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Is your dog sick and tired of the same old dry kibble? Would you like your dog to have better skin, shinier coat, and cleaner teeth? Would you like your dog to be thrilled about his meals? If this sounds like something you and your dog would like, it might be time to give raw dog food a try.
Raw dog food is easier than ever to buy and feed your dog. It doesn’t have to be messy or take hours to prepare. We can show you the best raw dog food available. So, just sit back and let us tell you about some of the best brands around and the advantages of feeding a raw diet.
Quick Look At Our Top Picks For Best Raw Dog Foods:
If you’ve always fed your dog a kibble or canned food, you’re probably wondering why you should switch to feeding a raw food diet. Here are some of the reasons:
A raw food diet is closer to the dog’s evolutionary diet
Proponents say that dogs eating a raw food diet have healthier skin
Dogs may have cleaner teeth with this kind of diet
Some owners say their dogs have shinier coats
Some dogs can have higher energy levels when eating raw dog food
Dogs can also have smaller stools with a raw food diet (depending on the food)
In addition, raw food diets are becoming very popular. However, this is not a new kind of diet for dogs. If you go back 150 years, most dogs lived on farms and they would likely eat a diet that was similar to a raw food diet. There was no kibble or canned dog food. Some dogs may have gotten scraps but lucky dogs would get some meat and/or offal (animal organs), along with a meaty bone to chew.
In the 20th century, athletic dogs such as racing Greyhounds and sled dogs have always been fed raw food diets. In the 1990s, the Australian veterinarian Dr. Ian Billinghurst was one of the first advocates of feeding a raw food diet to pet dogs. He came up with the BARF diet, which stands for Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. He developed an enormous following for his ideas. Today there are many other kinds of raw dog food diets besides Dr. Billinghurst’s diet. Raw food is commercially available in frozen and freeze-dried forms, for example. There are also combination diets that provide vegetable, grain, and vitamin blends so the owner can mix in their own fresh raw meat.
What To Look For When Shopping For A Raw Dog Food?
If you prefer to purchase a commercial raw dog food instead of slaving in the kitchen to make your dog’s raw food, there are lots of good options. Buying a commercial raw food will save you time and it’s usually less messy than making your own. You probably won’t have to buy a separate freezer to store a side of beef or forty pounds of chicken wings you bought on sale for your dog either.
You will need to read labels and check the quality of the ingredients in the foods you are considering. This is especially important since you aren’t selecting the ingredients yourself in your grocery store.
Here are some important things to look for when you’re shopping for a raw dog food:
Look for a raw food that has lean muscle meat. You need to make sure that the food you are buying has plenty of lean muscle meat instead of a lower quality meat. Lower quality meats will contain more fat and less protein – not what you want for your dog. Different raw dog foods will have different meat percentages but all of them should use lean muscle meat.
Raw dog food needs to contain organs, too. Liver and kidney supply important trace minerals and vitamins. (The heart is considered a muscle meat.) Organ meats can make up 5-10 percent of the diet.
Raw dog foods should contain bone. Companies that use whole animals are usually well-balanced because they provide meat, organs, and bones in the right percentages. It is important for your dog to have the right balance of calcium (from bone) and phosphorus (from meat). If you are using a pre-made raw mix that doesn’t contain meat or bones, you will need to make sure your dog gets raw meaty bones in his diet such as knuckle bones or necks.
Your dog’s diet needs good fat. Up to about 14 percent fat is suitable for most raw food diets though foods with duck may have more fat since it is naturally high in fat. Foods with too much fat are a concern for dogs that have liver or kidney problems.
There is no need to avoid carbs such as vegetables. Even with a raw diet, there is no need to avoid all carbohydrates. The fiber in vegetables helps regulate your dog’s blood sugar levels. Vegetables also provide some vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and probiotics. Make sure they are ground fine so they are easy for your dog to digest.
Supplements are added to some raw dog food mixes. Or you can add them yourself. Supplements that can be helpful to your dog include kelp, spirulina, apple cider vinegar, and essential fatty acids (EFAs).
We also recommend choosing foods that meet AAFCO nutritional adequacy standards for complete and balanced diets.
The Best Rated Raw Dog Foods Reviewed
Stella & Chewy's Chewy’s Chicken Dinner Patties Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food
Meets AAFCO requirements to be complete and balanced for all life stages
Freeze-dried patties are very easy to store in your fridge and prepare for your dog
Most people will only look at the guaranteed analysis and assume that the food has 48 percent protein and 28 percent fat – but the food should ideally be rehydrated, so the added water changes the percentages.
Stella & Chewy’s Chewy’s Chicken Dinner Patties Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food is a favorite with many people who feed raw diets. It features raw, cage-free chicken and organic fruits and vegetables. It’s made from 95 percent chicken and nutrient-rich organs and bones. These freeze-dried raw patties are also pea-free, lentil-free, and potato-free, if you’re concerned about heart issues. The formula is fortified with added vitamins and minerals; plus, taurine has been added. It’s even enhanced with probiotics for better digestion; and antioxidants for immune system health. This food meets AAFCO nutritional requirements for all life stages and is considered to be complete and balanced. In its reconstituted form it has 15 percent crude protein (min.), 9 percent crude fat (min.), 2 percent crude fiber (max), and 72 percent moisture (max), with each patty containing 50 kcal. Stella & Chewy has many other meat proteins and other good products.
Primal Chicken Formula Nuggets Grain-Free Raw Freeze-Dried Dog Food
Uses certified organic produce and certified organic minerals
Fresh ground bone is added
The rehydrated analysis of this food shows that it has 12 percent crude protein (min.), 11 percent crude fat (min.), 1 percent crude fiber (max), and 72 percent moisture (max), with 3.1 percent ash (max). This is different than the guaranteed analysis so some people may be confused.
Primal is another top raw food brand. Their Chicken Formula Nuggets Grain-Free Raw Freeze-Dried Dog Food is a topseller. It’s also available in many other meat proteins – especially helpful if your dog has a food allergy to a common meat protein. Primal uses natural chicken meat and organs without any antibiotics (no poultry in the U.S. is allowed to contain added hormones). Fresh ground bone is added. The food also contains certified organic produce and minerals; and unrefined vitamins. Optimum levels of amino acids, essential fatty acids, naturally-occurring enzymes are found in the food. Contains no grains, glutens, corn, wheat, or soy. This food should also be rehydrated.
Nature's Logic Chicken Feast Patties Raw Frozen Dog Food
Uses finely ground eggshell meal as an extra calcium source
Earned nutritional adequacy statement through feeding trials
Some people may prefer a raw food that uses bones
Nature’s Logic Chicken Feast Patties Raw Frozen Dog Food boasts an AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement for all life stages based on feeding trials. Feeding trials are expensive, use more dogs, and they take longer than earning a nutritional adequacy statement based on a nutritional profile, so kudos to Nature’s Logic for going to this extra effort and expense to support their foods. As they note, this raw food diet is made up of 90 percent poultry (there are other formulas that use other meat proteins). This is a grain-free, gluten-free diet with no corn, wheat, soy, or peas. It contains no large ground bones but it does use finely ground eggshell meal as an extra natural calcium source. Only whole food ingredients are used without any synthesized vitamins, minerals, or trace nutrients. Should be fed as-is, without rehydration.
Instinct by Nature's Variety Frozen Raw Bites Grain-Free Real Beef Recipe Dog Food
15 percent fruits, vegetables, vitamins and minerals
No grains, corn, wheat, soy, peas, artificial colors, or preservatives
Minimally processed through cold-pressure (HPP) but there is some processing
Instinct by Nature’s Variety has a number of kibbles that are coated with raw food or that include raw food in some form with the dry food. This food – Frozen Raw Bites Grain-Free Real Beef Recipe Dog Food – is actually a raw dog food in frozen form. The food is minimally processed and made with 85 percent meat and organs, along with 15 percent non-GMO fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and minerals. This formula features beef but Instinct has other formulas that rely on other meat proteins. There are no grains, corn, wheat, soy, peas, artificial colors, or preservatives. The formula is frozen and not cooked. Cold-pressure processing keeps the nutrients safe. It arrives at your home frozen. This formula does not have to be rehydrated.
Sojos Complete Turkey Recipe Adult Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food
Very expensive, especially compared to the other foods on our list
Sojos Complete Turkey Recipe Adult Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food is a complete and balanced diet made from turkey, broccoli, cranberries, celery, pumpkin, kelp, and other ingredients. Sojos’ formulas are grain-free, GMO-free, soy-free, with no fillers, artificial preservative, colors, flavors, and no ingredients from China. This food does need to be rehydrated. This is an adult maintenance formula.
If you love the idea of feeding your dog a more natural diet, with raw ingredients, but you don’t want to spend hours every week grinding meat and making the food yourself, there are some good commercial raw dog food options. The foods recommended here are all top sellers with thousands of positive reviews online from loyal dog lovers. We think they are great selections for anyone interested in feeding their dog a raw food diet. Try some of these foods and let us know what you think.
Carlotta Cooper is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine DN Dog News. She's the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, a Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) award winner. In addition, she is an American Kennel Club Gazette breed columnist and is the author of several books about dogs. She has been reviewing pet foods and writing about dog food for more than 10 years.