How to Pick the Best Commercial Raw Food for Your Dog
There are many people who want to feed their dogs something other than kibble or canned food, but aren’t yet ready, for whatever reason, to make the switch to prey model raw or whole prey meals. For these pet parents, commercial raw dog food may be a great way to go.
Build your confidence
Feeding a dog raw food successfully isn’t difficult, but you do need to make sure you get the right percentages of food type. In other words, you should feed about 80% muscle meat, 10% raw bones, and about 10% organ meat (5% liver and 5% non-liver organs). These percentages mimic what your dog might eat in the wild.
If you’re new to raw feeding, hitting these percentages can feel intimidating. That’s where commercial raw comes in. When you feed it, you can feel confident you’re feeding the right percentages. Plus, the bone contained in commercial raw is generally ground, and the entire meal is usually either ground or chunked. Because it generally comes frozen in a bag, you can simply defrost it and feed it to your dog, similar to how you feed kibble.
Enjoy convenience and quality
I find most commercial raw is relatively expensive compared to DIY raw (known as prey model raw or whole prey). Because I’m feeding 3 dogs, I find it easier and less expensive to prepare their meals myself. However, when I first started out, it was incredibly helpful at building my confidence in raw food.
Commercial raw dog food isn’t just valuable when it comes to building confidence. Kibble and canned foods contain toxic preservatives, fillers, sub-par meat, and other things that can cause your pet harm. Almost any commercial raw food out there will be better to feed than kibble or processed food.
There are many dog owners who keep their pets on commercial raw for their whole lives. They enjoy the convenience and knowing their pets are still getting (in most cases) a high-quality food. And, they find comfort in knowing they don’t have to balance their pet’s meals themselves.
Look for High-Quality Meat
So, let’s say you want to feed commercial raw. How do you know what to look for to make sure you’re making the best choice? When I discussed this with someone who’s quite knowledgeable about the industry and commercial raw manufacturers, she said the number one thing to check for is where the meat is sourced.
You want to make sure the meat used to make the food is high-quality. It should be hormone- and antibiotic-free. Grass-fed and/or pasture-raised is very important. You should also know exactly where the meat is coming from—make sure no 4D meat (meaning meat that comes from animals that are dying, diseased, desiccated, or disabled) is used.
If you can’t find the source of the meat, don’t use it. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just call the manufacturer to ask, either. The pet food industry is not regulated, and unscrupulous manufacturers may not tell you the whole story, even if you ask them directly. So, be ready to do some research, or talk to someone who’s knowledgeable about the commercial raw pet food industry.
Consider the Produce
Another major thing to consider when picking out a commercial raw food for your pet is the amount of veggies and fruit in the food. Your dog is a carnivore, designed to eat and thrive on raw meat, bone, organs, and glands. When a commercial pet food has a high percentage of fruits and vegetables, that means part of your pet’s diet will be things that aren’t truly needed.
It’s good the fruits and vegetables are generally not fed whole in these types of diets, which spares your pet from having to tax their pancreas and other organs trying to break them down, but you still want to limit how much fruit and veg they’re getting. Chances are you’re paying top dollar for a commercial raw diet, too, so make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck by picking a food that wholly or mostly consists of exactly what your pet truly needs: meat, bones, and organs.
Aim for Variety
Remember, too, your dog needs variety. Different proteins contain different nutrients, and by giving them a variety of proteins and organs, you help ensure all their nutritional needs are met. Make sure you include red meat along with poultry (if you choose to feed poultry at all), and again, try to limit how much fruit, vegetable, and dairy is included.
You may even want to feed several different brands of commercial raw along with different formulas within each brand to increase variety. If you need to supplement, do so mindfully, and as your pet gets healthier, consider trying to replace the supplement with a whole food that supplies that nutrient.
Avoid HPP (If Possible)
Some raw food manufacturers use high pressure pasteurization (HPP) to process their raw food. This is done to eliminate bacteria. Unfortunately, HPP denatures the proteins, which means your pet’s body can’t use the amino acids to build new proteins. HPP also destroys a lot of the good bacteria that are so beneficial in raw food. When choosing a raw food for your pet, make sure you know whether the commercial raw has gone through HPP. If it has, you may want to consider getting another food. The only exception is if there’s a specific medical reason you need a sterile pet food.
Feeding a commercial diet can be a great way to get your dog off processed pet food. Just make sure you do your research when picking out your raw commercial food. That way, you can ensure your dog gets the highest quality food possible. Once you’ve decided on what food(s) you’ll be buying your pet, continue to monitor the manufacturer. They can and do change their sources and practices, so it’s in your pet’s best interests to stay on top of it.
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