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Raw and Fresh Nutrition for Dogs and Cats

Raw and Fresh Nutrition for Dogs and Cats

As a pet parent, you have more choices than ever when it comes to the type of nutrition you provide for your dog or cat. Most pet parents prefer the convenience and affordability of dry kibble or wet food, but there are other options available, including "raw" and "fresh" foods.

Although raw and fresh foods are somewhat new to the pet food industry, they are a growing market. When it comes to raw foods, there are those who favor this type of diet and those who oppose it. Some claim that a raw diet is more natural and mirrors your pet's ancestral diet, while others voice concern over the safety of handling raw meat and believe the risk outweighs the benefits. So why have some pet parents made the switch? Basically, it's a personal choice, just like becoming a vegetarian. All pet foods labeled as "complete and balanced nutrition" will meet the basic needs of your pet.

Your veterinarian can help you choose the best nutrition to meet your pet's nutritional needs, but it helps to learn more so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not to change your pet's diet. Not all raw and fresh cat food and dog food brands use the same quality of ingredients or the same manufacturing process. Always read package labels as your guide for information.

Fresh Nutrition

Fresh food for dogs or cats can be found in refrigerators at pet supply stores and some grocery stores, and comes ready to serve out of the package. Fresh food ingredient lists tend to be simplified, and usually contain high percentages of high-quality, fresh beef, poultry or fish, as well as small amounts of fruits and vegetables. Fresh grain-free recipes are made with no grains (like corn or wheat). Many brands utilize all-natural ingredients and promote the use of fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

When fresh food is manufactured, it is typically cooked at lower temperatures and quickly cooled in order to retain the natural vitamins and nutrients. Fresh foods come in a variety of forms, including meals, bite-size pieces, rolls and more. You can even find treats like bones, ice cream and ready-to-bake cookies.

Fresh foods are pasteurized and usually contain no chemical preservatives, so they must be kept refrigerated for freshness. This means that it is important to get the food from the store to your refrigerator, just like when you buy perishable food at the grocery store.

It is worth noting that any fresh food that is left in your pet's bowl for more than two hours should be discarded. Be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions for serving and storing fresh food.

Raw Nutrition

Most raw pet food diets are all-natural and made mostly with high percentages of high-quality fresh meats, organs and bones, as well as small amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. Since all the ingredients are uncooked, they should ideally be processed through a high-pressure, water-based technology called High Pressure Processing (HPP). This process causes minimal changes in the "fresh" characteristics of foods by eliminating thermal degradation and harmful bacterial contaminates.

HPP raw foods are minimally processed and contain natural enzymes for the digestive health of dogs and cats of all breeds and life stages. HPP raw foods can be served as a primary diet, to supplement an existing diet or as part of a rotational diet (which means switching proteins or formulas to offer a variety to your pet). HPP raw foods come in a variety of protein choices, including chicken, beef, lamb, venison, bison, salmon, duck, rabbit and more. Raw grain-free options are also available.

Commercial raw dog and cat foods can be found in three forms:

  • Frozen: Frozen raw dog food and cat food is available in the freezer section and is available in small bites, patties, rolls and more. These foods must be thawed before serving. Because you are handling raw meat, it is important to ensure you wash your hands with soap and warm water in order to avoid the possible spread of bacteria in your kitchen. Just like fresh foods, raw foods should be discarded if they have been left uneaten for more than two hours. Again, be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions for preparing, serving and storing raw food.
  • Freeze-dried: These foods are processed through rapid freezing to remove 98% of the moisture for preservation. They are available as meals and treats and coated on some grain-free kibble.
  • Dehydrated: These foods are heat-processed to remove 98% of the moisture for preservation. Some brands recommend adding warm water before serving. They are available as meals and treats and coated on some grain-free kibble.

The best way to determine what is best for your pet is to talk to your veterinarian or even a canine or feline nutritionist. The bottom line is that it is important to feed your pet a complete and balanced diet for a long, healthy, happy life.