It’s exactly what it sounds like. Our pets’ ancestors obviously didn’t cook their own food, they ate it raw and they ate what was available: a mixture of meat, bones, organs and even fruits and vegetables. Today, feeding raw food is easy because we have trusted vendors who grind and blend these ingredients into convenient, complete and balanced diets that are easy to feed.
WHAT IS A RAW FOOD DIET?
BENEFITS OF A RAW DOG AND CAT FOOD DIET
Raw food hasn’t been cooked or processed (or in some cases, processed as little as possible), so it retains all of its nutrients. That extra goodness means you’ll notice differences like less itchiness, a shinier coat, better dental health, more energy and lots of enthusiasm — even picky eaters love it!
Organ meat and superfood ingredients are rich in bioavailable vitamins and minerals. The nutrients in raw food are easily absorbed and used to optimize immunity. The long-term immune system health of your pet can help reduce the risk of more serious diseases as they age.
The limited ingredients make it easy to avoid products your pet may be sensitive to. A recent study even showed that dogs that are fed raw food as puppies tend to have fewer seasonal allergies.
Ground bone contains calcium and potassium to support healthy bone maintenance. Ground cartilage supplies a natural source of glucosamine for joint health.
DIGESTION, KIDNEY & URINARY SUPPORT
The concentrated, minimally processed nutrients improve digestion, while the high moisture content can improve hydration and help prevent urinary health problems.
A high-quality raw diet is high in protein and low in carbs. This ratio helps to provide long-lasting energy levels and keep your pet feeling full for longer periods of time.
HEALTHY SKIN, COAT & TEETH
Bio-available nutrients foster a healthier skin and coat. While natural enzymes can help fight plaque buildup and gum disease.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF RAW DOG AND CAT FOOD?
If pets could order, they would never turn down sushi or steak tartare. That’s because cats and dogs crave the nutrition in raw meat, just like their ancestors in the wild. Raw cat and dog food is available in different formats. You can use raw food as a full meal, crumble a small amount over food as a topper to a kibble diet or break up little pieces as the occasional decadent treat.
- Frozen raw has all the natural moisture, enzymes, and bioavailable nutrients from raw proteins and produce, and pets love it. Frozen raw requires a bit of planning since you have to defrost the meal in advance; microwaving kind of defeats the purpose. We recommend putting the next frozen meal in the fridge to defrost when you serve the already defrosted meal today. If you prefer you can safely defrost up to 3 days’ worth of food in advance, just stop short of the entire bag. Keep it fresh and only defrost what you need.
Freeze-dried is among the most convenient. These little patties and nibbles of food are insanely light. Just add water to rehydrate and they become delicious meals for your pet. They are great for camping and hiking, or just to have in the house. You can use freeze-dried as a topper to kibble. Make sure to rehydrate freeze-dried food especially when feeding a cat, because they get most of their hydration from their food.
Air-dried food is a convenient and easy raw diet. It can range from raw to lightly cooked depending on the temperatures used to evaporate the moisture. Either way, it is one of the least processed types of food. Air-dried food is so nutrient-dense that you can give your pet much smaller portion sizes. Air-dried food is able to retain more moisture than freeze-dried food, so it has a firm, not crumbly, texture. Both cats and dogs love the texture of air-dried food. In fact, air-dried food is so delicious that it makes a perfect training treat.
GETTING STARTED: HOW TO FEED RAW FOOD
THE RAW FEEDING MODELS
This model of raw feeding imitates what a dog would eat in the wild: prey animals. The Prey Model mimics the actual ratios found in whole prey animals: 80-85% muscle meat, 10-15% edible bone, and 5-10% organs. Another feature of this diet is that the pets are fed whole pieces (not ground or chopped) of meat and organs when possible. For large dogs, things like whole eggs, including the shell, can also be added.
Feeding your pet whole organs may seem intense, but it’s what most closely mimics what your dog or cat would be eating in the wild.
The BARF—Biologically Appropriate Raw Food—Diet is the more well-known school of thought when it comes to raw diets. Unlike the Prey Model, this diet includes additional fruits, vegetables, or supplements that would likely be found in the gut of the prey animal being consumed.
- This diet excludes filler ingredients like grain, corn, and soy. Many pet parents have found that this exact type of raw diet helps their furry friends stay happy and healthy.
These formulas add back valuable nutrients to their meals, which are often cooked out of traditional kibble or canned food, and make feeding raw and reaping its benefits easy.
READY TO MAKE THE SWITCH?
Add small amounts of raw-coated or raw-blended food to meals or as treats, then increase the amount a little each day over 2 weeks. You may notice tummy troubles as your pet adjusts after years of processed food. A probiotic supplement can help. If your pet has a sensitive stomach, start even slower, with just 10% new, and work your way up from there. Plus, don’t forget to buy them a stainless-steel, dishwasher-safe food bowl and wash it thoroughly after every meal to prevent bacteria.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR (AND WHERE)
The best brands have thoughtfully sourced proteins (no hormones or antibiotics), high standards for handling raw meat and species-appropriate recipes for cats and dogs.
RAW ISN’T ALL OR NOTHING
FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOUR BUDGET
- Getting as much raw food into your pet’s diet as possible is the goal, but you can supplement with dry food or even just feed raw as a topper or a treat. Adding an ounce of raw to your pet’s food bowl can cost as little as $.56 per day, depending on the brand and product you choose.
OUR FAVORITE RAW PET FOOD BRANDS
PRIMAL PET FOODS
Primal Pet Foods believes in the power of a raw diet to boost your pet’s overall wellness. A variety of foods, treats and food toppers are designed to promote a dog’s health with benefits like better digestion, reduced inflammation and bone, skin and coat health. Pets love the way it tastes and, better yet, the way they feel on a raw froze and freeze-dried foods.
STELLA & CHEWY'S RAW FOOD
Stella & Chewy’s makes small-batch pet food made in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. When it comes to meat, they only use the best from North America, New Zealand and Europe. Plus, they only use organice produce so no added hormones, antibiotics or steroids. Stella & Chewy's creates raw frozen and freeze-dried foods.
STEVE'S REAL FOOD
Steve’s Real Food makes feeding your pet a raw diet convenient, easy and affordable. Their raw frozen and freeze-dried meals are made with only the highest quality ingredients, providing a complete, balanced daily diet for dogs and cats. All of Steve's food have goat milk added for a nutrition and flavor boost.
At Vital Essentials, everything — from chews to patties to treats — is formulated to mimic what’s found in the wild. That means their raw frozen and freeze-dried foods have nothing but whole animal parts, choice cuts of meat, vital organs, and more of the good stuff that dogs and cats were meant to eat. They use nothing but USDA-inspected proteins that are free of hormones, synthetic nutrients, and fillers.
OUR FAVORITE PRODUCTS
MORE ABOUT RAW PET FOOD
THE DYNAMIC DUO OF DIGESTION: ENZYMES & AMINO ACIDS
- Raw foods are naturally rich in enzymes, which help to extract nutrients from food, and amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Enzymes make things happen. As a catalyst for chemical reactions, they can help break down food and aid in the absorption of nutrients. Some enzymes can even help to fight plaque buildup on teeth. Amino acids from raw diets have high bioavailability and are an essential aspect of healthy cell regeneration and growth.
TAKE FREEZE-DRIED RAW ON THE GO
Freeze-dried raw dog food and freeze-dried raw cat food are lightly processed without heat so retain almost as many nutrients as frozen raw but without having to be refrigerated.
GET MAXIMUM NUTRITION WITH FROZEN RAW
THE PROOF IS IN THE POOPS
- Because raw food is so unprocessed and very concentrated nutrition, dogs and cats are able to digest it more efficiently than most cooked foods. This means they are using more of the nutrients which typically results in less poop to scoop.
- This raw food isn’t DIY. All you have to do is thaw and serve. If raw frozen is not realistic for you are your lifestyle, options like freeze-dried and air-dried foods are still full of nutritional benefits.
With cats, make sure you’re rehydrating that freeze-dried food enough. Because they don’t innately drink much water, cats need to get dietary moisture from their food to maintain their digestive and urinary tract health. While pets love the crunch over kibble or as a treat, if this is their primary food source, you need to be sure to rehydrate it to avoid constipation or dehydration