There are many varieties of balanced raw diets for dogs and cats that meet the needs of their human companions's varied lifestyles. Choices include frozen, freeze-dried, dehydrated, and air-dried.
A healthy dog or cat with a strong immune system can eat a raw diet even if salmonella, e. coli, or listeria bacteria are present. Dogs and cats have a very acidic digestive system and a short digestive tract, which make them well designed to manage bacteria that can be harmful to humans. It is because we humans have a low tolerance for these bad bugs that safe raw meat handling practices should always be followed in the kitchen regardless of which family member will eat the food.
Basic safe raw meat handling practices include:
- People with a compromised immune system, including the very young and the elderly, should simply avoid handling raw meat, period.
- Keep raw meat frozen until you're ready to use it. Only thaw what will be eaten within a day or two. Store thawed food in the fridge. Never allow thawed food to sit for hours at room temperature.
- If you need to thaw food in a hurry, place it in a water-tight resealable bag and place the bag in a basin of cool water. If you keep the cold tap trickling into the basin the moving water will accelerate the thawing process.
- Always wash your hands, and anything the raw meat comes in contact with, in plenty of soap and hot water. To be even safer, use a mild bleach solution as a disinfectant.
What dog owners report after switching their dog or cat to a raw diet:
- shinier, healthier skin and coat
- reduction of allergy symptoms
- cleaner teeth and fresher breath
- improved digestion
- harder, smaller less stinky poop
- better weight control
- more energy and stamina
- calmer behavior
A raw diet consists of:
- mostly fresh, raw meat
- some uncooked bone
- some raw organ meat
- some vegetables
- some vitamins and minerals
What "fresh meat" really means:
- muscle meat
- organ meat
- connective tissue
Basically, the same parts that an opportunistic carnivorous predator, such as a dog, would eat. Animal proteins are the most complete source of amino acids dogs and cats need. Include raw meaty bones (chicken wings and turkey necks are ideal) — they're a great of calcium and other minerals for your dog or cat.
Ready-made raw diet options include:
Frozen raw diets (Primal, Bravo, Stella & Chewy's, Northwest Naturals, etc.)
Freeze-dried raw diets (Primal, Stella & Chewy's, Northwest Naturals, etc.)
Air-dried raw (ZiwiPeak)
Freeze-dried raw alternative (Grandma Lucy's)
Dehydrated raw alternative (The Honest Kitchen)
For many people who are hesitant to make the change to a raw diet, alternatives such as Grandma Lucy's and The Honest Kitchen are a great pathway for a transition. With both lines of food, the meat is gently cooked at a low temperature then either freeze-dried (Grandma Lucy's) or dehydrated (The Honest Kitchen). All you need to do is add some warm water, mix, let sit for a few minutes to rehydrate, then serve it.
Freeze-drying is better at retaining the true characteristics of raw food as it does minimal damage to the food components. Natural enzymes, flavor components, and protein activity are retained. Best of all, freeze-dried food is considered to still be alive.
Remember: Leave it raw to keep the nutrients intact.