Over the last few years there has been a growing movement among dog owners that has become hard to ignore. That movement is the raw dog food diet.
Instead of feeding a dog from a bag of dry kibble, some enthusiastic dog owners are feeding their dogs raw foods including meat, bones, vegetables, and fruit.
The idea behind the raw diet is that it’s a much more natural and “biologically appropriate” method of feeding dogs given that they haven’t biologically changed from wolves all that much. A wolf diet is much higher in protein and fat with much less carbs than what you’ll find in a typical dry dog food.
Comparing raw dog food against kibble is a good place to start to understand why many pet owners are making this switch.
Dry Kibble vs Raw Dog Food
The biggest issue with dry dog food is that there are just so many ingredients in a dog food that it’s impossible to know what they are or why they’re included.
In our work analyzing dry dog food earlier this year, we found that the average bag of dry kibble has over 47 ingredients listed on the label! Some dog foods even had over 80 ingredients – truly incredible when you consider most raw dog food recipes only call for 6-7 ingredients.
What’s worse is that there have been many recent cases of mislabeled dog food where what dogs were eating wasn’t even included on the label. Given that dog food manufactures source their ingredients from other companies and sometimes even have third parties make and packaged the dog food under their brand, it’s no surprise things like this can occur.
Number of ingredients is one thing. Even more important is the nutritional difference between raw dog food and dry kibble. Take a look at this chart with data I compiled from averages of dry dog food compared to raw dog food commercially available –
It’s astonishing how much higher raw dog food is in protein and fats – things you find in abundance in real raw meat! Dry dog foods on the other hand are very high in carbohydrates, something that dogs and wolves would never eat much of in the wild.
By taking back control of the recipes, you can know with certainty what you’re feeding your dog. You can also feed them human-grade food, not scraps that don’t make the cut.
If you’re still wondering why dog owners are switching to raw diets, let’s go into some of the reported benefits.
Benefits and Challenges of Raw Feeding
There are numerous health benefits to raw feeding which cover just about all aspects of a dog’s physical attributes.
- Shinier coat
- Thicker fur
- Overall weight/fat loss
- More muscle especially in the hind legs
- Better smelling breath
- Cleaner teeth
- More energy
- Better digestion
Most dog owners report massive changes in appearance and behavior over the course of a few weeks. Many also believe a raw diet will lengthen a dog’s lifespan, but this has not been studied as far as I’m aware.
Everything has potential drawbacks and raw dog food is no exception. The biggest and most obvious drawback is it’s more time consuming to put together a raw meal than to scoop kibble from a bag into a bowl.
Raw dog food is also going to be more expensive than kibble to feed your dog. Since dry dog food is made in massive batches and highly preserved, of course it reaches economies of scale that you can’t with raw, fresh ingredients. Depending on how many dogs you have and the size of those dogs, this may or may not be a deal breaker for you.
Another concern is that you don’t do a good job putting together a list of ingredients for your dog and it ends up lacking nutrients that are vital to your dog’s well-being. Though kibble can derive much of their nutrients from additives and synthetics, they do contain all the nutrition needed for your dog.
The best way to put together a great raw diet is to utilize an expert. I suggest checking out the guides on Perfectly Rawsome. There you will find guides to raw feeding and you can even buy a custom feed meal plan for your dog.
There are also many ways to buy pre-made raw dog food which gives you the benefits of a raw diet with the pre-made convenience.
Best Raw Dog Food Companies
Here’s some of the top raw dog food companies you can check out if you’re interested in buying pre-made raw meals. Because if you’re like me, sometimes paying extra is worth the time savings.
Vital Essentials based in Bellevue, Wisconsin, follows the ALPHA Prey-Model Diet which is essentially just meat, vital organs, and bones – eliminating any added fruits or vegetables. This diet as a whole closely mirrors a dog’s carnivorous natural instinct to thrive on the nutrients from parts of a whole animal.
Vital Essentials also prides themselves on what they DON’T include in their food, just as much as the ingredients they do include. The company promises to always be gluten free, grain free, and guilt free, in addition to:
- No added hormones/antibiotics
- No artificial preservatives/coloring
- No rendered by-products
- No added fillers/flavorings
- No synthetic vitamins/minerals
That’s a healthy list of no’s right there! Now that we see how Vital Essentials operates as a business, let’s look at their product offerings. Vital Essentials has two main types of raw dog food – frozen and freeze-dried. Here’s the difference:
Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried
Freeze drying utilizes a unique flash freeze drying process that safely “preserves” (ie, it does not need refrigeration) the food without cooking it. As a result, the food retains much of the nutrients like other raw food, but you get to store it on the counter in a bag. The freeze-dried lineup comes in a variety of different types including: topper, mini nibs, nibblets, mini patties, and patties.
Vital Essentials Frozen
This method simply uses flash freezing to lock in nutrients and moisture. Their frozen lineup only comes in frozen patties.
As for flavor recipes, Vital Essentials comes in Beef, Chicken, Duck, Turkey, and Rabbit.
Primal Pet Foods
Similar to Vital Essentials above, Primal Pet Foods prides themselves on the same list of “no’s” and makes a commitment to only using USDA edible-grade ingredients. What we also love about Primal Pet Foods is their desire to have a strong relationship with their vendors to ensure humane, sustainable, and responsible processes. Primal Pet Foods lists where every single ingredient is sourced from. Check out this page for the specific list; the majority of all ingredients come from the US.
Complete Raw Formulas
Primal Pet Foods has quite a few more product lines, the biggest being their Complete Formula. They have a ton of different flavors so we won’t list them all, but let’s take a quick look at each main type classified as a Complete Formula.
Raw Frozen: These are classified as nuggets and are actually quite large, so smaller dogs or dogs who eat too fast may need dicing up.
Raw Pronto: To solve the last hurdle I mentioned, Primal Pet Foods offers the same raw food in bite-sized “kibble” shapes.
Freeze-Dried: If standard frozen raw food isn’t your style, or if you want a new option for treats, freeze-dried nuggets are also available.
Starter Paks: These are available for pups that are new to fresh and want to slowly try it out without purchasing a large supply of food.
Additional Primal Pet Foods Products
All of those we mentioned already are just Primal’s main raw food line. We didn’t even get into the fun stuff yet!
Raw Frozen Mixes: These tube-shaped/logs (think Fresh Pet) are designed to tailor to specific supplemental needs by incorporating fresh ground bone and certified organic produce. These mixes offer additional calcium, fiber, and vitamins and minerals.
Raw Frozen Grinds: Very similar to the one above, the Grinds incorporate edible-grade meat and poultry (as opposed to produce) with the fresh ground bone.
Bones & Treats: There are also quite a few different types of meaty bones and treats available, even including bone broth. One of the more interesting finds is raw goat milk, which is apparently known as a nutrient-rich “universal milk”.