Raw Food Diets
Pros and Cons of Feeding A Raw Food Diet For Dogs & Cats
& How To Transition Your Pet To A Raw Food Diet

Raw frozen pet food diets have become an increasingly popular form of pet nutrition as pet owners see the benefits of feeding their pets fresh food with real nutrition. Still, many pet owners are not familiar with them (kibble and canned foods have been available a lot longer) or may have heard inaccurate information about raw diets. Raw food can be very beneficial and for many pets, it can be the long-awaited answer that finally helps a pet get well. Feeding a raw diet doesn't have to be an all or nothing decision. Raw diets can be inconvenient and more costly (due to the fresh ingredients) so pet owners should find the right mix that works with their budget and lifestyle. Here are just a few of the pros/cons to consider regarding commercially prepared raw frozen diets:


  1. Raw food diets for dogs and cats can be especially helpful for pets with allergies, digestive problems and young, active pets. These are high protein diets containing real meat and poultry, organ meats, vegetables, omega oils and assorted nutrients. Some are especially well-balanced diets. The freshness and high quality ingredients (e.g. hormone-free meats or organic vegetables) deliver exceptional results. The ingredients speak for themselves. Many times, raw frozen diets are the best form of pet nutrition available.

  2. Raw meat diets for dogs and cats can be incorporated as a portion of your pet's diet. Pets don't have to eat an ALL-RAW diet. You can mix some raw into your pet's food with ease. There is a misnomer that pets can't mix raw with canned or dry. Pets can properly digest a mixture of foods and using even a small amount of raw provide valuable nutrition for your pet.

  3. Pets that eat raw frozen diets are getting a high moisture content which promotes overall health. The food is highly digestible so stool size is often substantially decreased when compared to dry food in particular. Pets eating dry food often have large stools because the food lacks nutrition and the ingredients are not absorbed by the pet.

  4. Raw food diets for dogs and cats provide a superior form of pet nutrition because they are low in carbohydrates (carbohydrates can contribute to ear infections, allergies, UTIs, IBD, etc), easily digestible and full of fresh enzymes, vegetables, omega 3s and wholesome protein.


  1. Depending upon the health conditions and dietary preferences of your pet, raw food may not be an appropriate choice. Pets with elevated liver enzymes, pancreatitis or kidney disease can still have some raw food in their diet, but keep in mind that these diets are higher in fat and protein. Some very finicky pets may not like the taste. Many brands make companion products in raw freeze dried form (same ingredients but freeze dried) and that can be a great way to slowly introduce your pet to raw food.

  2. Raw meat diets for dogs and cats may not be convenient for your lifestyle. It cannot be left sitting out for very long. If your pet likes to graze, raw food needs to be given when you can supervise and pick up the bowl while still fresh.

  3. Raw frozen diets for dogs and cats require "safe handling" for your protection and your pets' protection. Pet manufacturers clearly indicate safe handling guidelines on the package. When the safe handling guidelines are not followed, you and your pet could become ill. For example, leaving a bag of frozen raw food on the counter to defrost (should defrost in the refrigerator as you would any meat) can lead to pancreatitis and/or intestinal infections in your pet. The directions are easy to follow to avoid potential problems.

In summary, raw food diets are an excellent form of pet nutrition for most pets. With patience and planning, most pet owners can incorporate some raw frozen commercially prepared food into their pet's nutrition regimen.

How To Transition To A Raw Food Diet For Dogs & Cats

  1. Many pets will experience some change in bowel movements for a few days while you are changing diets. To minimize digestive upset, some pets will need to move at a slower rate than others.

  2. As a general rule, you should start introducing about ¼ of the new food each day divided over two meals. So for example, if you are currently feeding 2 cups of the old food, you would start by introducing the caloric equivalent of a ½ cup of the new food on the first day divided over 2 meals. This reduces the stress of the diet transition on your pet. Each day, for four days, keep adding 25% more new food, taking away 25% old food.

  3. Raw frozen diets come in different forms - primarily small 1-ounce patties, larger 8-ounce patties and small bite-sized nuggets with a scoop. If your pet is going to be transitioning to raw food, just start by introducing a very small portion at the initial meal so the pet has a chance to get used to it.

  4. Note: If you are feeding the small bite nuggets, give the approximate equivalent.

    There is no need to substitute out any food when introducing the first sample of raw food. Just offer it as new food and give your pet a taste. On occasion, if pets are introduced to raw food too quickly, they will vomit. Thus, starting with a small amount is always a good idea. If the pet continues to have digestive upset from the raw food or any new food (occurs 2-3 separate times), discontinue as the food is not right for them. You may want to consider freeze-dried or gently cooked commercial raw brands.

  5. How to defrost the raw frozen patties: Take out the appropriate amount of frozen patties and defrost in a sealed baggie in the refrigerator. You can defrost anywhere between 3 and 18 hours. The raw food gets runny if you leave it in the refrigerator too long, so be sure to use within a day’s time. If you accidentally leave the raw frozen food sitting on the countertop for more than 1 ½ hours, please call your pet store as the food may need to be discarded. Raw frozen food that is left sitting out for several hours can accumulate bacteria and cause pancreatitis.

  6. Some pets may not like the raw food initially. Do not microwave or cook the raw food as it contains GROUND bone! Instead, try mixing very small amounts into their food or “hide” with a teaspoon of canned food that you know your pet can tolerate. It can sometimes take a week’s time to introduce a pet to the taste of raw.

  7. You can use some canned pumpkin to help control digestive upset while making the food transition. Add ½ teaspoon per meal for small pets to 1 tablespoon for large dogs.

  8. Important: If your pet has IBD or IBS or has a very sensitive tummy, it may take several weeks to make the transition. Also, if your pet is very picky, introducing something new can be difficult as well. Think of it as trying to introduce an apple to a child that eats a lot of candy. It can sometimes take a great deal of patience and time but the nutritional benefits of enhancing your pet’s diet will far outweigh the extra effort.
For more pet nutrition tips, please see our Pet Health Articles.