best raw dog food

Raw dog food diets are fairly controversial.


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Many pet nutrition experts suggest that raw diets are the closest thing to a dog’s natural diet while others think that dry dog food is the most practical solution.

You have the right to make up your own mind about raw dog food, but in order to do so, you need to learn the basics. In this article, we’ll cover the subject of raw food for dogs, including the pros and cons. We’ll also talk about tips for buying, storing, and serving raw food, and you’ll see our top 10 picks for the best raw diet for dogs.

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Nature’s Logic Chicken Feast

  • Highly palatable and digestible
  • Made with 90% poultry ingredients
  • Pea, Lentil & Potato Free

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Darwin’s Natural Selections Raw Dog Food

  • Pasture-raised, Cage-free, Antibiotic-free Meat
  • High Protein, Low Fat
  • Grain-Free

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Nature’s Variety Instinct Frozen

  • Frozen at the peak of freshness
  • Cage-free chicken

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What Do You Need to Know About Raw Food for Dogs?

A raw food diet for dogs consists primarily of uncooked meat, bones, fruits, vegetables, and raw eggs. The uncooked meat typically includes both muscle and organ meat, and the bones may be whole, crushed, or ground.

Raw food diets for dogs are nothing new, though they’ve certainly increased in popularity of late. Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst is credited with producing the first commercial raw food diet for dogs in 1993. He called it the BARF diet, or Bones and Raw Food – it is also known as Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. Billinghurst created the diet with the idea that dogs would flourish if they ate a more biologically appropriate diet.

Here are some of the benefits associated with raw food for dogs:

  • Shinier coat
  • Healthier skin
  • Cleaner teeth
  • Higher energy levels
  • Smaller stools

The idea is that raw food is the most natural diet for dogs, both in terms of being unprocessed and being the closest to what wolves would eat in the wild. The more natural your dog’s diet, the more easily his body can digest it and absorb nutrition. The higher the quality of your dog’s diet, the more it will benefit his skin, coat, body, and overall health. Plus, more efficient digestion means smaller stools.

Though there are many benefits associated with raw food for dogs, there are some risks and some challenges to consider:

  • Raw food is more expensive than kibble or canned food
  • It needs to be refrigerated or frozen to stay fresh
  • There is some risk of food-borne pathogens being transferred
  • It may be more difficult to achieve balanced nutrition
  • Eating whole bones poses a risk for choking or intestinal obstruction

You’re free to make your own choice regarding raw food for dogs, but now it’s time for our recommendation. As long as it is made from wholesome, natural ingredients and prepared in safe manufacturing facilities, raw food for dogs is a great option. Just make sure that it is complete and nutritionally balanced and that you feed your dog an amount appropriate for his calorie needs.

Tips for Buying, Storing and Serving Raw Dog Food

If you type “raw dog food” into the search bar for an online retailer, you’ll come up with a variety of results. It should become immediately apparent that raw food for dogs comes in many different forms aside from the most obvious form – fresh.

Raw dog food comes in rolls, tubs, and patties that can be refrigerated or frozen to stay fresh. Another popular option for raw pet food is freeze-dried raw food. The freeze-drying process removes moisture from the raw ingredients to preserve them naturally without significantly reducing the nutritional quality (as opposed to cooking the food at high heat). This renders the food shelf-stable and makes it a much more affordable option than fresh or frozen raw food. Some raw dog food suppliers also sell dehydrated food which is a similar process, though the food must be rehydrated for feeding.

When shopping for raw food, you may need to step outside the local pet store. You can buy raw dog food online from major retailers like Chewy and Amazon, but you can also buy from independent raw dog food suppliers. Most major pet store chains like Petco and PetSmart sell raw dog food in some form, or you can buy the ingredients to make it yourself.

Your dog’s safety (and your own) should always be a priority, so know that safe handling procedures for raw dog food many be a little different from what you’re used to.

Freeze-dried and dehydrated raw food can be handled and stored in a similar way to traditional dry food. Frozen and refrigerated raw food, however, should be handled with care. Realize that the ingredients are not sterile, so you should wash your hands before and after handling. You’ll also need to clean any knives, cutting boards, and other utensils (as well as your dog’s bowls) after feeding.

Now that you have a better idea what you can expect from raw food, let’s take a closer look at what you should be looking for when shopping for the best raw diet for dogs.

raw dog food

What to Look for in Raw Dog Food

When shopping for raw dog food, don’t shop by price alone. It is safe to say that raw food for dogs is going to be more expensive than dry food or canned food, so don’t make this choice if you can’t consistently afford it.

Here are some things to look for in raw dog food:

  • High-quality animal protein. Protein is the foundation of a healthy diet for any dog and the primary component of a raw food diet. Your dog needs a minimum of 18% protein in his diet, though much higher percentages are recommended. Just make sure the first ingredient in your dog’s raw diet is real meat and from a source he can easily digest.
  • Raw bones. After real meat, raw bones are the second most important ingredient in a raw food diet for dogs. They provide calcium, phosphorus, and other nutrients needed for strong bones and teeth as well as balanced nutrition overall.
  • Essential fatty acids. Fat provides a concentrated source of energy for your dog as well as support for his skin and coat. Look for a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
  • Complete and balanced. No matter what you feed your dog, his nutritional requirements are the same. Make sure your dog’s raw food is complete and balanced according to AAFCO nutrient profiles. This may require the manufacturer to add synthetic supplements.
  • Easy to store. Freeze-dried raw food is generally the easiest to store, but you can also make fresh or frozen raw food work, if you’re careful. Just decide which option works for you.
Shopping for dog food can be tricky no matter what kind of diet you choose. When it comes to raw food, you can’t always count on your local pet store to carry a variety of options. If you want variety, your best option may be to buy raw dog food online. No matter where you search, however, you need to make sure the product is safe and nutritionally balanced. Keep reading to see our top picks for the best raw dog food suppliers.

The 10 Best Raw Dog Foods

The best dog raw food diet for beginners is usually a commercial raw food product. Look for a reputable brand that sells raw food in several forms so you can choose the one that is most convenient or affordable for you. Remember to keep your dog’s dietary needs and preferences in mind as well.

If you need a little help getting started, you’ve come to the right place! Here are our top picks for the best raw dog food:

Darwin’s Raw Dog Food

Overall Best Raw Dog Food: Darwin’s is our top pick for a raw dog food because of their commitment to providing whole-ingredient dog foods and their understanding that dogs’ digestive systems perform best when their nutritional needs are met. Darwin’s Raw Dog Food is packed with the nutrients your dog needs and none of the synthetic additives or fillers often found in other processed, dry foods. Pet owners who switch to Darwin’s have even reported using less medication and visiting the vet less, among other benefits.

  • Pros: Organic, grain free, moderate in fat, and low in carbs, carefully mixed with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids and essential minerals.
  • Cons: Does not include transitional meal options, no money-back guarantee

Nature’s Logic Chicken Feast Patties Raw Frozen Dog Food

Overall Best Raw Frozen Dog Food: If you want to feed your dog raw food, frozen is the way to go. This Nature’s Logic Chicken Feast Patties Raw Frozen Dog Food offers excellent nutritional quality thanks to premium natural ingredients and a nutritionally balanced formula. This raw food is highly palatable and easy to digest, loaded with real muscle and organ meat as well as a selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. This food consists of 90% poultry ingredients, making it very close to your dog’s natural diet. Select whole-food ingredients are added to provide natural sources for key nutrients as well, with supplemental fats to provide omega-3s for healthy skin and coat. Overall, this recipe is loaded with natural sources of nutrients, highly digestible, and flavorful option for your dog’s raw diet.

  • Pros: Highly palatable and digestible, made with 90% poultry ingredients, selection of whole-food fruits and vegetables, complete and nutritionally balanced, full of natural meat flavor
  • Cons: Needs to be thawed before serving, some dogs may not like the texture

Primal Chicken Formula Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Nuggets

Overall Best Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food: To avoid the hassle of keeping your dog’s food frozen, consider our top pick for the best freeze-dried raw food. This Primal Chicken Formula Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Nuggets recipe features hormone-, antibiotic-, and steroid-free chicken meat and organs in a wholesome, nutritious raw food diet for dogs. It is packed with protein and supplemented with certified organic produce to provide natural sources for key vitamins and minerals. This recipe provides optimal levels of essential fatty acids for energy as well as skin and coat support, and it is complete and nutritionally balanced. Simply put, if you want a convenient raw food diet for your dog, this freeze-dried food from Primal is an excellent choice.

  • Pros: Freeze-dried for convenience, real chicken as main ingredient, certified-organic produce for natural nutrients, rich in essential fatty acids, complete and nutritionally balanced
  • Cons: Some dogs dislike the texture of freeze-dried food, very expensive compared to dry food

Nature’s Variety Instinct Frozen Raw Bites Grain-Free Chicken Recipe

Most Popular Frozen Raw Dog Food: If you’re a dog owner, you’ve probably heard of the Nature’s Variety brand. This brand is one of the top producers of high-quality dog food and one of the only brands to offer raw frozen dog food on major online retailers like Chewy. We’ve chosen this Nature’s Variety Instinct Frozen Raw Bites Grain-Free Chicken Recipe because it is packed with nutritional quality and frozen at its prime to maintain integrity. This recipe features cage-free chicken and non-GMO fruits and vegetables in a wholesome, natural recipe packed with protein and essential nutrients. Each 3-pound bag contains about 11 cups of bite-sized raw food that has been flash-frozen, never cooked. It is nutritionally complete and balanced to provide for your dog’s needs while also satisfying his cravings for real meat.

  • Pros: Frozen at the peak of freshness, cage-free chicken main ingredient, non-GMO fruits and vegetables, complete and nutritionally balanced, protein-rich, highly digestible
  • Cons: Needs to be thawed before feeding, must be kept frozen to remain fresh

Stella & Chewy’s Chicken Dinner Patties Freeze-Dried Raw Food

Most Popular Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food: Freeze-dried raw dog food offers your dog the nutritional benefits of raw food with the convenience of dry food for you. One of the most popular brands of freeze-dried food is Stella & Chewy’s because they offer a wide variety of flavors in several different forms. We like this Stella & Chewy’s Chicken Dinner Patties Freeze-Dried Raw Food because it is made with wholesome natural ingredients, a single source of protein, and freeze-dried in convenient patty form. It features cage-free chicken as the main ingredient with nutritional support from 100% organic certified fruits and vegetables. This recipe is free from gluten, grains, and artificial additives but is supplemented with vitamins, chelated minerals, and probiotics to ensure optimal digestion and nutrient absorption.

  • Pros: Conveniently freeze-dried in patties, cage-free chicken main ingredient, 100% organic fruits and vegetables, no artificial additives, probiotics for digestion
  • Cons: Some dogs dislike the texture of freeze-dried food, very expensive compared to dry food

Sojos Complete Turkey Recipe Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food

Best Raw Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach: If your dog has a sensitive stomach, the quality and digestibility of his diet matters greatly. This Sojos Complete Turkey Recipe Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food is an excellent option because it contains whole-food ingredients and is gently freeze-dried to preserve not just the nutritional integrity of those ingredients, but also the natural enzymes and essential nutrients that make it both digestible and nutritious. This recipe features real turkey as the main ingredient, a novel source of protein for many dogs, which increases its digestibility. It also contains raw superfoods like sweet potatoes, broccoli, apples, and cranberries to act as natural sources for essential vitamins and minerals with a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. Overall, it is rich in protein and healthy fats, and it is complete and balanced to ensure optimal nutrition for your dog.

  • Pros: Gently freeze-dried for nutritional integrity, real turkey as main ingredient, fresh fruits and vegetables for natural nutrients, rich in omega fatty acids, highly digestible, complete and balanced
  • Cons: Some dogs dislike the texture of freeze-dried food, very expensive compared to dry food

5 More Top-Rated Raw Dog Foods

If the raw foods reviewed above don’t seem like the perfect fit for your dog, don’t worry – we’ve assembled a few more options for you to consider. Some of these recipes are freeze-dried raw foods while others are traditional kibble infused with freeze-dried raw bites. This type of food combines the convenience and affordable price of dry food with the supplemental nutritional benefits of raw.

Here are five more top-rated commercial raw dog foods to consider:

TruDog Feed Me Turkey Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food

Another excellent option in freeze-dried dog food is this TruDog Feed Me Turkey Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food. This recipe features raw, cage-free turkey as the main ingredient and includes both whole organ meats and meaty bones. It contains just five ingredients, making it a limited ingredient diet, and it relies entirely on turkey ingredients and herring oil to deliver balanced nutrition. It provides 46% protein and 15% fat with 2% fiber. Overall, it is a highly nutritious, all-natural recipe in a convenient freeze-dried form that provides 184 kcal/ounce.

  • Pros: Only 5 ingredients, real cage-free turkey main ingredient, includes organ meats and meaty bones, supplemented with herring oil for omega fatty acids, high in protein
  • Cons: Some dogs dislike the texture of freeze-dried food, expensive compared to dry food

Vital Essentials Beef Entrée Mini Nibs Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Dog Food

Dogs crave meat and that’s exactly what they get with this Vital Essentials Beef Entrée Mini Nibs Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Dog Food. This formula features real beef as the main ingredient with no added hormones, antibiotics, or artificial ingredients. It contains real organ meats as well to provide a highly nutritious diet for your dog with minimal ingredients. This recipe is supplemented with herring oil to provide for your dog’s needs for essential fatty acids, providing a rich source of calories as well as omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. As a single-protein recipe with a short list of ingredients, this formula is highly digestible as well as being complete and nutritionally balanced.

  • Pros: Real beef as the main ingredient, single-protein recipe, limited number of ingredients, includes organ meat, essential fatty acids, complete and nutritionally balanced
  • Cons: Some dogs may be sensitive to beef ingredients, expensive compared to dry food

Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Dry Food

If you want your dog to receive the nutritional benefits of raw food but you don’t want to pay quite that much, consider this Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Dry Food. This recipe consists of high-protein kibble infused with freeze-dried raw bites of real chicken. It features cage-free chicken as the main ingredient, delivering a total of 37% protein. This recipe features grain-free carbohydrates like peas and chickpeas for digestibility, plus plenty of essential fatty acids from chicken fat and salmon meal. This recipe contains 20.5% fat, including a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. It also contains chelated minerals and probiotic supplements to ensure optimal nutrient absorption and healthy digestion.

  • Pros: Cage-free chicken first ingredient, high-protein kibble with freeze-dried raw pieces, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, chelated minerals, probiotics
  • Cons: May be too high in fat and calories for some dogs, expensive compared to traditional kibble

Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Great Plains Red Recipe Grain-Free Dry Food

Another meaty option in raw-infused dry food is this Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Great Plains Red Recipe Grain-Free Dry Food. This formula features deboned beef as the first ingredient with supplemental protein from lamb, salmon, pork, and rabbit. It contains a nutritious blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for concentrated energy as well as skin and coat support. This formula is naturally grain-free, made with digestible carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, potatoes, and peas. It also contains beneficial supplements like vitamins and chelated minerals to ensure complete and balanced nutrition. Overall, it provides 38% protein and 17% fat with 3.5% fiber at 374 kcal/cup.

  • Pros: Real beef as first ingredient, high-protein kibble infused with freeze-dried raw bites, high in protein, rich in omega fatty acids, chelated minerals, probiotics, highly digestible
  • Cons: Some dogs may be sensitive to beef, not a single-protein recipe, contains some plant protein

Canidae Grain-Free PURE Ancestral Red Meat Formula Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dry Food

If you’re concerned about digestibility and nutritional quality, consider this Canidae Grain-Free PURE Ancestral Red Meat Formula Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dry Food for your dog. It is a high-protein kibble with freeze-dried raw coating and formulated to approximate your dog’s ancestral diet. This recipe features 7 regionally sourced meats including lamb, goat, wild boar, pork, bison, buffalo, and venison, with 14 pounds of red meat ingredients in every 20-pound bag. It also features fresh vegetables to provide natural sources of key nutrients with chelated minerals and vitamins to ensure complete and balanced nutrition. Overall, it provides 28% protein and 13.5% fat with 5% fiber at 429 kcal/cup.

  • Pros: Real meat from 7 premium sources, fresh vegetables as natural sources for key nutrients, blend of omega fatty acids, chelated minerals, highly digestible with probiotics
  • Cons: Not a single-protein recipe, very expensive compared to dry food, not fully freeze-dried raw

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is raw dog food safe? – Raw meat and eggs come with a risk of food-borne pathogens, but that is true for food used for human consumption as well as for pets. The truth is that raw dog food is no more dangerous than commercial kibble if you follow safe food handling practices.
  • How much does it cost to feed raw dog food? – Generally speaking, raw dog food is the most expensive type of commercial dog food you can buy. Monthly estimates range according to your dog’s size, but you can expect to spend over $100 per month. If you choose to make your own raw food at home, you might be able to save some money but there is no guarantee. If you’re feeding your dog raw food, the quality of your dog’s diet is clearly a priority and thus the price may not matter as much.
  • What’s in raw dog food? – The foundation of most raw foods for dogs is raw, meaty bones. In the wild, wolves consume a diet that consists primarily of raw meat and bone, though they do take in some carbohydrates from the stomach contents of their prey. For domestic dogs, most raw foods also include some fruit and vegetable content to provide fiber and essential nutrients. You may also find synthetic supplements to ensure nutritional balance for your dog.
  • What’s the best meat for dog food? – The best meat for your dog is one his body can digest easily. For many dogs, common proteins like chicken, beef, and lamb are highly digestible and complete sources of protein – this means that they contain all of the essential amino acids your dog needs in his diet. If your dog has food allergies or a sensitive stomach, you might need to switch to a less common protein or to a novel protein (one your dog hasn’t eaten before). Novel protein options include things like turkey, venison, pork, fish, duck, rabbit, kangaroo, and buffalo.
  • How many pounds of raw meat should I feed my dog? – When feeding your dog a raw diet, the general idea is the same as feeding dry food. The amount you feed your dog should be determined by his protein and calorie needs, determined by his age, body weight, and activity level. Generally speaking, dogs can be fed between 2% and 3% of their body weight per day, but you should start around ½ pound of food per 25 pounds of body weight. Stick to that number for a few weeks to see how your dog is doing and make adjustments as needed. Remember, that ½ pound per 25 pounds of body weight is for the whole day – split it into two feedings.

Raw dog food closely approximates your dog’s natural diet and provides him with a high-quality source of nutrition. Simply put, real meat should be the foundation of any dog’s diet and raw dog food has it in spades. The downside of raw food is that it can be pricey, and it may need to be kept refrigerated or frozen for freshness, unless you buy freeze-dried raw dog food.

Shopping for dog food is tough at the best of times, but when you start looking for raw food it can get even tougher. To help you make the right choice for your dog, we’ve reviewed the options to bring you our top 10 picks for the best raw dog food. Try one for your dog today!

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