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Even if your dog looks nothing like a wolf, your pup’s body still works like one (to some degree, anyway). Raw dog food mimics the natural, ancestral diet wild wolves evolved to follow. Some canine experts think it’s a healthy diet for dogs, but as with most pet foods, there are strong dissenters too.
We explore some of the pros and cons of a raw diet below—and recommend a chat with your veterinarian to help you decide what’s best for your pup.
Frozen Raw Food vs. Freeze-Dried Dog Food?
If you’ve decided to give raw dog food a try, you have another decision to make: frozen or freeze-dried?
Keeping raw dog food frozen is the easiest way to prevent the food from spoiling. The downside is, of course, that you need to have room to store it in the freezer. You’ll also need to thaw it before feeding.
Freeze-dried dog food and meal toppers are a shelf-stable, convenient way to include raw food in your dog’s diet. It’s also an affordable alternative to paying the price of a full menu of raw frozen food.
Frozen Raw Dog Food Picks
Instinct specializes in raw food, and it has several variations of base proteins available, including beef, cage-free chicken, and grass-fed lamb. These recipes contain 85% meat and organs, which are frozen and cold-pressured (a pasteurization method) to preserve freshness and nutrients. Instinct uses a USDA-recognized pathogen-reduction process called High Pressure Processing (HPP) to ensure safe raw food.
To thaw, Instinct recommends setting each serving of frozen raw bites out at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before feeding them to your dogs.
Available in five protein choices, including rabbit and venison, these raw frozen patties are made with whole-food ingredients including single-source animal proteins and grain-free carbohydrates. There are no grains, gluten, corn, wheat, soy, or manufactured nutrients included in the recipes, and the raw patties can be served to dogs of all ages, from puppies to seniors. Plus, some varieties note that they were produced with 100% renewable energy, making this an eco-friendly choice for your dog as well.
Nature’s Logic recommends thawing the patties in the refrigerator. Some reviewers note that thawing can take a while, so be sure to plan ahead for your pup’s meal.
Nature’s Logic Raw Frozen Patties
Nature’s Logic frozen chicken patties include all whole food ingredients, 90% of which are poultry. Fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, pumpkin, and artichokes help to fill the rest, and ground eggshells add a boost of calcium to your dog’s diet. The patties come in 3.2 oz and 8 oz sizes, both of which are sold in a 6-pound bag.
Sold in 2-pound frozen rolls, BARF World raw dog food is made with muscle meat, organ meat, and raw bones to mimic the diet eaten by your dog’s wild ancestors. BARF stands for “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food,” or “Bones And Raw Food,” a concept that the company pioneered.
While it’s common to give a dog a bone as a treat, you may not have expected to see them as a primary ingredient in your dog’s food. The folks at BARF World say that bones are an excellent or even essential source of vital nutrients, including antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
BARF World Raw Food rolls come frozen and can be divided into individual serving sizes once thawed. The BARF World website offers guidelines for how much to feed your dog.
BARF World Raw Frozen Chubs for Dogs
BARF’s raw dog food contains a mix of bones, meat, offal, eggs, flax seed, fruit, and vegetables—all chosen to meet your pup’s vitamin and mineral needs in a balanced way. Cases are sold in bundles of 6, 12, or 24 two-pound frozen “chubs.”
Freeze-Dried Raw Food Picks
Available as bite-sized nuggets or larger patties, Steve’s Real Food is formulated to deliver complete and balanced nutrition in five protein-rich flavors. The foods tout superior ingredients, with 80% lean protein from free-range meat sources and 20% fresh produce. Cod liver and coconut oil add an additional boost of nutrients.
Steve’s Real Food Raw Nuggets are freeze-dried to lock in freshness and nutrients without sacrificing convenience. The food is shelf-stable, making it a convenient option at home or even while traveling.
Steve's Real Food Freeze Dried Dog Raw Nuggets
Steve’s Real Food comes in both 8 oz patties and these tater tot-sized nuggets. The Turducken formula relies on protein from chicken, turkey, and duck and is fortified with raw goat’s milk. Each bag contains 1.25 pounds of freeze-dried nuggets, perfect for a meal topper or a whole meal.
Made with sustainably sourced ingredients, Primal’s freeze-dried formulas offer a wide range of protein choices, including a few less common options like venison, rabbit, and duck. The freeze-dried nuggets are excellent for meals or as a topper for your dog’s meal, and they can be served dry or rehydrated with water. Primal also makes raw treats suitable for both dogs and cats.
TruDog comes in two flavors and is AAFCO-certified as a complete and balanced diet. That means you can feed TruDog as your dog’s food exclusively. You can also use it as a mix-in or meal topper. No chemicals, grains, or filler, and no rendered or meal products can be found in the recipes. All formulas are USA-made and sourced.
A hybrid diet is a great way to introduce raw foods to your dog’s feeding schedule, allowing them to access some of the benefits of raw food without breaking your budget. For pet parents looking for the best of both worlds, Stella and Chewy’s Meal Mixers are specially designed to supplement rather than replace your dog’s current menu.
The are available in five protein options and enriched with organic fruits and veggies. Meal Mixers are made in the USA of responsibly-sourced ingredients and freeze-dried, keeping both nutrition and convenience a top priority.
If you want to dip a toe into raw food for your dog, nothing beats the convenience this 2-in-1 option from Nature’s Valley. With the nutritional benefits of raw food and the ease of dry food together in one bag, the food offers a nutrient-rich blend of high-protein kibble and freeze-dried raw bites.
Why Raw Dog Food?
Raw food diets for dogs are nothing new, but the popularity of the movement has skyrocketed in recent years. Veterinarian Dr. Ian Billinghurst is credited with sparking the modern raw diet movement after creating the first biologically appropriate raw food (BARF) diet for dogs. This dog food is made from fresh, whole-food ingredients including muscle meat, organ meat, whole or ground bone, raw eggs, and dog-safe fruits and vegetables.
Some of the oft-stated benefits of raw dog food include the following:
- Better coat condition
- Improved skin health
- Increased energy levels
- Smaller, firmer stools
- Improved dental health
- Stronger immune system
- Lower risk for allergies
Though there are many supporters of the raw food diet, there is a great deal of controversy as well. In fact, many of the most outspoken opponents to the raw diet movement are veterinarians themselves. Some vets, including the members of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), believe dogs should be fed a diet consisting of “fresh, clean, nutritionally balanced and complete commercially prepared or home-cooked food.”
There are also some practical factors to consider when it comes to raw dog food.
Generally speaking, a raw diet is more expensive than canned food or kibble. When you purchase premade raw food, you’re paying for the sourcing and balancing of ingredients as well as packaging and delivery. You also lose a certain degree of convenience as well. While commercial kibble is shelf-stable, raw food generally needs to be refrigerated or frozen. That being said, some brands are available freeze-dried (more on that below).
Proper Handling of Raw Food
Another concern with the raw dog food diet is the risk of food-borne illness and bacterial contamination from germs such as Salmonella and E. coli.
In its official policy, the AMVA writes that it “discourages the feeding to cats and dogs of any animal-source protein that has not first been subjected to a process to eliminate pathogens because of the risk of illness to cats and dogs as well as humans.” For this reason, many companies take steps to reduce pathogens.
If you and your vet decide raw dog food is the way to go, following USDA safe food handling guidelines will help keep you, your family, and your pets safe.
How We Chose
Feeding your pet raw food is bound to be more expensive than kibble, but we’ve compiled a list of options—organized by price, starting with the most affordable and concluding with the most expensive (ironically, both are the Instinct brand)—so you can keep an eye on your budget while making the best decision for your dog.
For the raw-curious but deeply budget-minded shopper, keep in mind that you can “stretch” some of these options as meal toppers or mix-ins to your dog’s regular diet.
Talk to Your Vet Before Choosing Any New Food for Your Dog
We’ve selected some great raw food options for your dog. But before introducing any new foods into your dog’s diet, we suggest consulting with your vet. They can recommend dog food that’s going to best support your pup’s specific health needs and help you find a way to integrate it smoothly into their daily diet.