or certifications.
Don’t Confuse Standard Gelatin with Hydrolysed Collagen
Gelatin gummies need gelatin. Hydrolysed collagen is still very healthy, but has been put through a form of additional processing that’s actually meant to break up the proteins so that it will dissolve in either hot or cold liquids without gelling, unlike standard gelatin. Many people prefer using it because it can be easily hidden in their foods, smoothies, etc. as a supplement and some people find it easier on the system as well. It can’t be used as a thickener, gelling agent, or to make gummies.
If you’ve accidentally bought the wrong product, all is not lost. Hydrolysed collagen can be used as a sprinkle-on topper or mixed into food or liquids for similar health benefits to gummies. Remember to adjust for suitable serving size and introduce with small quantities.
Quick and Simple Recipe for Stock Gummy Dog Treats
- 1 cup plain homemade (or ready-made unsalted unseasoned) stock
- 3 tbsp quality powdered gelatin
- Measure cold broth into a small pan.
- Sprinkle the surface with gelatin powder.
- Wait and let sit for approximately five minutes or longer for the gelatin powder to bloom / gel.
- Gently stir the mixture over low heat until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Take care not to shortcut with high temperatures or overheat. Heat can reduce the setting strength of gelatin.
- Remove from heat. Pour into a glass pan (cut and slice) or silicone moulds (shapes).
- Chill to set.
Recipe Tips and Tricks for Simple Stock Gummies
- The pictured treats were made with homemade chicken stock. Anything not fully dissolved in your liquid (e.g. little bits of stuff in your stock) will settle, as you can see on my treats. You can always strain the stock before making your gelatin mixture, if you wish.
- My preferred dog treat stock is simple unseasoned broth saved from preparing homemade food. It can be difficult to source ready-made unsalted and unseasoned stock.
- In my experience, 3 tbsp of gelatin powder per cup of liquid makes firm gummies. If you prefer, you can use more gelatin for added supplementation or less for a jigglier jelly treat with lower gelatin content. Individual gelatin powders may be a little stronger / weaker. Find a ratio that works for your preferences and, of course, your dog.
- See our comprehensive post on making and storing homemade gelatin gummy dog treats for additional information about making gummy treats including helpful gummy making tips, troubleshooting, and safe treat storage.
Rescuing Partially Gelled or Runny Bone Broth with Gelatin
During one of our many bone broth making experiments, we tried a batch outdoors on the barbecues cooking element. It worked ok, but even on the lowest temperature setting, it was still hotter than idea for making bone broth. The end result was a cloudy and runny broth. The perfect example of the troubleshooting notes at the end of our post on how to make bone broth for dogs.
The higher heat bone broth was still packed with all the usual healthy goodness, but came out thick and runny instead of partially gelled like my normal broth or fully gelled like the from scratch gummy reductions described above. I decided that instead of just freezing it in cubes, I would use some to flavour a batch of special “Bone Brothsicle” frozen dog treats (which I suspect are the dogs’ new favourite summer treat) and bloom some with gelatin to set firmly as gummy treats.
Adapting the Gelatin Quantity and Blooming Process
Normally, when I am using gelatin powder to make gummies, the starting base is fully liquid. The simple stock gummy treats above are a great example of making “normal” gelatin gummies. Runny bone broth can still be thick or partially gelled, which means you might need to adapt your rescue process to adjust the quantity of gelatin powder and/or the blooming process.
Adapting the Gelatin Quantity
When making gummies in plain liquid, I almost always work with a ratio of 3 tbsp powdered high-quality gelatin to 1 cup of liquid, which consistently gives me a nice firm solid gummy (and a great health supplement “treat”). With semi-gelled bone broth; however, this would be more gelatin than needed. It could also exceed what the mixture could reasonably bloom. Tricky. You’ll need to estimate and work slowly. For this reason, I’m sharing my method and not a defined recipe as the gelatin quantity will vary from broth to broth.
Starting with cooled bone broth, I assessed how viscous the partially gelled mix was and used this to estimate my gelatin powder. In the example treats shown in this post, the broth was thick, but still very runny. I went for approximately 2 tbsp instead of my standard 3 tbsp.
Adapting the Blooming Process
For an already jelly-like broth, it likely won’t be viable to hydrate and bloom gelatin powder on top of the gel. If you want to make gummies with the gel, consider blooming using a separate liquid (reduce the amount to suit) and then the broth to the prepped gelatin to melt together during heating.
If your broth is semi-liquid to full liquid, for the best chance at successful hydration and blooming, maximise the surface area for sprinkling. Sprinkle slowly when you’re estimating the quantities and working with a thick base. If you’ve exceeded the ability of a thick broth base to fully hydrate and bloom all the sprinkled gelatin, lightly misting dry areas with cool water can help to hydrate these patches (and reduce lumps and clumps in your final mixture). Not that the dogs will complain!
Heating and Resetting to (Hopefully!) Gel
The rest of the process is the same as making gelatin gummies with normal liquid. That process is fully detailed in the simple stock gummy treat recipe above.
Cat Burglar! Bonus Taste Tester, Tiger
Of interest, our geriatric cat Tiger has always been a picky fellow and even moreso of late (he’s very ill), but he was quite keen on the smell of bone broth gummies in the making. I let him sample a little semi-cooled mix and he declared it yummy indeed.
Tiger has since taken his final journey. At the stage of his illness when we took the photo above, we were struggling to get the wee man to eat/drink enough to maintain weight so any cat-safe food he took a shine to was a-ok in our books. And healthy food like bone broth, all the better.
🦴 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.