Is raw food good for dogs? How much raw food do I feed my dog? Get answers to all your raw food questions in our raw dog food for beginners guide!
If your dog struggles with allergies, weight issues, digestive problems, or any other common conditions that affect dogs, feeding raw dog food might be just the answer you are looking for.
For years, many dog owners have turned to raw dog foods as a solution pet food, and the results have been amazing. Feeding your dog as nature intended means that they will get nutrients from sources that their bodies are designed to digest, leading to improved overall health for dogs.
If you are looking for honest answers to your burning raw dog food questions, then this guide is for you.
You will be able to understand why everyone is so obsessed with raw feeding and be able to confidently decide if feeding the best raw dog food is right for your pet.
What is a Raw Food Diet for Dogs?
Raw dog food is not all that complicated; it’s uncooked or raw dog food. However, it’s more than just raw ingredients. It’s the idea of feeding your pet foods the way their ancestors ate. The way that they are anatomically designed to eat.
Domesticated or not, dogs and cats are full of carnivore traits. From teeth to tails, they are built for digesting the best meat, bone, and organ meats.
It’s a common misunderstanding that raw food for dogs is just meat. You can’t feed your dog a raw steak and call it a day; you have to ensure that the dog's diet is nutritionally balanced. Incomplete or unbalanced diets can cause lifelong health problems from deficiencies or malnutrition.
The best raw diet for dogs must contain all of their essential nutrients, so muscle meat, organs, bones, and even a little vegetation may be required to help them thrive.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about feeding your dog raw food diet so that you can take out the guesswork and be confident that you are choosing the best dog diet for your pooch.
Is Raw Food Better for Dogs?
Raw Dog food allergies, obesity, diabetes, and cancer are more common than ever, and your dog's diet may have a lot to do with that. The rise in these life-threatening diseases has pushed us to dig deeper and find ways to prevent and treat our dogs naturally.
Feeding your dog high-quality raw dog food can positively affect many aspects of their health, but before you get started, it's important to understand how and why raw food diets for dogs might be right for your dog.
Here are 5 reasons you should trust raw dog food to reliably and effectively improve your dog's health:
1. Cut the Junk
Junk food, sugars, heavily processed ingredients, and the pollutants and chemicals that come hand-in-hand with mass-produced dog food are getting harder to avoid, especially in kibble diets.
Raw diets use quality ingredients that are natural, easy to digest, and support your pet’s long-term health. Better nutrition leads to better skin and coat, healthier joints, improved digestion, and better weight management.
2. Fad Doesn't Mean Fake
It's easy to get swept up in fad diets; limited ingredients, vegan, and the ongoing battle with grains are just a few of the diet trends circulating in the crazy world of pet food.
We fall for some of these fads ourselves, but the merit of each of these dog diets depends on the individual, their health, and the diet’s application.
When it comes to your dog’s health, you need to understand that your dog is biologically different. A high-quality diet that may fit your lifestyle and beliefs and make you feel good might not be biologically appropriate raw food for your pet.
They have different dietary needs than you, needs that can be met with complete and balanced raw pet food for dogs.
3. Dogs are Scavenging Carnivores
Even though dogs are technically classified as omnivores, meaning they can survive on both meat and/or plants, their history and bodies tell us a different story. We argue that dogs are scavenging carnivores.
Unlike obligate carnivores, like cats, that must eat meat to survive, scavenging carnivores can adapt to the nutrients around them.
They roam for raw prey and eat what is available. Dogs can survive on plant materials if they have to, but they will thrive on a diet made from minimally processed animal protein.
4. Your Dog Eats Like a Carnivore
To help you better understand the benefits of feeding the best raw diet for dogs, you need to know how your dog digests pet food. Here are some physical features that support the idea that dogs are carnivores by nature:
Digestion starts in your dog's mouth. The simple act of chewing sets dogs apart from animals that are suited to eating plant materials. This is based on two things: saliva and tooth shape.
- Dogs do not have the digestive enzyme Amylase in their saliva that helps kickstart the breakdown of carbohydrates.
- Dog teeth fit together like scissors and are not meant for grinding but for tearing and slicing flesh.
- Dogs do not have the digestive enzyme Amylase in their saliva that helps kickstart the breakdown of carbohydrates.
The next carnivorous stage of digestion is the stomach. Your dog's stomach is more acidic than yours and other omnivores, allowing them to handle the bacteria found in raw meat and break down bone and connective tissues. Here's why:
- Dogs have a larger stomach cavity designed to hold dog food for longer than ours. This acid bath breaks down raw dog food and edible bone into chyme and reduces the bacteria to manageable levels.
- Chyme is a gooey mixture of pet best food, stomach acids, and digestive juices (yuck!) that is ready to move to the intestines for further breakdown, absorption, and excretion.
Want to know more about your dog's digestion? The Dog Digestive System: A Beginners Guide to Your Dog's Anatomy walks you through the entire digestive process.
5. It's Alive!
No, we are not suggesting feeding your raw live prey, much to their disappointment. When we say that the best raw dog food is alive, we are talking about the meat’s natural bacteria and enzymes.
Gently cooked and heavily processed foods don’t have helpful, live bacteria and enzymes that aid in digestion and nutrient absorption. We call these dead foods.
- Dead foods provide less nutrition and are less easily recognized by your pet's body because the nutrients are not in their natural state.
- High temperatures are used in extrusion and canning processes. Heat kills beneficial bacteria and enzymes and changes some of the ingredients on a molecular level.
Some commercial raw dog food is made using pasteurization methods to eliminate bacteria like salmonella, listeria, and e. Coli. The most common method is called High-Pressure Processing (HPP).
HPP uses extremely high pressure to destroy bacteria in raw dog food without the use of heat. This leaves the nutrients intact but kills the bacteria.
While this sounds great on paper, we can't dismiss the fact that not all bacteria are harmful, and HPP and other sanitization methods are ridding raw dog food of some of its beneficial components.
10 Big Benefits of Feeding Your Dog Raw
Now that you see the biological argument for raw dog food, it's time to address some of the benefits that you will notice after switching your dog's diet.
These benefits of a raw dog diet can help to solve some common health problems you are dealing with and some that you may not have known your dog has.
1. Return to Nature
Raw dog food is the most natural diet for your dog. This style of food is as close as you can get to the natural, ancestral diet that dogs were designed to eat.
It won't include cooked ingredients or heavily processed ingredients like meat or bone meal, refined carbohydrates, artificial flavours, colours, or preservatives.
By feeding their bodies what they are designed to digest, they get more nutrients to help them maintain better overall health, reduce common health issues in dogs as they age, and minimize vet bills that can make or break many pet parents.
2. Less Smelly Stool
If you own a dog, then you are familiar with the worst part of dog ownership: the clean-up. Whether you are bagging fresh poop on a walk, scooping the landmines from your yard, or dealing with a sudden digestive surprise on the carpet, no one likes hovering over a fresh one.
There's no need to sugarcoat that poop is gross; I think we are all nauseatingly aware. A raw diet can reduce the volume and odour of their stool to a more manageable and tolerable level. Raw poops, as they are playfully called, resemble round, firm rabbit poop.
3. Improved Coat Health
Your dog's skin and coat are affected by how the rest of its systems function. Poor digestion or absorption of nutrients can affect cell cycles, how the body uses nutrients, and their skin and coat health.
Dry skin, excessive shedding, itchiness, and inflammation are common dog health issues that can all be caused by a lack of or improper balance of nutrients in your dog's diet. A raw diet provides the most natural sources of these essential nutrients in a form that is easy for your dog's body to recognize and use.
4. Weight Control
Obesity is a huge problem in dogs, worsened by inactive lifestyles, eating far too many treats or calories, and diets that aren’t biologically appropriate.
Feeding your dog raw food will not fix all of your dog's body weight issues, but it can help. Raw dog food is calorie-dense and easy to digest, allowing you to feed your dog raw meat in smaller portions and provide better nutrition and energy to your dog.
5. Assists Renal Function
We all know that water is essential, but you may not realize that kibble and other dry dog food diets can actually leave your dog dehydrated. Dehydration can decrease digestive function, slow the process of waste removal, and lead to recurring urinary tract problems like infection and crystals.
The high moisture content in raw animal protein helps the kidneys flush these toxins through the urinary tract. This support can also reduce unnecessary strain on the kidneys and prevent possible kidney diseases in their senior years.
6. Improved Digestibility
When ingredients are exposed to high temperatures, nutrients are denatured, making them more difficult for your dog's body to absorb. This means that they may yield less nutrition than before it was processed.
Uncooked and minimally processed raw foods offer nutrients in their natural state, allowing your dog to use the nutrients better.
7. Natural Nutrients
Synthetic vitamins are not always nutritionally equivalent or as biologically available as naturally sourced vitamins from raw ingredients. While some synthetic and natural raw dog foods are digested and absorbed the same, others are more potent in their natural form.
Natural raw dog food vitamins, however, are extra beneficial. For example, natural Vitamin E is roughly twice as bioavailable as synthetic Vitamin E.
Vitamin C is also thought to be more efficiently utilized by your dog's body when the natural flavonoids in their fruit hosts are present. According to one study:
"A significant proportion of animal studies show enhanced circulating and organ levels of vitamin C in the presence of food-derived or purified flavonoids,”
8. Dental Health Benefits
Enzymes in raw meat provide superior dental benefits compared to the abrasion from chewing kibble. These enzymes work by combating bacteria in the oral cavity that can cause dog breath, inflammation of the gums, and other serious dental health problems.
9. Enhanced Metabolic Efficiency
When all nutrients in your dog's food are digested and utilized properly, your dog's metabolism will work more efficiently.
Increased energy levels and stamina can be seen even in overweight and senior dogs and dogs with mobility issues, allowing for healthy exercise routines to be implemented.
10. Loaded with Flavour
The last, and sometimes the most helpful of the benefits of a raw dog food diet, is the irresistible taste. Even the pickiest pets love raw food diet.
When faced with a choice between kibble and raw meat, almost all dogs would choose raw food diets.
4 Challenges of Feeding Your Dog Raw
Raw food diets look like the perfect diet choice on paper, but there are some inconveniences attached to feeding a raw dog food diet. Some common factors can scare dog owners away from feeding raw.
1. Safety Concerns
There is a lot of fear and confusion around the safety of feeding your pet raw meat. Safe food handling practices are required for raw feeding. Feeding your dog a raw food diet is not without some risks.
2. Sticker Shock
Probably the most apparent barrier, if you are hesitant about feeding your dog raw pet food, is the price tag. When you are used to seeing the price of kibble diets from the grocery store, your local pet store's raw dog food section might seem shocking.
This sticker shock is a turn-off for potential raw dog food feeders, but for many, the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term cost.
3. Meal Prep is Time-Consuming
Another drawback to choosing raw food for your dog is the preparation. Raw feedings take a little more work than kibble, which can be simply scooped, served, and forgotten.
You need to be prepared to plan your dog’s meals by portioning them and defrosting the right amount of food from a single meal to up to 2-3 days' worth of meals.
4. Your Vet May Not Approve
The veterinary community is mixed in their support of raw dog food, with some vets being vehemently opposed, some in full support, and others who have at least taken the time to learn how to raw feed your dog food safely and are able to provide support to clients.
Even if your vet does not advocate for feeding raw, it's still a good idea to keep them informed of your pet's diet history and discuss your pet's nutritional needs. The choice of what you feed your dog is up to you, but your vet is still a valuable tool in making sure you choose the best raw dog food.
How to Choose the Best Raw Dog Food
To find the best raw diet for dogs, start by narrowing down your options. If you are wondering what is the best raw food diet for dogs, you'll need to take a look at the make-up of the dog food to ensure that the diet meets your dog's unique needs.
After you determine how to support your dog's health, consider things like price, quantity, and ease of preparation.
Complete and Balanced Raw Dog Food
Not all raw dog foods are complete and balanced. There is little regulation for raw dog food labelling in Canada, so navigating it can be challenging. Make sure you talk to your vet to ensure that the diet you choose is not missing any essential nutrients.
How the diet is labelled can often give you an idea of whether the dog food is complete as is or if you need to add to it to ensure total nutrition for your dog:
- Some diets are labelled as a Full Meal, Dinner, or Whole Prey to indicate the diet is complete, but others may not specify or use vague wording. If you are not sure, ask. There is no harm in double-checking and lots of harm in unknowingly feeding your dog an incomplete diet.
- Diets labelled MBO (meat and bone only) are likely incomplete diets meant to be supplemented and customized. If you are unfamiliar with what’s needed to customize a balanced raw diet for dogs, it’s safer to stick to complete diets.
- Some diets are labelled as a Full Meal, Dinner, or Whole Prey to indicate the diet is complete, but others may not specify or use vague wording. If you are not sure, ask. There is no harm in double-checking and lots of harm in unknowingly feeding your dog an incomplete diet.
BARF Diet VS Whole Prey
Every raw dog food brand offers something different, but they are all based loosely on the same two raw diet styles: BARF diets and Whole Prey diets.
BARF Diet for Dogs
The most common is the BARF Diet which was made popular by renowned veterinarian Dr. Ian Billinghurst (considered by some as the father of raw dog food).
The BARF diet stands for Bones and Raw Feeding. This is the most popular style of a raw diet and has been adapted into many different variations. Here’s a basic breakdown of the BARF diet:
- 70% muscle meat
- 10% edible bone (whole or ground bones, no bone meal)
- 7-8% vegetables
- 5% liver
- 5% other secreting organ meat
- 2% fruit
- 1% seeds or nuts*
*seeds and nuts are optional and are not commonly used in commercial raw diets.
Prey Model Diet for Dogs
The prey model raw diet is becoming very popular and is often seen as the more natural diet for your dog. Prey model raw diets are typically suitable for dogs and cats too, so they are preferred by multi-pet households. This formula is much simpler and usually does not change much between brands.
- 80% muscle meat
- 10% edible bone (whole or ground bones, no bone meal)
- 5% liver
- 5% other secreting organ meat
You may have noticed that there are no fruits, vegetables, or carbs of any sort in this diet. While this is commonly seen as the carnivore way, taking this information with a grain of salt is important.
Do carnivores need fruit and veg? While it’s hotly debated, plant ingredients offer natural sources of minerals, antioxidants, and fibre. Even true carnivores nibble on leaves, grass, sticks, and the occasional berry.
Don't be afraid to supplement this diet with small amounts of vegetables and even a little fruit.
What Kind of Raw Meat is Best for Dogs?
When feeding a raw food diet for dogs, you'll want to think about protein types. Rotational feeding, meaning including a variety of animal ingredients in your dog's diet, is recommended, especially in a raw dog food diet.
Some proteins are better suited to different growth stages, like the high calcium content in poultry, while others may only be important to dogs with specific health needs. For example, chicken has reduced potassium, but pork is rich in this essential mineral.
Not every animal protein is recommended as the main protein source for your dog. Rabbit and fish are both nutritious but lack the appropriate ratio of meat, bone, and organ to be a long-term complete diet.
10 Best Animal Proteins in Raw Dog Food
Below are a few types of animal protein to consider when trying to find the best raw dog food for your pooch:
1. Bison (Also Called Buffalo) - Bison is brimming in CoQ10, which acts as an impressive antioxidant. Lean meat is low in cholesterol. It is also beneficial for pets that show allergy symptoms to more common animal proteins.
2. Beef - Beef is a classic raw meat choice and is widely available compared to harder-to-find bison. It is loaded with essential amino acids that are needed by dogs of all ages. It is also a thorough source of zinc and iron.
3. Chicken - Even the pickiest pooch usually adores chicken. Poultry is a reliable source of vitamins A and B and niacin. Many dogs suffer from niacin deficiency, leading to poor appetite, fatigue, skin health problems, dementia, and muscle weakness.
4. Turkey - Your dog will profit from a raw dog food diet brimming with turkey. Both the bird’s white and dark meat are great sources of vitamin A, but dark meat contains higher levels of riboflavin, vitamins B6, B12, iron, and zinc.
5. Lamb - Lamb is favoured for improving canine immune system function. A dog’s immune system requires zinc to manufacture and activate the immune system’s T-cells. A dog with low zinc levels usually has a weak immune response, making them more susceptible to illness and various infections.
6. Duck - Duck offers a well-balanced ratio of amino acids. The waterfowl is also high in zinc, riboflavin, niacin, iron, phosphorus, and vitamins. It is a major source of protein that often helps canines that suffer from inflammatory conditions.
7. Liver - Liver is used in most raw diets because it provides remarkably high concentrations of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. It is also an ideal option for zinc, iron, manganese, and selenium.
8. Tripe - Tripe is the inner stomach lining of certain farm animals. When fed raw, it provides many nutrients such as amino acids, probiotics, phytonutrients, enzymes, and omega-6 fatty acids.
9. Eggs - Most pet owners who opt to feed a raw dog food diet focus on raw meat as a protein source, but eggs are also an excellent option for adding nutrients and protein to your dog's meals. Eggs, both cooked and raw, have the highest biological value of any animal protein, which means it's highly digestible.
10. Novel Proteins - Uncommon proteins are popular when dealing with food allergies and digestive issues. Proteins like rabbit, goat, and kangaroo are all very lean and very expensive but can be a useful tool for identifying sensitivities.
What is Frozen Raw Dog Food?
Frozen raw foods are a ground mixture of raw ingredients, starting with meat, and often include organ meats, bone, produce, and/or botanicals. The best raw dog food is typically sold in large blocks, chubs, tubs, or pre-portioned patties.
Each meal will need to be portioned out to meet your dog's feeding requirements. Choose the size and style that works best for you and your pet.
Best Frozen Raw Dog Foods
You'll find a huge selection of raw dog food at Homes Alive Pets, and we know it can be hard to know which diet to choose for your unique pet. Check out a few of our best complete and balanced raw dog food diets to help you narrow your choices.
If you are looking for a complete meal that doesn't require extra supplements of vitamins and minerals, then choose a raw dog food diet labelled with terms like full meal, dinner, and complete.
When it comes to your dog's diet, Primal is here to help you build a better bowl, and there is no better place to start than with Primal raw frozen dog diets. These complete and balanced formulas are made with high-quality protein and certified organic produce.
In addition to offering natural and nutritious formulas for dogs of all ages, Primal raw diets are available in a variety of formats to make portioning and feeding easy. Choose from nuggets, patties, or bite-sized Pronto morsels to suit your pet's mealtime routine.
2. Iron Will Raw
Based on nature and enhanced with science, Iron Will Raw Pet Foods are formulated to provide easily digestible nutrition in a safe and easy-to-feed format. Choose from a variety of proteins to suit your dog's needs, or rotate between proteins for maximum nutrition.
Our selection of Iron Will Raw Dog Food includes complete and balanced meals for dogs of all ages and single-protein diets that can be customized to accommodate unique dietary needs and health concerns.
3. Big Country Raw
Big Country Raw is an innovative raw pet food company that has made it their mission to simplify the raw feeding process, making it easy and accessible for pet owners everywhere.
By providing pre-portioned, ready-to-serve meals made from high-quality, locally sourced ingredients, they take the guesswork out of raw feeding and allow pet owners to focus on enjoying the benefits of a healthy, natural diet for their furry companions.
4. Instinct Raw Longevity
With decades of experience crafting premium raw pet food, Instinct is leading the pack in raw pet food for each stage of life. Instinct Raw Longevity was created with the unique dietary needs of pets at each life stage in mind to offer the most biologically appropriate raw diet.
Each recipe is enhanced with key fruits and vegetables to offer a rainbow of essential nutrients. Longevity is backed by 10 years of research and designed to help your pet lead longer, healthier lives.
What is Freeze Dried Raw Dog Food?
For those looking for an easier-to-store option, freeze-dried raw dog food is a good choice. The moisture is removed by lowering and raising the temperature of the fresh raw dog food in a vacuum chamber, leaving a freeze-dried and nutrient-packed meal.
You can find them in similar varieties to frozen raw food diets but in more condensed and easier-to-prepare formats. Freeze-dried dog food is great for travelling, portioning smaller meals, and as a "whoops, I forgot to defrost some frozen raw last night" emergency option.
Many pet parents consider freeze-dried food for dogs to be one of the best raw dog food styles.
5 Best Freeze Dried Dog Foods
Although a newer style of dog food, freeze dried is quickly gaining popularity among raw feeders and those looking for healthier alternatives to kibble. You'll find a wide variety of formulas and styles to best suit your dog's feeding needs and your own preferences.
Here are the 5 Best Freeze Dried Dog Foods:
1. Primal Canine Freeze Dried Nuggets
Each of Primal Pet Food products is developed from only the best ingredients. They use only antibiotic, hormone, and steroid-free proteins and certified organic fruits, veggies, and botanicals.
Primal Nuggets are portioned into small, easy-to-feed, and rehydrate sizes. To feed, simply rehydrate with water for five minutes and serve.
2. Instinct Raw Freeze-Dried Dog Foods
The Instinct brand of raw freeze-dried dog foods focuses on giving your pet a natural and raw food diet that is as close to nature as possible but still easy to feed. The recipes are all completely free of fillers, by-products, or artificial preservatives.
Instinct also offers options for including raw into other dog diet types, like their Instinct Raw Boost Mixers, including some solution-based formulas for common health problems in dogs, like Gut Health.
3. Open Farm Freeze-Dried Dog Foods
With their goal focused on crafting ethical and sustainable pet food, Open Farm uses humanely sourced and sustainably farmed ingredients to offer you a dog diet that you can feel good about.
Open Farm Freeze Dried Raw Dog Foods lock in the nutrition and flavour of fresh raw ingredients in easy-to-feed morsels. The protein-rich diets are made from 85% meat, bone, and organs, and organic fruits, veggies, salmon oil, and botanicals to maximize nutrition for dogs of all life stages.
4. Stella & Chewy Freeze-Dried Dog Foods
Stella & Chewy freeze-dried dog foods contain nutritious ingredients that have been responsibly sourced from cage-free, free-roam, farm-raised, and wild-caught sources. Each balanced food variety contains no artificial additives, preservatives, antibiotics, colours, flavours, or hormones.
The brand has quickly become one of the most popular frozen-dried dog foods. The line includes freeze-dried full meals, meal toppers, flavour boosters, and even freeze-dried coated, oven-baked kibble for dogs.
5. Nulo FreestyleFreeze Dried Dog Foods
Nulo offers a full line of one of our best freeze-dried dog foods and treats that are loaded with animal-based proteins and other natural ingredients such as vegetables, fruits, and probiotics. The foods have all been designed to meet your dog’s daily nutrient needs and provide a balanced and complete meal.
Each formula pairs a high-quality animal protein with a vitamin and anti-oxidant-rich fruit, like Nulo Freestyle Freeze-Dried Lamb and Raspberries, Beef and Apples, or Duck and Pear, just to name a few.
What is Dehydrated Raw Dog Food?
Dehydrated raw dog food is another style of raw diet that is popular for those looking for something a little less messy. The moisture is removed using very low heat, leaving shelf-stable and nutrient-rich dog food.
They come in a few different styles to suit your and your dog's needs, but each style has positives and negatives. Take a look at some of the options:
Ready-To-Eat Dehydrated Dog Foods
If you are looking for raw nutrition in a kibble-like format, try dehydrated dog food, like Smack, designed to be fed as is. These are simple choice that offers similar nutrients and benefits to a freeze-dried or fresh raw diet.
Rehydrated Raw Dog Food
Some dehydrated diets require rehydration. They may look similar to freeze-dried dog food but won’t be as finely ground. These can be easily made to order, prepared in advance, or taken on the go. Once rehydrated, the raw dog food will have a texture similar to a canned diet.
5 Best Dehydrated Dog Foods
Below we will outline a few of the best dehydrated dog food Canada options sold here at Homes Alive Pets.
These brands not only offer the nutrient-dense and natural nutrition of a raw diet, but each of these brands is dedicated to providing superior quality dog food.
1. Honest Kitchen Dehydrated Dog Foods
Honest Kitchen proudly offers human-grade foods in all their dehydrated dog foods. They have specialized in human-grade dog foods for over 20 years.
While not a true raw diet, The Honest Kitchen Dog Foods are only gently blanched before undergoing the dehydration process. The unique cooking process results in minimal nutrient loss, leaving the food similarly nutritious and highly digestible like a strictly raw meal.
2. Hurraw Dog Food
One of the leading dehydrated dog food Canada brands is Hurraw which is based in Quebec. The company uses only 100% human-grade ingredients, which have been sourced fresh from Quebec.
They use low-temperature dehydration to ensure that the nutrients remain in the food after processing. The dehydrated food by Hurraw has many of the same benefits as feeding a raw diet to your dog but with none of the mess.
3. Smack Dehydrated Dog Food
Another of our favourite Canadian partners, Smack Pet Food, is a specialty dehydrated pet food company out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Each ingredient in Smack formulas is selected with your dog’s digestion and overall health in mind.
Using fresh ingredients, locally sourced animal proteins, antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies, Smack Pet Food is one of the healthiest and easiest ways to feed your dog raw.
4. ZiwiPeak Air Dried Dog Food
ZiwiPeak is a New Zealand dog and cat food brand that focuses on crafting foods from ethical and sustainable meats. The air-dried and easy-feed formulas are a popular choice for raw feeders that are looking for the least amount of work at meal times.
Each recipe has been handcrafted to meet your pet’s nutritional needs. They carry a full line of air-dried dog foods to meet all your canine companions' needs.
5. Zeal Air Dried Dog Food
Zeal is a dehydrated dog food Canada brand. They offer a wide assortment of air-dried dog foods in a variety of flavours to meet even the pickiest eater’s needs.
What is Homemade Raw Dog Food?
Feeding raw food might be an option for dogs with certain allergies or illnesses. Using a basic ratio of food ingredients, a raw diet can be customized at home to suit your dog's individual needs.
As you become more comfortable with feeding raw dog food and more aware of the commercial dog food industry’s limitations, you may consider homemade raw dog food diets to take more control of your pet's health.
Another reason pet owners are turning to raw dog food is to help balance the rising costs of ingredients. Raw food is becoming less and less affordable, and if you have a pet with dietary restrictions, like allergies to specific animal proteins, those costs can soar even higher.
Feeding homemade diets for dogs allows you to source your own food ingredients and only feed what you know your dog can have.
Before choosing to make your dog's diet at home, I encourage you to research and talk to a holistic vet with experience crafting raw dog food recipes. This will prevent unbalanced raw diets or a diet lacking essential nutrients.
How to Make Raw Dog Food
We recommend reading Homemade Best Raw Dog Food: A Complete and Balanced Raw Diet for Your Dog to learn more about what your dog requires from a homemade meal. It breaks down the basics of what makes up a raw diet and provides helpful tips for getting started.
Homemade diets can be tricky, and I only recommend this style of food for experienced raw feeders. It’s just too easy to feed a poorly balanced diet that could have long-term consequences on your pet’s health.
How to Feed Raw Dog Food
Now you know the advantages of feeding raw and how to choose the right type of diet, but just what are you getting yourself into? Choosing the food and feeding the food are two different things.
Feeding your dog a raw diet isn't as simple as throwing kibble into a bowl and walking away. The best raw dog food diets require you to be more involved in your dog's meal prep and eating habits.
It's an investment of money and time, but if you want the best for your dog, some sacrifices must be made.
A few extra steps are involved in feeding your dog a raw diet. Build a consistent routine to help simplify the daily and weekly process of feeding raw dog food. You'll see that raw dog food preparation isn't as complicated as it sounds.
These helpful tips and best practices can ensure that you are raw feeding dogs appropriately and that your dog will thrive on its new raw diet.
How Much Raw Dog Food To Feed Dog
How much raw dog food should I feed my dog? Raw dog food is not one-size-fits-all.
Unlike kibble diets that offer formulas for puppies, seniors, or large and small breeds, to find the best raw dog food diet, you may need to learn to customize a commercial raw dog food to best suit your dog's specific nutritional needs.
Raw dog food is usually an all-life stage dog diet, meaning that it is generally suitable for all breeds and all life stages, from a young puppy or adult dog all the way up to a senior dog, but that doesn’t mean that every formula is perfectly balanced for your dog.
Raw Food Calculator for Dogs
How much raw food you feed your dog can change depending on age, breed, and lifestyle.
More than that, raw feeding guidelines may need to be adjusted to accommodate changes to routine and activity. This can be done as needed or seasonally to accommodate your dog's normal activity throughout the year and prevent unwanted weight gain or loss in your dog.
Here’s a simple raw dog food calculator tool to give you a basic guideline of how much raw dog food to feed:
Raw Dog Food Calculator
Are you ready to switch your dog to a raw diet? Enter your dog's weight and pick the most appropriate lifestage to find out how much raw dog food your pooch is going to need.
Split daily feeding recommendation into your preferred number of meals per day for your dog.
How to Prepare Raw Dog Food
Not every raw dog food diet is designed the same. Portioning out your pet’s food may require you to divide and weigh large blocks of raw food for dogs, add supplements, or even mash the raw dog food to make it easier for your pet to eat.
Look for raw dog food that is already in a format most suitable to your pet’s size. Larger blocks and patties are often cost-effective but may be too large of a portion for a smaller dog to eat before the defrosted food spoils.
Make sure that whatever style you choose, your dog will be able to eat the whole defrosted amount within 2-3 days.
If freeze-dried or dehydrated diets are your choice, then you’ll need to add water before serving. Each brand will offer instructions for how much liquid you’ll need to rehydrate the food, but this is flexible. You can change the texture to your dog’s preference by adding more or less water.
Freeze-dried and dehydrated diets will rehydrate in a few minutes, but some styles of dehydrated foods take longer. To save yourself some time, you can do some meal prep by rehydrating several meals overnight and freezing what you won’t use in the next three days. Then just defrost and serve.
Raw dog food digests quickly and efficiently, so work on a consistent feeding schedule. This type of routine will help you manage your dog's bathroom breaks and help you manage your pet’s weight, muscle development, and activity.
Feeding two meals per day is standard for an adult dog, but that may need to be increased depending on your dog’s calorie requirements and life stage.
Whatever routine works best for you and your dog’s schedule, try to be consistent. Their bodies will use calories more efficiently if meals and activities are properly scheduled.
The most common and safest way to defrost raw dog food is in the fridge. Take out up to 2-3 days of the meals and store them in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.
If you are in a bind because you forgot to defrost some raw meat for yourself, your first instinct might be to use the microwave to speed up the defrosting process. Do not microwave your dog's raw food ever.
Even on a low power setting, the microwave can start to warm the raw meat enough to begin damaging the nutrients. Additionally, the best temperature for bacteria to thrive in is neither cold nor hot.
Forgot to take out food last night? That’s OK. This quick defrost method can save the day.
1. Fill the sink or a bowl with room temperature water, enough to cover the food.
2. Put the food, sealed in a Ziploc bag, into the water.
3. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, then refrigerate.
It will still take some time to fully defrost, but it will speed up the process. The thinner the layers of food, the faster it will defrost, so avoid stacking raw dog food patties while defrosting. Try the Big Country Raw Defrosting Tray to further help speed up the process.
Defrost just what you need for your dog's next meal, and place the remainder in the fridge to defrost the normal way.
If your dog's meals are a nice round number, then you might be able to easily divide a larger patty into the portion you need, but if you want a more precise value, it's a good idea to use a food scale, like the Big Country Raw Kitchen Scale.
This will allow you to feed accurate portions, even if your blocks of raw food are quite large. This is ideal for managing your dog's weight and growth too.
5 Safety Tips for Feeding Dogs Raw Diets
There is much debate over the safety of feeding raw meat diet to dogs. We've long been taught that the bacteria in raw meat can be harmful to us, so it's easy to assume the same for your dogs.
Knowing the right way to feed raw will ensure that you and your dog will stay safe.
There are bacteria present in the raw meat. Scary bacteria like salmonella, e Coli, and listeria can be found in different types of raw meat diets. It’s important to keep this in mind when handling any raw meat.
Fortunately, dogs are built to eat meat, so they are capable of neutralizing these bacteria and eating raw meat with little to no risk.
They have an extremely acidic stomach environment that can kill many bacteria and prevent the rest from colonizing their digestive system.
Though your dog may have no issues with raw meat, the real risk is to you. Safe food handling practices are a necessity.
Wash your hands, utensils, and any surfaces that the raw meat diet is prepared with or on. This will prevent the spread of any harmful pathogens to you or anyone else in your home.
Raw meat for dogs, and actually, any dog food, should be handled with the same caution we use with our own raw meat preparation.
1. Store it Properly for Risk Prevention
The fact that dogs can handle bacteria that we can't doesn’t mean that they are invincible. Improperly stored or prepared raw diets can still pose a risk to our pets.
How long can freeze-dried raw dog food sit out? What about frozen raw dog food? Like the raw meat you prepare for your own meals, it shouldn’t be left out for long periods. Exposure to room temperature will allow the bacteria to multiply quickly.
Even though they can kill and pass these pathogens under normal conditions, if they are present in abundant-enough amounts, they can still cause digestive issues. Follow these basic safe handling practices to avoid risk:
- Defrosted or hydrated raw dog food can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Don't defrost more than your dog can eat in that time period.
- Do not refreeze defrosted raw food.
- Prepared freeze-dried and dehydrated dog food should be treated as raw meat.
2. Wash Your Hands
A little-known fact about pet food is that regardless of format, all pet food can host bacteria that can make us sick. Whether you are touching kibble, raw dog food, or dog treats, wash your hands and surfaces that the food touches to prevent harmful bacteria from affecting you.
The biggest concern with raw food is scary bacteria like salmonella and e Coli, both of which should be taken very seriously. How you handle your dog's food is important. Use common sense, and treat their raw dog food just as you would treat your own raw meat.
This goes for clean up after meal time too. Even if your dog has kicked the bowl clean, you still need to wash the bowl and your hands to eliminate bacteria.
3. Disinfect the Natural Way
Bowls should be cleaned after every meal, counters and utensils should be sanitized, and any surface or container that touches the food should be disinfected. Disinfecting makes us think of chemicals, but there are natural, pet-safe solutions to eliminate bacteria, like vinegar.
Use a 10-15% vinegar and water solution to clean surfaces, floors, bowls, and anything else used in raw feedings. This is enough to disinfect without leaving behind a strong or persistent vinegar scent.
4. Don't Leave it Out
Some dogs guzzle their raw dog food like it’s going out of style, but raw meal suggestions can be a bit trickier for daintier eaters.
Kibbles can be left out for hours, even days, without a second thought, but raw meat should never be left out for more than 20 minutes. Uneaten portions should be refrigerated and saved for the next meal time.
Eventually, your dog will get used to eating full portions at each sitting to provide the calories and nutrition that they require for their daily activities.
5. Avoid Plastic Bowls
Plastic can scratch easily and create a place for bacteria to hide. Over time, those grooves will be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
Instead, choose metal, glass, or ceramic dog dishes, like the Be One Breed Bamboo Bowl Set. They are easy to clean and sanitize and will not host bacteria as plastic does.
Wash your dog bowls after every meal, and sanitize them at least once per week with a 10% vinegar and water solution. This will kill off any bacteria that has been caked onto the dish.
Travelling with Raw Dog Food
Raw dog food isn't the easiest type of dog food to have on the go, so if you like to take your doggo on vacation with you, especially camping or hiking, where there is nowhere to store the food, raw dog food is just not going to work. Or will it?
Dehydrated Raw Dog Food is Great On-the-Go
Dehydrated, freeze-dried, and air-dried raw diets offer a much more convenient format for raw feeding. They don't require freezer space or refrigeration like frozen raw dog foods.
They are an excellent alternative style of raw dog foods for travel or last-minute meal planning and can be used as a treat or a meal topper too.
Bringing Dog Food Across the Border
If you feed raw dog food and like to travel, it's important to know the rules for bringing raw dog food across the border.
Can you bring raw dog food to the US from Canada? Sadly, the answer is no for raw feeders. All pet food coming into the US from Canada is required to be shelf-stable, meaning no refrigeration is required.
Additionally, the USDA prohibits any sun-dried or raw products across the border for personal use. This can be limiting if you are travelling with a raw-fed doggo.
What about the other way around? Can you bring American-made raw dog food into Canada?
Well, maybe? The wording from the CFIA and Canada Border Services Agency is a little vague. The requirements for bringing pet food into Canada from the US state that food must be:
- a product of the US and commercially packaged
- in your possession when you cross the border, as well as the pet that will be eating the food
They don't specify whether the food must be shelf-stable or any size requirements, so it's possible that raw dog food is allowed, but you are better off calling ahead to find out instead of getting stuck at the border.
It's a good idea to have a meal plan for getting raw dog food locally at your destination to make sure you have a backup if you aren't able to cross the border with your dog's raw food options.
Transitioning to Raw Dog Food
Making the switch to raw dog foods is different for every dog. Some easily swap from one dog food diet to the next with no adverse effects, while others need a slower and softer transition.
You understand your dog better than anyone. How you transition should reflect what you know of your dog's eating habits and sensitivities. Their feeding routine should also suit your daily schedule.
Once you've found the food or recipe you want to feed, you'll need to decide how to introduce your dog’s new food. There are many different ways to transition your dog to raw dog foods, but here are the two most common methods:
How to Transition Your Dog to Raw Food?
You may be wondering how to start feeding your dog a raw diet. Changing diets can be difficult for some dogs, so it's important to understand the safest and easiest ways to switch your dog to a raw dog food diet.
Going cold turkey is the most popular and most effective method for transitioning your dog to a raw dog food diet.
Simply fast your dog for 12 hours before switching to the raw dog food diet. This method may seem abrupt, but it is the most effective method and has the best chance of minimizing digestive upsets during the transition.
You can transition a little slower and give your dog time to adjust to the raw food. Do this by cutting up some of the raw dog food into treat-sized pieces and feeding them as treats for a day or two.
Next, fast them for 12 hours and replace one meal with raw. Continue feeding their old diet for the second meal. Try to keep the meals 8-10 hours apart.
This method might seem a little more gentle, but it's not always the most efficient method. For some dogs, it may just prolong the ill effects of changing dog food, as opposed to ripping off the band-aid with the quick switch method.
Nine times out of ten, the cold turkey method is the better choice, but special circumstances may warrant a more cautious approach. Connect with your vet to determine the most suitable options for supporting your dog’s digestive system during dietary changes.
Frequently Asked Raw Dog Food Questions
Should I cook raw food for dogs?
Do not cook raw dog food. Cooking will reduce the quality of the diet and make it more difficult for your dog's body to use the nutrients in the food.
Can you feed your dog raw meat?
Raw meat is the foundation of a raw diet, so yes, you can feed your dog raw meat. Raw meat by itself is not a complete and balanced diet, though, so choose a raw diet that contains all the essential nutrients that your dog needs to thrive.
Raw dog food is more natural and easier to digest than traditional commercial dog foods. A raw diet for dogs is designed to mimic the wild diet that your dog is biologically designed to eat. So yes, raw food is better than kibble or canned dog foods.
What is the best raw dog food in Canada?
Raw dog food used to be very limited, but today, we benefit from a wide variety of premium raw dog food brands, especially in Canada. There is no one size fits all raw dog food, but Big Country Raw, Iron Will, and Naturawls are some of our top picks in Canada.
Is feeding your dog raw food good?
Raw dog food has many benefits over cooked dog foods, such as fewer ingredients, no fillers, higher protein, more natural nutrients, and increased moisture.
Why are vets against raw dog food?
There are many reasons vets may not approve of feeding your dog raw food, but the most common concern is whether the diets are complete and balanced. Many commercial raw diets are complete and balanced, but not all of them, so if your vet expresses concern over your raw pet food, it's a good idea to at least hear them out and discuss the formula you chose.
Can Puppies Eat Raw Dog Food?
Puppies can absolutely eat raw dog food. During their growth and development stage, puppies can benefit from the calorie-dense and high-protein nature of raw dog food.
Can Seniors Eat Raw Dog Food?
It's a common misconception that senior dogs need low protein. In fact, seniors have a high requirement for good quality and easy-to-digest protein, which is what raw dog diets provide.
Can Fat Dogs Eat Raw Dog Food?
Raw dog food is calorie dense, which is actually beneficial for feeding overweight dogs. You can feed smaller portions to help break overeating habits but still provide the energy needed to build muscle.
Can a Dog Be Allergic to Raw Dog Food?
While some dogs are allergic to specific proteins, most allergy reactions are a result of poor digestion from eating a food that is hard to digest. Feeding raw can help to reset your dog's immune system and reduce and sometimes eliminate reactions to food.
Can Raw Meat Make Dogs Sick?
Dogs have a large and acidic stomach that is designed to kill bacteria and prevent it from colonizing in the gut. This is why dogs can eat raw dog food without getting sick, so long as the meat is handled and stored safely.
You Are Raw Ready
With the right knowledge, choosing a raw diet should feel much less daunting.
No matter how average or unique your dog's dietary needs are, there is a raw dog food option to help your pet thrive. Check out our full selection of the best raw dog food in Canada.
Give raw a chance. Your dog will thank you, and with the money you’ll save on vet bills, so will your wallet. Best of all, your dog will live its absolute best and healthiest life. Don't take it from us! Try it for yourself. You won't be disappointed.