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What Is Packaged Raw Dog Food?

Discerning Your Dog Food Options

By Lauren Leonardi. February 07, 2013 | See Comments

  • expert or vet photo
    vet verified

    Dr. Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM

    Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition

    Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Ithaca, NY

What Is Packaged Raw Dog Food?

A large number of pet parents are starting to feel that a more natural, raw diet is better for their dog. In the past, this kind of unprocessed dog food would have to be made at home, but now it can be found prepackaged.

A growing number of pet owners and veterinarians believe that a raw diet is best for a dog. These folks claim that since raw meat is closest to what our dog’s ancestors would have eaten in the wild, such food will supply protein, vitamins, and minerals in the proper proportions for the animal’s body. Raw diet proponents say that dogs fed this diet have healthier skin and coats, fewer oral problems, better weight management, better digestion, and are healthier overall.

In the past, those who wanted to feed their dog a raw diet had to prepare this food at home. This meant obtaining meats from butcher shops, farms, or the like and preparing the food yourself.

To serve the growing demand for these dog foods, some commercial pet food makers have begun to offer raw packaged dog food. These foods generally are kept frozen until you are ready to use them. They often come in chunks or patties that can be individually thawed on a daily basis. Packaged raw food may also be dehydrated in powder form, to be reconstituted with water in batches.

Choosing Raw Packaged Dog Food

As with any pet food, dog owners should do their research before trying out a raw diet with their pet. There are a range of options and levels of quality when it comes to raw packaged dog food. Not all raw foods are created equally!

To begin with, just because a food is raw doesn’t mean that it can’t contain preservatives and other artificial ingredients. Checking the ingredients list can alert you to the presence of some of these additives, although listing standards are known to be quite lax, a situation some food makers take advantage of. Foods that are AAFCO approved adhere to somewhat stricter guidelines.

Also, there is some disagreement as to whether dogs should be fed vegetable matter or if a meat-only diet is best. Subsequently, some raw packaged dog food will contain vegetables while others will not. Pet owners will want to decide what’s best for their dog with their veterinarian, but do be sure to leave out certain fruits and vegetables such as onion, garlic, grapes, raisins, green tomato, and avocado, that can be toxic to pets. You may also want to try several different raw dog foods—those with vegetables and without—and see how your dog fares.

Finally, because raw meats can contain bacteria that cooking would otherwise kill, some makers of raw dog foods have adopted a technique called High Pressure Pasteurization (PPO). This technique kills food borne pathogens and is USDA approved. Those concerned about food borne illnesses might want to find a raw food manufacturer that utilizes PPO, or just avoid raw foods altogether.  

Any dog on a raw food diet should see a veterinarian regularly, and most veterinarians do not recommend raw diets. However, new sterilization techniques and AAFCO approval of a small number of foods may help change the minds of some veterinarians. Discuss the use of raw diets with your vet so they can recommend the appropriate portions, feeding practices, and any needed supplements.

Back to Your Dog Food Questions Answered
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.

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