On the 11th day of giving, improve the health of animals

As Arizona State University gears up to win the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Dec. 29, in San Francisco, the university is taking the opportunity to offer suggestions for 12 Days of Giving in order to make a big difference this season and celebrate the university’s outreach role in the community.

Day 11
Help improve the health of animals in your area.

ASU staffer Natasha Karaczan has always liked to cook.

Recently her experiments in the kitchen have led her down a path to perfecting the ultimate culinary canine treat – the homemade all-natural dog biscuit – giving Karaczan’s black Pomeranian dog, Jake, more reason to wag his tail.

Also benefitting from these wholesome treats are ASU’s proud pet owners and their furry friends, who nearly bought out Karaczan’s entire supply of dog treats at the sixth annual Winter ArtFest, Nov. 29, on the Tempe campus.

Valley animal shelters have something to wag about too, as they have received 100 percent of the funds from Karaczan’s sales.  

Both delicious and nutritious, Karaczan’s dog biscuit recipes grew out of a concern for the increasing number of unhealthy animal byproducts she noticed in the food that made up most, if not all, of Jake’s diet.

“You eat junk food and feel terrible. Byproduct is all fat and sugar,” says Karaczan, an information specialist in ASU’s media relations office. “I wouldn’t feed myself that junk.”

She switched dog food brands, but Karaczan still had trouble finding some healthy alternatives for dog treats. So she decided to make her own.

“I did some research and bought some recipe books for dogs. At first, it was hit or miss,” she says. “Jack would eat the treats, but after two of them he was finished.”

Following the advice of Michele Bledsoe in "The Small Dog's Doggy Bone Cookbook" – a favorite of Karaczan’s – she started experimenting with the recipes in the book and making them her own. After testing them out on Jake, she discovered some keepers.

Among the flavors that have been “Pomeranian-tested and approved,” pumpkin, cheese and chicken dog biscuits are guaranteed to please terriers and retrievers alike, and also come highly recommended by Great Danes, according to a friend of Karaczan’s.

“Now, Jake eats all the treats I give him,” she says. “With the old treats, he would hide them around the house. With these, he sits down and eats them right away. He’s also lost half a pound.”

“The best part is that I know exactly what is in them, and they all contain less than 10 ingredients,” she adds.

Perfect for the holiday season, the pumpkin biscuit contains pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, flour, vegetable oil and rolled oats. “I’ve tried one – it’s good,” she says.

But there’s more to these treats than just taste. Karazcan said she wanted to be able to do something with the treats, so she decided to help an organization that could benefit animals. Currently, her all-natural dog biscuits – and proceeds from their sales – are helping the Maricopa County Animal Care & Control provide for the cats and dogs they shelter.

“They’re not making a profit and they house so many cats and dogs,” says Karaczan. “They are a no-kill shelter but once they are full, there is no guarantee they won't send the animal to a kill shelter.”

Although Jake, who is five years old, came from a breeder, Karaczan says she will adopt a shelter or rescue dog from now on.

“So many people pay breeders $500 to $600 for dogs, and shelters need it more,” says Karaczan, who, in the last month, has raised close to $150 for Maricopa County Animal Care & Control to use however they choose.

Giving to animal shelters is great, adds Karaczan, who plans to help even more animal organizations through her dog biscuit sales. “Lots of animal shelters have a wish list so you can give them the things they need.”

Karaczan says a healthy dog also needs to exercise, “so try to take your dog for a walk as much as possible,” she says.

She also advises never to give pets as gifts, unless you are certain that the person you’re giving the pet to really does want it. Often, she says, in these scenarios, the pets get turned in to a shelter, or worse, are neglected.

“Adopting and rescuing a dog is the way to go,” Karaczan says. “If you want a specific breed, there are different rescue groups for specific breeds. It’s the best of both worlds. It may not be a puppy, but it’s still a dog that needs love.”

Maricopa County Animal Care & Control needs blankets and food this holiday season. To see their wish list, visit maricopa.gov/Pets/.

For all dog biscuit inquiries, contact Natasha Karaczan at natasha.karaczan@asu.edu.