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An Apple (Muffin) a Day Keeps the Vet Away

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Salmon shooters and customized cakes -- at first glance, these might sound like menu items from a local restaurant. Combined with Bow Wow Bacon,

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though, you'd quickly discover that the main clientele of these restaurants is instead man's best friend.

For more than a decade, Jan Beatty has been serving up all-natural goodies in Hayward, made specifically for pooches. Though Sophie's Dog Bakery is a combination bakery and pet boutique, its focus is on canine nutrition.

"All of our treats are wheat, corn and soy-free," Beatty says.

What's all the bark about? Much like their human counterparts, dogs often suffer from allergies. And, if you've ever looked at the label of your four-legged buddy's store-bought treats, the ingredient list could leave

you cringing.

"We only use natural stuff in our homemade treats," says Beatty. She says natural treats are not only healthier for your pets, the lack of preservatives also means a tastier snack. The treats will also break apart more easily, providing a simple way to control Fido's portion sizes.

Portion control is important, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, which recently found that approximately 55 percent of U.S. dogs are obese or overweight. With 77.5 million dogs owned in the

United States, that could add up to a lot of unnecessary veterinary bills.

While the idea of dog treat boutiques is nothing new, it is growing in popularity. As humans become more health-conscious about what they put into their own bodies, they want to have the same options for their pets.

In May, Duluth resident Joanne Elliot opened Matilda's Dog Bakery. Much like Sophie's Dog Bakery, Elliot is focusing on creating delicious doggy treats without the filler. So far, it seems to be working.

"I'm selling out two to three times a week," she says

about some of her best-selling treats. "At times, I'm having a hard time keeping caught up, which is a good thing!" As for the secret ingredients that make her treats so popular, the trick is simplicity.

"If you look at, say, my chicken and spinach treat, it has maybe seven ingredients, all of which are basic, simple and fresh. Compare this with some of the dog biscuits you get at a big box store, and their ingredient list can take up lines and lines."

Chunky Apple Muffins

Recipe provided by Sophie's Dog Bakery

Ingredients:

2 eggs

1 cup peeled apples

1 cup water

1 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla

2.5 cups potato flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon cloves

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease muffin pan. In large mixing bowl combine eggs, water, honey and vanilla. Then, mix egg mixture and dry ingredients together. Fold in apples. Fill muffin tins halfway and bake

approximately 15-20 minutes. Cool before serving. To make the treat extra special, top with some low-fat cream cheese blended with a teaspoon of honey.

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