13 October 2021

Wholesome Canine Nutrition: Dog-Friendly Pizza

Last week was Cara's 8th birthday, and I felt like doing something different to spoil her rotten on her special day. So, instead of the usual cookies or cupcakes, I decided to make a dog-friendly pizza. My three girls loved their treat and gobbled it up in no time flat.

Our canine friends are so much more than just pets. They are our partners for all of our most extraordinary exploits. They are the happy faces greeting us at the door at the end of a long workday. And they sit beside us when we're feeling down. They may be a little furrier than everyone else, but they are family members nonetheless. So many pet owners are looking beyond the standard kibble. After all, we wouldn't want to eat that stuff every day either. Pizza is the perfect place to start.

Before we delve into the pizza-making process, let's explore the idea of making your own food. It's definitely a growing trend among pet owners, and it is about more than just spoiling your dog. Pet parents have different reasons for making their own dog food, but some of the more common reasons include:


-Meeting special dietary needs

-Satisfying a finicky eater

-Saving money

-Avoiding potentially hazardous contamination in mass-produced dog food

-Dissatisfaction with the ingredient choices in commercially manufactured pet food

-Sourcing local ingredients and controlling what goes into the food

Whatever your reason for cooking and baking pet food from scratch, the gesture shows that you think of your dog as more than just a pet. Instead, you think of your dog as a member of the family who deserves a nutritious and safe diet.

Why pizza?

Well, let me ask you this: Is there another food in the world more delicious than pizza? I think not. I'm sure you get plenty of begging and drooling from your canine family member every time you have a pizza for dinner, be it homemade or store bought. Human pizza is excellent to satisfy your own hunger, but it's not so great for your dog. High amounts of salt and fat aren't good for your canine companion, and certain ingredients you like on your pizza can have severe consequences for your canine buddy.

In order to avoid the possible dangers that come with feeding your dog a slice of your own pizza, consider making a pet-friendly version instead. It's so easy to turn pizza into a healthier version with ingredients your dog can eat safely, as it is a versatile food. So your canine friend gets to eat pizza like their human parents, and you know you're giving him a healthy meal.

Dog-friendly pizzas work for everything from a regular meal to a special treat. So whip up a special pizza for your dog for the holidays, to celebrate a birthday, or even on an ordinary weeknight.

But what makes a pizza dog-friendly? Making a special pizza for your dog ensures the meal is healthy and safe for them to eat. While a dog-friendly pizza looks very similar to an ordinary pizza, here are a few tricks for making it appealing, safe, and wholesome for the canine members of your family:

Size: Smaller sizes are more manageable for dogs to eat, especially if you have a puppy or a small-breed dog. Make small individual pizzas, or cut a pizza into tiny pieces to make eating easier.

Safe toppings: When making dog food from scratch, it's always important to consider each ingredient. Garlic and onions are two common pizza ingredients that many experts believe could be toxic to your pet. While the evidence is mixed, I say, why take the risk?! Your pup can still enjoy his pizza without garlic and onions, and you eliminate a potential problem. According to some experts, tomatoes are also controversial, as they are quite acidic and can upset your dog's stomach. To avoid tomatoes, use cooked, mashed veggies as a sauce substitute, such as sweet potatoes or pumpkin. If you're making a dessert pizza, consider peanut butter or mashed strawberries as a substitute sauce. It is vital to be aware of the foods considered unsafe and even toxic for pets to consume. For more in-depth information, please contact your veterinarian. 

Meats: It's no secret that dogs are meat lovers, as it gives them the protein they need. Chicken, ground beef, turkey, and other lean meats work well on the pizza. Use leftover cooked meats, or prepare fresh based on your dog's preference. To keep the fat content low, choose the leanest cuts possible.

Cheese: While we might think the more cheese, the better, but too much cheese can hurt your dog's stomach. Dogs are often lactose intolerant. That means cheese and other milk products might cause digestive issues. Even if your dog doesn't seem to have a problem with milk products, a large amount of cheese can still cause some serious digestive issues. Use a small amount of cheese (choose a hard cheese, like Parmigiano Reggiano, which is easier to digest) or skip the traditional pizza topping altogether to make the pizza gentle on your dog's digestive tract.

Salt: Traditional pizza can be salty, and your pup doesn't need all of that sodium. Choose unsalted or low-sodium ingredients whenever possible to make the pizza healthier for your dog.

How do you make a dog-friendly pizza crust?

The traditional pizza crust might be tasty to you, but it often lacks the nutrients that your dog needs. As a result, the crust becomes nothing but empty calories. Not to mention that dogs should not eat yeast-based bread/cakes as the yeast in the dough continues to rise after ingestion, distends the stomach, and releases toxic levels of ethanol into the dog's circulation. By baking a special crust, you provide your canine with a healthier base for the dog-friendly pizza.

Just like humans, dogs can be gluten sensitive. However, most dogs are fine with gluten and don't exhibit any signs of a reaction or issues when consuming it. If you routinely feed your dog food containing gluten without problems, you should be okay. If you provide your dog a gluten-free diet, stick with that when you make the pizza crust.

Ingredients for Crust:

1 1/4 cup rice flour, oatmeal flour, or other gluten-free option

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup water or chicken broth

1 egg


-Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat pizza pan with olive oil.

-Whisk together the dry ingredients.

-Whisk the egg in a separate bowl and mix it into the water.

-Add the liquids to the dry ingredients. Stir until the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

-Roll the dough out on a floured surface, or spread it out on the pan to form a smooth, thin crust.

-Bake the crust for 25 minutes.

-Cover the crust with your selected toppings.

-Return the pizza to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes to melt the cheese.

Please note that some gluten-free options do not absorb liquids as well as their ordinary counterpart, so you may need to adjust the amount of flour. It doesn't matter whether you use the above recipe or your own; you can use it for any of the recipes listed below, providing plenty of versatility. Try different toppings and recipes each time to find out what your furry friend likes best.

Dog-Friendly Pizza Ideas

You've settled on a particular crust recipe, so now you're ready to be creative. Just as you have your favorite pizza toppings, you will find that your canine companion has his/her own preferences. Feel free to experiment with different recipes until you find the perfect combination. Test the following recipes to get started:

Meat pizza: Give your pups the meat they crave. Choose a variety of lean meats to keep the fat and calorie content in check. Spread cooked, mashed sweet potatoes or pumpkin puree on top of the crust as a red sauce or some cottage cheese if you're going for a white sauce alternative. Add selected meats. Lean ground beef, or turkey, or pulled chicken are suitable choices. If your dog has no issues with dairy, sprinkle a small amount of cheese on the crust. Bake the pizza until the cheese has melted.

Pizza pocket: For a twist on the traditional pizza, make your pup a pizza pocket. Roll unbaked dough into a small circle, and place the selected toppings on half of the pizza dough, leaving an uncovered border. Fold the other half over the ingredients. Pinch the edges shut to seal it, cut a few vents into the top, and brush the calzone with an egg wash. Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the dough is brown.

Sweet pizza: A good dessert is a perfect way to end a meal. You can offer your pup that same delicious ending by making a safe, healthy sweet pizza. Use the same prebaked crust that you use for the main course. You can even use the sweet potato as a sauce. Other options include pumpkin puree, cottage cheese, mashed strawberries, or peanut butter. Top the pizza with assorted safe fruits. My girls enjoy sliced bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and pineapple. No need to bake the pizza any further; it's ready to be served as soon as you add the toppings. Never use cherries, grapes, or raisins, as they can be toxic to dogs! As a rule of thumb, only serve your dog fruit in moderation, as sugar is not healthy in large amounts.

These ideas can get you started, but don't limit yourself to a set recipe. Pizza is a forgiving food. It's tough to mess it up, so feel free to get creative when making dog-friendly pizza.

Tips and Tricks

When you're venturing into a new culinary territory, it's natural to be a little nervous. So I've gathered a few more tips to help your first dog-friendly pizza be a success:

Focus on food safety:

It is crucial to choose safe ingredients for your dog's pizza. The last thing you want to do is to serve your pup a meal with a toxic or unsafe ingredient on it. When in doubt, consult with your veterinarian or leave off the questionable item altogether.

Avoid cross-contamination: 

While making your own dog food generally makes the food safer, it's still possible to cross-contaminate the ingredients or add a potentially dangerous component. So prepare for pizza-making just as you would when cooking for your human family. Start with a clean work surface and use clean utensils to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.

Cool the pizza: 

I'm sure you've seen how fast dogs can inhale their food. So let the pizza cool thoroughly before feeding it to them.

Choose fresh ingredients: 

If you're going to bake a custom pizza for your pup, it makes sense to use the freshest, healthiest ingredients. Fresh ingredients are generally nutrient-dense, making the pizza that much more beneficial for your best friend.

Make extra: 

The dough takes the longest to prepare. So when you make your dog-friendly pizza, just double the dough recipe, so you have extra for next time. Then, wrap the uncooked dough in plastic wrap, and place it in the freezer to store for up to three months.

Make treat-sized pizzas: 

If you just want to give your furry friend a little taste of pizza, or you want to ensure proper portioning, use a large round cookie cutter. The smaller circles make the perfect-sized pizza treats.

Use dog treats as toppings: 

Another great option for pizza toppings is to use your dog's favorite treats. Many quality dog treats feature a meat base, such as dry freeze chicken or beef jerky treats, that could work on a pizza. Since they are designed for dogs, you know they are safe to use. If your canine has a favorite flavor, you can even use wet dog food as a sauce substitute or pizza topper. 

Store leftovers safely:

Just like your own leftovers need to go in the refrigerator, your dog's leftover pizza should also be refrigerated in an airtight container.

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian or a canine dietician, just an experienced, well-read, and hyper-observant pet parent. This article is not meant to diagnose or treat any canine illness or replace professional veterinary care. Always talk to your vet about your dog's health, as health care is an individual matter. 

Piper is the award-winning author of The Country Girl Empress series. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookMedium, and Goodreads.
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