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Woman makes nutritious food for pets with health problems

Colleen Berg made tripleberry cake with cream cheese frosting for this party celebrating birthday 4-year-old Pilot pictured looking incamera. Dried

Colleen Berg made the tripleberry cake with cream cheese frosting for this party celebrating the birthday of 4-year-old Pilot, pictured looking into the camera. Dried cranberries surround the cake. | Special to Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 23, 2013 6:09AM

Colleen Berg, who has loved dogs since her girlhood in Lake Forest when a loyal Basenji named Jeff was always by her side, has a philosophy about feeding a human’s best friend.

“The more real food they get, the more nutrition they get,” said Berg, 43, a resident of Wauconda, mother of five, former car salesman and, since 2011, entrepreneurial baker of healthy, nutrient-laden treats for dogs, cats, horses − and people.

Berg’s Sweaters–N-Sweets online bakery (her mom knits and sells doggie sweaters) specializes in goodies for animals with cancer, diabetes, allergies, sensitive tummies or that need to lose weight. Healthy four-leggers also love her home-baked treats, including top-selling flaxseed twists, cheese crisps and molasses granola doughnuts.

Feeding dogs real food is not a matter of over-pampering for Berg, who said canines can’t taste sweet or sour − it’s all about the smell − and that they and other cherished pets deserve to eat well.

“Dogs are not just dogs anymore,” Berg said. “Cats are not just cats anymore. Horses are not just horses anymore. They’re our family.”

Berg opened in 2011 after first starting an online bakery for humans, Colleen’s Sweet Treats. She began by baking for a friend’s beloved labrador who had been diagnosed with cancer. Her human customers were soon demanding the treats for their own animals.

“We love our pets,” said Berg, who has three dogs and works with area rescue groups to foster others “We’re treating them when they get cancer, or diabetes. We want them to have long, healthy lives. The best way to do that is to feed them how we should be feeding ourselves − real food with all the nutrients, low-to-no sugar and the right amount of salt.

Berg said she worked with a veterinarian and oncologist in creating many of her treats, baked on demand, which contain immune-strengthening vitamins, nutrients, proteins, fats, and calcium. She will work with an owner’s vet to develop specific items for weight loss, allergies, or other conditions. She doesn’t trust many store-bought treats, which contain additives and preservatives and that sit for months. She mentions on-going pet food recalls including jerky treats manufactured in China, which produced contaminated ingredients that caused kidney failure among pets in the U.S. in 2007.

All Berg’s treats − pupcakes, chicken soup cookies, turkey jerky − contain fresh ingredients from a cousin’s business, Ripe Organics. She offers free delivery in Lake and McHenry counties.

The feeding of pets should not be a source of anxiety, said Berg, who offers her dogs whatever good thing she eats. They love dried apples, banana chips, pineapples, pomegranate seeds, blueberries, spinach and kale. In hot weather, they chomp on dollops of mashed banana, canned pumpkin and yogurt, a mixture Berg freezes in mini muffin tins. Other frozen yummies are made from one can of tuna, packed in water and undrained, to two cups of yogurt.

The best diet for a dog who’s overweight? Cut the usual feeding by half and add a quarter-cup of chopped or puréed raw carrots and green beans.

“Dogs are like kids,” Berg said. “If they don’t like something, they don’t eat it. But they’ll eat when they’re hungry. If you’re going to spoil them, real food is the best way.”

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