Keeping dogs as pets is a nearly universal practice, dating back at least to biblical times and having developed independently on multiple different continents. The special bond between humans and our canine companions is so strong and versatile that only dogs, of all the animals humans, have attempted to domesticate, have earned the title of being man’s best friend.
Dogs differ from the vast majority of domesticated or even tolerated, animals in that they do not provide any material products for the human’s use; unlike beef or fish, for instance, our benefit from dogs is by and large sentimental. There can be no denying, though, that it is a benefit; humans have been proven time and again to enjoy life more when in the company of their loyal pet.
Overcoming their failure to provide us with material goods, dogs have instead become one of the most employed nonhumans in the world, appearing in emergency services and therapeutic roles of all kinds. Dogs can even be found in the cutting edge of medical research, where their legendary olfactory capabilities allow them to distinguish between chemical samples in considerably less time than it would take to test them with a machine, and at a minuscule percentage of the cost.
Even in private ownership, dogs are of enormous value to the humans around them; they have been found to be a stabilizing influence in a troubled family, can serve to alert to intrusion or defend a home, and can even be trained to call for help in the case of a medical emergency or missing person. Some dogs learn to provide seeing-eye or hearing ear services, helping individuals with disabilities return to a normal life without being dependent on another person.
With dogs forming such an important part of so many fields, it’s only natural that we should start to take better care of them than other animals around us. The canine care industry is enormous, with sores of brands available for every possible product that one could need to give your dog the very best standards of care and enjoyment.
The merchandise available to care for your dog is in many ways similar to the options manufactured for humans; apparel, for example, will be different for dogs in different professions. Depending on what your dog is trained to do, you might find the need to get something bespoke instead of looking for a store-bought option.
Housing for your dog tends to be considerably cheaper than for a human, of course; many people simply keep their dogs in the house with them, sometimes using a pet bed or cage if they don’t want it roaming free. Outdoor dog houses are freely available too, and if properly installed on a porch or in a yard can keep the dog comfortable through inclement weather of all kinds.
Entertaining the dog is possibly the largest category of merchandise that we’ve made to pay dogs back for their help, and it is certainly the most diverse; there are chew toys and chase toys galore on the shelves, and all you really need is to decide on one to which your dog will take a serious liking. Once you have such a toy, you’ll know exactly how to reward them for good behavior in the future.
All of these are technically optional, ancillary equipment to make things better for the dog while it is doing its job; in terms of actual critical products produced for dogs, one need only look to the veterinary field to find mostly medicines and vaccinations intended exclusively for canine use. There are even veterinary surgeons to help your dog if it should become injured or develop a deformity; in fact, in most countries, there is an entire industry dedicated to the regulation and supply of those surgeons and their practices.
Even more basic needs than that have developed as well, with the most obvious example being in the dog’s bowl; pet food is an enormous market with a considerable amount of competition to make the preferred nourishment for the world’s many domesticated dogs. Humans have developed incredibly complex systems for producing our own food; only a slight adjustment is needed to turn those technologies towards the problem of feeding our dogs.
Some pet owners reject this, ironically, claiming that they want to feed the dog only what they would themselves eat; this leads to the troublesome practice of feeding the dog table scraps or other products not actually made for canines. While the dog will generally be fine, human food does not contain the same nutrients they need; cooked food, in particular, has undergone a chemical change that will make it much harder for the dog to digest and process for nutritional value.
The lower end of the dog food spectrum is ordinary kibble which contains a limited amount of animal matter mixed with a starchy filler such as rice, soy, or corn to create a large number of pellets with the same animal taste. While this food tends to be enough to sustain the dog, it is recommended to avoid it if you can; starched kibble contains fewer nutrients per cup and does not often include the full range of vitamins that your dog needs to stay in peak health.
For the most natural and complete diet for your dog, you should be looking for raw dog food, which mimics a dog’s ancestral diet and keeps artificial flavors and hormones out by being as close as possible to feeding your dog farm to bowl. Choosing the right dog food out of all of the ones on the market can be tricky, as they may all appear the same, to begin with, but there are some manufacturers that have distinguished themselves by being a consistent producer of high-quality raw dog food.
Here are some of those select brands that you should look for to give your dog the best natural meal possible. Pick one that suits your needs and budget, and you’ll serve your dog’s next meal knowing that you are doing everything for your furry friend.
|1. Stella & Chewy’s Stella’s Super Freeze-Dried Raw Beef Meal Mixers
|2. Stewart Pro-Treat Freeze-Dried Raw Beef Liver Treats
|3. PureBites Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Breast
|4. Instinct Raw Freeze Grain-Free Dried Gut-Boost Mixers
|5. Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Raw Dry Dog Food Recipe With Great Plains Red Beef, Lamb & Rabbit
|6. Primal Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Nuggets Dog Food Formula
|7. Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Dry Dog Food Recipe With Raw Freeze-Dried Turkey
|8. Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Minnow Treats
|9. TruDog Boost Me Mighty Meaty Freeze-Dried Raw Beef Dog Food Booster
|10. Sojos Simply Turkey Freeze-Dried Dog Treats
Our Best Raw Dog Food Brand Reviews and Comparisons
1. Stewart Pro-Treat Freeze-Dried Raw Beef Liver Treats
Liver contains a significantly higher level of blood than other organs, and so has a uniquely powerful taste and exceptional nutritional qualities as dog food. Considered a delicacy even among humans, your dog is sure to come back wagging for more every time.
- Rigid tub
- 21 ounces
- 100 percent animal material
What We Like About Stewart Pro-Treat Freeze-Dried Raw Beef Liver Treats
This food is made exclusively out of raw beef liver, meaning that nothing has been done to reduce the nutrient contents besides cutting it into smaller cubes. It comes in a rigid tub that can seal tighter than most resealable bags and is rigid enough to stack up if you are putting several in stock.
What We Don’t Like About Stewart Pro-Treat Freeze-Dried Raw Beef Liver Treats
Liver is an exceptionally rich food with a peculiar texture that is unlike most other cuts of meat. Your dog may begin to balk at it after a few meals unless it is mixed with a milder form of kibble to balance out the liver’s overwhelming presence.
- USDA inspected
- Convenient storage tub
- No additives of any kind
- No need for refrigeration
- Nutrient imbalance
- Too rich for some dogs
2. Stella & Chewy’s Stella’s Super Freeze-Dried Raw Beef Meal Mixers
This pair of canine companions have dog food for every conceivable condition and palette, and this one is no exception. Stella and Chewy are back with yet another delectable dinner choice for a dog going on the raw diet.
- 18-ounce bag
- 95 percent beef
- Includes fruits and vegetables
What We Like About Stella & Chewy’s Stella’s Super Freeze-Dried Raw Beef Meal Mixers
This brand has a notable history of success and a long line of high-quality dog food besides this one, making it a known and trusted brand in the field of specialized dog food. The bites include fruit and vegetable elements to round out the diet provided by the beef.
What We Don’t Like About Stella & Chewy’s Stella’s Super Freeze-Dried Raw Beef Meal Mixers
This particular variety of food is made exceptionally dry, which can present a difficulty to older dogs or young puppies trying to chew it up. Human owners intending to crumble it and add it to a different brand of kibble report that it can be difficult to break up with bare hands, making it harder to properly distribute than you may have thought it would be.
- Trusted brand
- High beef content
- Natural fruit and vegetable elements to bolster nutrition areas besides protein
- Fully vetted ingredients and suppliers
- Zero grain additives
- Too dry for weaker dogs to fully chew
- Difficult to break up when filling a bowl
3. PureBites Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Breast
This product may be for your dog, but it is no worse for you; everything in the bag is made of one hundred percent human-grade food, so you won’t be feeding the dog anything that you yourself wouldn’t want to swallow.
- 11.6-ounce bag
- 100 percent animal matter
- Made of chicken breast
What We Like About PureBites Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Breast
Some people like to think that the dog can be relied on to eat any old thing that happens near its cage, but that’s not what this food is about; it uses freeze-dried chunks of pure chicken breast, making sure that the dog is getting the same level of concern you would want for yourself.
What We Don’t Like About PureBites Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Breast
Using only pure chicken produces an imbalance in your dog’s diet that will need to be solved by the use of a food topper or additional feeding on the side. This is a smaller bag than blended foods, so you will need to buy more of it to keep your dog happy.
- Low calorie
- Highly attractive to the canine palette
- High protein
- Suitable for diabetic dogs
- Human grade ingredients
- May not give your dog the energy they need
- Not a balanced diet
4. Instinct Raw Freeze Grain-Free Dried Gut-Boost Mixers
Not all bacteria in an organism are bad; there are millions of benign bacteria that are crucial for an organism to survive. This food is enriched to promote the growth of those same bacteria, enhancing the dog’s digestive system for improved overall health.
- 5.5-ounce bag
- Vegetable and chicken recipe
- 20 servings per bag
What We Like About Instinct Raw Freeze Grain-Free Dried Gut-Boost Mixers
Buying a probiotic food like this one is a great way to keep your dog in shape without needing to spend extra on costly veterinary medicines. Additionally, it has strong elements of dietary fiber that are often lacking in more meat-based dog foods.
What We Don’t Like About Instinct Raw Freeze Grain-Free Dried Gut-Boost Mixers
Your dog is naturally inclined towards meat, not vegetables, and a food like this may not be as appetizing to a dog as a meat-based alternative. It is also liable to cause problematic interactions if your dog actually does need medications, and you should mention to your vet that your dog uses probiotic food before getting a prescription.
- Good source of fiber
- Probiotic action
- A large number of servings per bag
- No fillers or grains added
- Flavorful ingredients to coax dogs into eating
- Low meat content
- Can conflict with medication
5. Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Raw Dry Dog Food Recipe with Great Plains Red Beef, Lamb & Rabbit
These kibbles are made with tender meat that will be easy for your dog to digest and difficult for it to resist, giving it a diet that will loosely mimic it’s instinctive food while still being a complete meal.
- 20-pound bag
- 38 percent protein
- Lamb and rabbit recipe
What We Like About Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Raw Dry Dog Food Recipe with Great Plains Red Beef, Lamb & Rabbit
This product comes in a far larger bag than most high-quality dog foods, so you can suffice for a while on only one purchase. The use of rabbit meat is sure to pique your dog’s interest by appealing to the natural prey drive in a dog’s basic instincts.
What We Don’t Like About Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Raw Dry Dog Food Recipe with Great Plains Red Beef, Lamb & Rabbit
Many buyers find fault not in the product but in the packaging, which is relatively thin plastic and crumbles easily if torn anywhere but at the top. This product also includes a relatively low percentage of protein, making it somewhat less healthy than other options.
- Large bag
- Game meat is more attractive to dogs
- High in healthy fatty acids
- Sweet potato filler is significantly healthier than grain
- Promotes skin and coat health
- Flimsy packaging
- Low protein
6. Primal Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Nuggets Dog Food Formula
These nuggets contain all the benefits in a bag condensed into a single compact piece to let you give your pet all the same nutrients without taking up as much space as uncompressed food. Just add some warm water and you’ll have a palatable and easily chewed meal ready in no time.
- Chicken based formula
- 14-ounce bag
- Rehydration required
- 78 percent animal matter
What We Like About Primal Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Nuggets Dog Food Formula
A healthy and balanced diet is important for dogs as well as humans, and these nuggets include all the parts you need to give your dog a well-rounded meal in one simple product rehydration is quick and easy, and the dry nuggets can be crushed or chopped to make smaller, more digestible pieces as training treats.
What We Don’t Like About Primal Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Nuggets Dog Food Formula
As a rule, these nuggets will need to be rehydrated before being served to your dog as a full meal, making them take longer to prepare and get messier than a simple dry kibble. Additionally, their protein and animal matter content is on the low side, so they may be less nutritious than your dog needs.
- Balanced meal
- Condensed nuggets for more value per piece
- Amino acid and Omega-3 booster
- Sustainably sourced ingredients
- Natural vitamins and minerals only
- Relatively low protein content
- Will need to be rehydrated
7. Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Dry Dog Food Recipe with Raw Freeze-Dried Turkey
Change up your dog’s diet without compromising the healthy meals that you want to give them by using turkey instead of chicken. This food is specifically formulated to develop your dog’s muscle structure, leading to a bigger and stronger companion.
- Turkey-based recipe
- 20-pound bag
- 100 percent animal matter
What We Like About Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Dry Dog Food Recipe with Raw Freeze-Dried Turkey
Turkeys are bigger birds than chickens, making their meat a heartier option for a dog on a poultry diet and letting you build up their musculature without added supplements or medication. The bag is larger than most brands, so one simple purchase will give you a wholesale rate and enough to feed your dog for some time.
What We Don’t Like About Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Dry Dog Food Recipe with Raw Freeze-Dried Turkey
Not all of this food is raw – some of it has been processed into a more stable and uniform kibble shape instead of being left as natural turkey parts. While this is intended to obviate the need for the meal mixers that are used in other foods, it is still more cooking or processing than most pet owners are comfortable with using in a raw diet.
- Builds muscle mass
- Boosts digestive enzymes
- Unusual and enticing turkey flavor
- Large bag
- Improves coat and skin health
- Is not all raw
- Can crumble while in the bag
8. Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Minnow Treats
If something about this food seems fishy to you, you’re not alone. Fish contains an enormous nutritional value with minimal body fat or carbohydrates and gives your dog a new and different taste to enjoy while still staying on a healthy raw diet.
- 2.5-ounce bag
- Individual fish snacks
- Zero additives
What We Like About Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Minnow Treats
These treats are processed with a slower freeze-drying technique than usual, sealing in more flavor and causing less damage to the tissues to keep them fresh and tasty all the way. Adding seafood to your dog’s diet is a great way to make their meals better-rounded and full of more interesting flavors without resorting to artificial alternatives.
What We Don’t Like About Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Minnow Treats
The main problem with this product is the size of the package – you may need several to make it worth your while to feed these to your dog on a regular basis; you may want to consider keeping these as meal mixers or treat instead. Additionally, whole minnows will still contain bones that have been known to cause choking or internal damage.
- Relatively affordable
- Added nutrient content beyond normal dog food
- Easy to separate as treats
- Less processing than most meats
- Slower drying keeps more flavor and texture
- Much smaller bag than usual
- Bones may be a safety risk
9. TruDog Boost Me Mighty Meaty Freeze-Dried Raw Beef Dog Food Booster
Many foods include at least some quantity of beef in them, a practice that makes them delectable to your dog but exceptionally costly. This food takes advantage of less price beef products to make a cost-effective alternative that still packs all of the nutrition from human-grade meat.
- 3.5-ounce bag
- Beef recipe
- 99 percent animal matter
- Herring oil added
What We Like About TruDog Boost Me Mighty Meaty Freeze-Dried Raw Beef Dog Food Booster
You don’t need to be breaking the bank to feed your dog beef-based food. This product uses organs, bone marrow, and other beef parts inedible for humans to give our dog the same great taste and a powerful nutritional boost for less. It is also enhanced with herring oil, giving your dog a dose of nutrient-rich seafood as well.
What We Don’t Like About TruDog Boost Me Mighty Meaty Freeze-Dried Raw Beef Dog Food Booster
You will need to buy several packs of these for your dog to keep them fed for any length of time, and it is recommended to try and find a wholesaler instead of getting at retail price. As mentioned, this food uses a herring oil additive; while healthy and good for your dog, many pet owners would prefer that there be no additives at all.
- Fortified with herring oil
- Boosts gum and tooth health
- Hypoallergenic formula
- Blood concentrations add iron and attractive taste
- Small package
- Contains additive content
10. Sojos Simply Turkey Freeze-Dried Dog Treats
It is a well-known part of dog care that dogs of different ages will need different kinds of food. Their digestive tracts and the size of bite they can take change as they mature and their diet changes with them. These bites are specifically intended for puppies, giving them what they need to grow up fast.
- Four-ounce bag
- Turkey recipe
- 100 percent animal matter
- Slow dried
What We Like About Sojos Simply Turkey Freeze-Dried Dog Treats
With boneless turkey as the one and only ingredient in the bag, these kibbles are perfect for puppies learning to bite things; the meat is dried in a slower and less complete manner than most freeze-dried products, keeping it soft enough that the pups will be able to get through it even with smaller teeth. Turkey meat is a more robust food than the poultry in most kibbles, so your puppies will be having the best food they can right from the beginning.
What We Don’t Like About Sojos Simply Turkey Freeze-Dried Dog Treats
Most puppy food is made in finer kibble to let them get a larger mouthful and become used to chewing on kibble as opposed to on actual meat, so using turkey bites may make the puppies unwilling to eat pellet or gruel dog food in the future. They will also not be getting the balanced diet that a formulated dog food would provide, and should be given supplements to round out their meals.
- Suitable for puppies
- A small bag for small dogs
- The slower drying process retains more flavor
- No artificial hormones
- Does not have any filler and has undergone minimal processing
- May not be enough for larger dogs
- Does not constitute a well-rounded diet
Final Verdict: Stella & Chewy’s Stella’s Super Freeze-Dried Raw Beef Meal Mixers
When it comes down to which food is really the best for your dog, Stella & Chewy find themselves ahead thanks to considerable experience in the field and finding the right balance of meat and other ingredients to keep your dog healthy and happy while going on the raw diet. By not sticking to only meat, they include important sources of fiber and other vitamins that you should be making sure your dog gets on a regular basis.
That said, if your local pet shop doesn’t carry Stella & Chewy’s food, the other options on this list remain good choices. Although not the best, they remain acceptable choices for keeping your dog healthy with the natural option of raw food.
As you can see, the raw dog foods available to you are many and varied, and it is easy to feel like neither one has any clear advantage over the rest. Picking any of them can be tough, let alone the right one, so here are some factors to consider that might help you narrow the field a bit.
When it comes to picking a dog food, there’s no better place to start than with your dog; take a look at your canine companion and start to determine things like age, breed, weight, and lifestyle. The vast majority of dog food products are rated by what kind of dog they are best fed to, and knowing what category your dog falls into for each of those (and several other) criteria can offer a narrow profile of what foods are most recommended for your particular pooch.
You can also help yourself by asking what kind of diet you want the dog on – perhaps your dog has a need for wet food only, or has to receive a keratin boost to keep them in good condition. In cases like these, it is preferable to ask your veterinarian to recommend something; while you might not get an exact brand recommendation, you should at the very least be told what you need to avoid.
Try to choose a brand with a long history and greater variety of products; both of these indicate a manufacturer who has been in the industry for some time and is well aware of what it takes to make dog food of high enough quality to stay ahead of the pack. Be sure to check for a certifying label on the food as well to ensure that you are getting a product whose quality is independently vouched for by an outside organization.
If buying from a physical store, try to get a small quantity of whatever food you are thinking of buying and offer it to your dog as a sort of taste test; after all, there’s no point in selecting a product that your dog will reject out of hand. If you’re ordering online, you can take similar precautions by purchasing only the smallest size of bag available; this may leave you with a little extra, but at the very least you will not have invested in a large sack without knowing it will be of interest to the dog.
Keep in mind that once you have found the brand that is both of interest to your dog and up to your own nutritional standards – whatever they may be – the largest size bag will often turn out to be the most economical option. Although you will be paying more overall, that higher cost is divided among a much larger quantity of food, and will equal out to paying less per gram than if one were to get smaller bags.
Some dog food is sold in one-meal pouches, with the entire bag to be used up for a single meal in the canine equivalent of a noodle cup; should it turn out that that’s what our dog likes best, you won’t be able to find a larger bag for them; instead, look to buy those small pouches by the case, where a bulk discount often applies. If you are looking to stock up for your dog’s needs for a while, seek out an importer or wholesaler instead of paying retail rates; almost every field has a difference between wholesale and retail prices, and if you are getting enough dog food, you should try to avail yourself of them.
Changing your dog’s diet too suddenly is inadvisable, especially if you are taking them from cooked food to raw; while neither will harm the dog, they are different enough to upset its digestion and cause it pain and intestinal trouble for a few days. You can avoid this by calculating ahead of time when the dog’s old food is going to run out and having the new food ready for at least three days before then, during which you should begin to serve the dog increasing quantities of the old food mixed in with the new/
Some brands will include instructions on how to acclimate your dog properly to this new food, printing them either on the bag or on a card to be found within. If your choice has such directions on it, follow them carefully, and monitor your dog for any lasting irregularities that might warrant veterinary intervention.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do so many of these bear the legend “Proudly made in the USA”? Is dog food from other countries specifically worse than American kibble?
There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your country, and a lot of people are understandably enthusiastic about proclaiming their patriotism in more places than just the national anthem; for small business owners like those that design most of these brands of dog food, that means on the packaging for their products as well.
Additionally, many countries require a product to be clearly labeled as to its place of origin, so there are legal considerations involved as well; without adhering to certain packaging conventions, some countries will not allow the product on the shelves.
That said, consumers do look for American dog food, and for good reason; the United States of America is home to a number of agencies and organizations responsible for regulating the standard of food production, storage, and sale, which means that dog food from the USA has been produced in facilities with high standards of cleanliness and using ingredients that can be proven to be free of genetic modification or artificial pollutants.
Chief among these is the FDA, arguably the global gold standard for any food product, and it is backed up by multiple smaller names associated with every stage of getting your dog’s food from farm to bowl.
These other organizations make sure that each ingredient in your dog’s meal got there in a responsible manner, including sustainably sourced animal matter and organically grown vegetables or fruits. Although more expensive, including only responsible ingredients does yield a better dog food in the end, giving many consumers ample reason to look for the reassurance that their chosen dog food is made where it is properly overseen, inspected, and certified before they feed it to their pet.
Does my dog really need to be on a raw diet?
The short answer to this is no – most dogs can actually do just fine eating cooked kibble, but they will require significantly more of it to achieve the same nutritional effect. The heat and moisture involved in cooking food can cause many of the important nutrients to be leached out of it, without any other parts of the meal to reabsorb them as in human cooking, and the food itself will physically shrink, giving you less overall material.
Additionally, the canine digestive tract is far more capable of handling raw meat than a human’s, but is not designed for cooked food at all; your dog might take table scraps as readily as ever, but that was never meant to be its primary diet. By feeding your dog a raw diet, you’ll be ensuring that their body is receiving optimal nutrition instead of the minimal amounts it might glean from a cooked meal.
Lots of these options say that they are freeze-dried. What does that mean, and why is it so popular for dog food manufacturers?
Ordinarily, drying food would mean leaving it out in the heat or air to remove all the moisture and leave only the dried food behind. You can still find plenty of foods that use precisely that method somewhere along their line of production, but freeze-drying goes a little faster; instead of waiting for the water in the food to evaporate at room temperature, the food is frozen in a vacuum, then thawed in such a way that the water melts and evaporates before the rest of the food has thawed at all.
The resulting product is, invariably, a food with practically zero moisture content, but that has not had the tissue structures inside the food damaged by large ice crystals rapidly melting and soaking into the cells. This food retains nearly all of its original nutrient content and taste, and is highly shelf-stable, making it a natural choice for food producers of any kind who know their product might need to be left out for a while.
Can you explain about meal toppers?
Most kibble is sold in large bags of pellets, containing a minimum of animal matter and a lot of starchy filler like corn, rice, or flour. To make it all stay the same color and shape, kibble tends to be cooked as well, further reducing the flavor and nutritional content that might make it interesting for your dog; after a certain amount of time, the dog is liable to lose interest in such a bland and boring meal.
Meal toppers, or meal mixers, or any of several other names by which they are sold; are designed to make a dog’s food interesting again by adding a highly flavorful and nutritious treat to every mouthful. They come in numerous varieties, such as raw meat or tangy fish oil, and are generally made of meat that is either barely processed or mixed with fruit and vegetable content to give your dog a taste profile to anticipate and enjoy.