Dog Treats and Mold
How to Prevent It

If you are baking your own dog treats and mold is creating issues for you, the following information will hopefully help you tackle your problem. As a food scientist, understanding what made mold grow, and even more how to prevent it were principle parts of my job. Needless to say, when I started baking my dog treats and mold showed up, I was a bit frustrated.

With starting your own dog treat business, you may discover that the shelf life of your dog treats is lacking. Translation - dog treats and mold – it’s not uncommon to find this problem. So don’t feel bad if your dog treats have mold. There are a couple of things you can do to tackle this issue. Let’s start with mold basics. Mold is a microscopic fungus that lives and grows. In order for it to live it needs some basic nutrients and elements, much like other living things: 1. water, 2. food, 3. the right temperature. Not to over simplify things, but that’s really it in a nutshell.

So, if you control those things, you can control the mold. Now, in baking dog treats, unfortunately, nearly every ingredient that you use will be good food for the mold – especially when it is all mixed together. So the two things that you can really control are the temperature of your treats, and the water or moisture in your treats.

TEMPERATURE

Let’s start with temperature. Mold spores can often withstand very high temperatures, so the cooking process may not kill the mold spores. Or, mold spores can land on your treats after they are cooked (they are floating around almost everywhere). Once your treat is baked, the temperature you keep it at can dramatically slow down the growth of mold. Typically, the lower the storage temperature, the less mold growth you will have.

So, if you keep a treat at room temperature, another treat from the same batch in the refrigerator, and yet a third treat in the freezer, the treat you kept in the freezer will most likely be mold-free for months. The treat in the refrigerator will last many weeks (up to 4 – 6 weeks), and the treat you keep at room temperature may mold in 1 to 2 weeks.

There are ingredients available for commercial processors that inhibit mold (calcium proprionate, etc..). But as a gourmet or all natural treat baker, you may want to avoid having these things on your ingredient statements. One of your options is to cook and cool your treats as normal, and then hold them frozen until you need to ship them to your customers. You could also place a “sell by or freeze by” date on your packages like this:

“Use or Freeze By 7/4/2008” – Treats are baked fresh and contain No Preservatives.

Let your customers know that your product is fresh and will spoil if not handled properly. This is more critical with softer types of treats, cakes, and muffins that have much more water than crunchy options.

WATER

The other thing you can control with dog treats and mold, is the amount of moisture in your treats. If you are baking “crunchy” treats, and still getting mold after 1 to 2 weeks, then you still have too much moisture in your treats. Mold must have moisture to grow. Very crunchy treats typically have most of the water cooked off in the oven. This does take some skill for dog treats. It’s not like baking cookies. You will need to cook your treats at lower temperatures for longer times to make sure the moisture can get out of the treat before it browns too much or burns. Depending on the shape that you are using and how much your treats weight (thickness), it is not uncommon for you to have to heat your treats at 250F for 1 to 2 hours or even longer. Experiment with your treats to determine with your recipe, shape, and thickness combination what time and temperature give you the right color and hardness for your dog treat.

Another trick to consider is to use a commercial dehydrator to help drive off some of the extra moisture from your dog treats. This allows you to cook your treats a little faster, get the right color, and then transfer the treats to a dehydrator for 6 – 8 hours. The dehydrator will remove the moisture without adding heat or changing the color of your treats.

Please note:

IT IS IMPORTANT TO MAKE SURE THAT YOU COOK YOUR TREATS THOROUGHLY TO KILL ANY BACTERIA FROM EGGS OR MEATS YOU MAY BE USING BEFORE COOLING AND USING A DEHYDRATOR.

We hope this helps with some of your dog treat mold issues. If you still have questions, please contact us!!! We will be happy to help solve your problem!