First Stop: The Freezer Section to Check Out Raw Diets
The best commercial food you can feed to your dog or cat will come from the freezer section of smaller or specialty pet stores and boutiques.
One of the reasons you won’t find freezers in most big box pet supply stores is because there’s considerable education involved in selling commercial raw food diets to the public. Some large chains like Petco and PetSmart may carry frozen or refrigerated foods, but they don’t have a staff knowledgeable in helping pet owners understand the ins and outs of feeding raw.
You’ll not only have more luck finding raw diets at pet boutiques like Green Pawz, but the staff in smaller specialty stores will in most cases have the experience necessary to help you make good decisions on what food would be best for your pet.
When it comes to commercially prepared frozen raw food, you’ll find a wide variety of brands, flavors and protein sources. What type of raw food you decide to feed your dog or cat will depend on what he will eat.
For example, if you plan to transition your kitty from dry food to a raw diet, you’d first move her to canned food, and then introduce a chicken-based raw food that is somewhat similar in flavor to her chicken-based dry food.
When you look at the back of a bag of frozen raw pet food, one of the first things you want to see is that it is AAFCO compliant. This means it has been approved by the American Association of Feed Control Officials as nutritionally-balanced nourishment for all life stages (canine or feline).
It is also recommended that you feed only raw foods that are products of the U.S.A. This means sourced and made.
Another thing to check is the guaranteed analysis, specifically for fat content. Raw diets can be very low in fat, or very high in fat. If you have, for example, an otherwise healthy but underweight Boxer or Pointer, a higher fat raw food is the way to go.
But if your pet is obese or suffering from a medical condition like pancreatitis, you would want to select a raw diet low in fat content.
Green Pawz carries these raw food diets:
Stella & Chewy’s
Next Best Option: Excellent Quality Canned Food
If for some reason you can’t or are unwilling to feed a biologically-appropriate raw diet, the next best option is canned food.
Raw food contains about 70 percent water, and the meat is in its natural state. Canned foods contain between 70 and 80 percent water, and the meats, while processed (cooked), are still a healthier choice than dry food.
When you look at the label on a canned pet food, you want to see protein as the first ingredient. If there are any grains in the formula, they should be whole grains.
So you want the canned food label to show meat as the first two ingredients, followed by healthy sources of veggies and fruits. Remember, order of ingredients is important.
A good example of how a high quality canned foods ingredient panel should look would be Weruva’s Jammin Salmon. The initial ingredients read as follows..
- Chicken (Boneless, Skinless, White Breast)
- Water sufficient for processing (this will always be at the top of the list for canned foods)
- Sweet potato
The whole vegetables mixed with meats in this formula make it biologically appropriate. This is a much, much better choice than a food containing split proteins, unidentified proteins, split fraction grains, or pieces and parts of vegetables and fruit. Whole foods are what you want to see on a label of canned food.
This canned food also reads, ‘Grain Free Greatness. Produced with the same ingredients used in products for humans.’
What this means is not only is the formula grain-free, but while the food itself is not approved for human consumption, the ingredients are. That’s what you want to see on a canned pet food label.
Green Pawz carries
a wide variety of
high quality canned diets.
Another Good Option: Dehydrated or Freeze-Dried Raw Food
If you can’t or don’t want to feed whole raw or canned food, a good middle-of-the-road choice is dehydrated raw food. Dehydrated or freeze-dried means it’s dry, but only until you add warm water. Then it becomes a biologically appropriate food with about 70 percent water (or more, if you want to add more).
Dehydrated or freeze-dried raw means the food hasn’t been processed at high temperatures and in many cases the nutrient value has been retained.
Dehydrated or freeze-dried raw is a good go-between diet for pets that are being transitioned from dry food to raw, or for pet owners who don’t want to feed true raw or canned diets.
This type of food is also known for its digestibility and also for the different protein sources available, for example, turkey, lamb, beef, chicken and fish.
These foods are also recommended for pet owners who want to feed a grain free diet but aren’t comfortable with raw.
Make sure the brand you select is AAFCO approved for all life stages to insure it’s a nutritionally complete diet for your dog or cat.
Remember to check the ingredient label on every bag, box or can of food you feed your dog or cat.
A great example of a high quality dehydrated diet is Honest Kitchens Embark
- Dehydrated turkey
- Organic flaxseed
- Organic coconut
- Organic kelp
All the above are excellent raw foods in their natural form. You can’t get much better quality than this when it comes to prepared food ingredients. This brand is also AAFCO approved, which means it’s safe and nutritionally balanced for all life stages. It’s also made in the U.S.
Green Pawz carries these dehydrated and freeze-dried formulas
Stella & Chewy’s
Last on the List: Dry Food
So to review what we’ve covered so far, a raw diet is the most biologically and species-appropriate option for your pet.
Next is a high quality canned food and/or dehydrated raw, both of which should be moisture rich and grain free.
Down the list from those is dry food.
In Green Pawz and other specialty pet food stores with a passion for pet nutrition, the focus is on species-appropriate foods, including dry foods. But dry food is lowest on the list because it lacks moisture content.
Dry pet foods, on average, contain about 12 percent moisture. That’s down from the 70 to 80 percent contained in raw, canned and dehydrated raw with water added. Cats and dogs fed a diet of dry food all their lives often experience significant organ stress, specifically in the kidneys.
Many pet owners mistakenly believe dry food cleans their dog’s or cat’s teeth. That’s a myth. Dry, crunchy kibble does not clean your pet’s teeth any better than granola or crackers clean yours.
The only way your pet’s teeth will get clean is if there is shearing action from bone-dense food, or if he’s grinding on raw bones, or when you brush his teeth. Dry foods have no shearing or grinding action, and most of them are carbohydrate based. They contain grains your pet doesn’t need nutritionally, and these grains also promote plaque and tartar.
At Green Pawz, there are varieties of foods that contain very few carbs. And they have entirely grain free varieties as well.
Keep in mind all dry, crunchy, kibble-based pet food formulas contain some form of starch – it could be tapioca, it could be potato flour, it might be pea flour. But there has to be some type of starch or gluten to make the food sticky enough to form the pieces of kibble. So even if a dry food is grain free, don’t be tricked into thinking it’s carbohydrate free.
A great example of a high quality dry food is Orijen Adult Dog food, which for a dry kibble has an amazing amount of meat protein sources to start with
- Boneless Chicken
- Chicken meal (Chicken meal is chicken that has been dehydrated and ground up.)
- Chicken Liver
- Whole Herring
- Boneless Turkey
- Turkey Meal
- Turkey Liver
- Whole Eggs
- Boneless Walleye
- Whole Salmon
- Chicken Heart
- Chicken Cartilage
- Herring Meal
- Salmon Meal
- Chicken Liver Oil
- Red Lentils
- Green Peas
- Green Lentils
The first twenty or so ingredients are– whole foods. All the meats are whole, and the lentils and peas are also in whole form. This is as healthy a dry food as you’ll find.
Green Pawz has a wide variety of high quality dry kibbles with brands such as
(Reference Dr. Karen Becker)