You have so many choices when it comes to feeding your dog or cat a natural, healthy diet. Raw food is an increasingly popular option.
It’s easy to forget our four-legged friends are predators. But underneath their soft coats, wagging tails, kneading paws, and adoring eyes, even the most docile dogs and cats are built for hunting. Nature didn’t give them those powerful jaws and sharp teeth for nothing! A healthy diet for your dog or cat needs to be based on whole, named meats. Among the many quality natural pet foods you can now choose from are frozen raw diets. They’re ideal for those who want to feed their companions raw food, but also want the convenience of a canned or bagged product.
There are several benefits to feeding animals raw frozen diets:
1. These formulas keep meat in a primal, natural form, so it offers maximum nutritional benefits. Raw foods are easier for most animals to digest because they contain proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals that haven’t been chemically altered by heat. (There are exceptions to this, however, especially if the animal is immune-compromised, so check with your vet if your dog or cat has health problems.)Fans of raw feeding say it promotes the well being of every part of an animal’s body, from healthier teeth to “cleaner” poo. Coats tend to be glossy and skin clearer and less prone to irritation. And since dogs and cats have bodies and taste buds designed to crave raw meat, they’re likely to find the taste deeply satisfying.
2. Although it should be front and center of any balanced canine or feline diet, meat alone shouldn’t be the sole ingredient. Even though cats and dogs are natural carnivores, predators in the wild often eat the contents of the prey animal’s stomach and intestines, and supplement their meaty meals with small amounts of grass, berries, and other plant-based foods, which help support digestion. Nutritionally complete raw frozen foods acknowledge this natural need for plant-based ingredients while still making quality meat the primary ingredient – and that means you don’t have to worry about adding anything, as you would if you were preparing the diet from scratch.Diets from Steve’s Real Food and Primal Pet Foods both contain about 20% fruits and veggies, while plant-based foods makes up 30% of the frozen raw dog foods offered by Darwin’s Natural Pet Products. Another company, Green Tripe, takes a different route and actually uses tripe (stomach meat) itself as dog food.
Since cats typically supplement their diets with less plant matter than dogs do, frozen raw cat food formulas usually include smaller amounts of fruits and vegetables – about 10% by weight. For example, Nature’s Logic makes frozen raw diets, designed for both cats and dogs, that contain over 90% meat content.
Another advantage of frozen raw diets is their convenience and ease of use. There’s no need to handle and cut up slabs of raw meat, because these diets are formed and packaged into shapes such as chubs, bars, patties and nuggets that make them simple to thaw and serve. They can be easily divided into serving sizes to suit your dog or cat, so there’s no need to thaw large amounts at one time. For instance, Northwest Naturals offers “dinner bars”, measured servings you can thaw one at a time without having to weigh or cut anything yourself.
Serving the food is super simple. If your animal will eat the food while it’s still frozen, that’s fine. If not, the meals will thaw in just 20 to 30 minutes, at which point they can be served as is or mixed in with another type of pet food. Afterwards, just wash your hands and the food dishes, as you would with any other raw meat.
Mix it up
There are a few different ways you can use raw frozen pet foods, depending on your preferences and your dog or cat’s needs. Most of these foods are designed to provide complete, optimum nutrition, so it’s generally unnecessary to add supplements to your animal’s diet unless he has specific health needs (you’ll need to consult with a holistic or integrative veterinarian about that). Ingredients like bone meal and organ meat are often included in the formula, providing the extra vitamins and minerals your animal needs to thrive.
However, some animal parents might choose to include additional foods with premium raw diets.
- A high quality natural dry food might be combined with a raw frozen food. In this case, Steve’s Real Food recommends either mixing the two foods, or, since grain is digested differently from meat, serving raw food one day and kibble the next.
- You can also enhance a frozen raw diet by supplementing it with high quality uncooked bones. Keep in mind that although most balanced raw foods contain enough bone meal to ensure your animal gets enough calcium, he also needs something to help keep his teeth clean.
- Of course, you also have the option of adding fresh, animal-friendly fruits and vegetables as nutritious treats, such as carrots, broccoli and apples.
Shipping and storage are important
Darwin’s Natural Pet Products note that while ingredient quality is important, proper packaging, storage and shipping are also crucial. Reputable frozen pet food companies make sure their meats are coming from safe, diseasefree sources. After preparation, the foods are sealed to keep out icky bacteria or contaminants, readying them to be shipped.
Whether you’re ordering direct or buying from a pet supply store, look for companies that offer speedy, climate-controlled shipping so your dog or cat’s food doesn’t repeatedly thaw and re-freeze in transit (a problem that can hurt the food’s nutritional properties, and invite bacterial contamination). At home, store raw frozen pet food at below 32°F. Unlike refrigerated meats, raw frozen pet foods can be safely stored for up to three months in your freezer (possibly even longer) while remaining fresh and safe.
These days, it’s not difficult to make sure the meals you feed your dog or cat align well with his natural biology. You don’t have to jump through hoops, bring home wild game every day, or spend hours shopping for and preparing ingredients. The growing proliferation of nutritionally complete frozen raw diets is just one simple and streamlined way to ensure he can eat the way nature intended.
Darwin’s Natural Pet Products, darwinspet.com
Green Tripe, greentripe.com
Nature’s Logic, natureslogic.com
Northwest Naturals, nw-naturals.net
Primal Pet Foods, primalpetfoods.com
Steve’s Real Food, stevesrealfood.com
Juniper Russo is a freelance writer and crazy animal lady living in Chattanooga, Tennessee. When she's not busy spoiling and pampering her three rescued animals and her two awesome kids, she writes about a wide array of subjects including animals, science, green living, and health.