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Understanding Raw Nutrition For Pets

Learn how to give your pets a safe, healthy raw diet

Raw foods may sound foreign or slightly intimidating, but they don’t have to be. In fact, there are different types of raw diets pet parents can choose. Learn if going raw with packaged foods can help nourish your pet’s unique diet or lifestyle needs.

What packaged raw foods offer

Ready-to-serve raw foods are made mainly from raw meat, organ meat, fat and ground bone with small amounts of fruits and vegetables as secondary ingredients. Grains are typically absent from raw formulas. Raw foods are minimally processed, contain more moisture, and include quality ingredients to help support healthy digestion, skin and coat. Raw diets can provide a number of benefits and there are many options to consider for your pet.

How packaged raw foods are prepared safely

Because meat is typically cooked to kill harmful bacteria, some pet parents may be concerned about the safety of raw meat formulas for their pets.

Fortunately, a USDA-accepted system called High Pressure Processing (HPP) can remove bacteria like salmonella, listeria and E. coli from packaged raw meat formulas while leaving the nutrients intact.

HPP uses pressurized chilled water that’s evenly applied to the meat, killing bacteria without cooking. HPP is used on both raw meat as well as freeze-dried raw meat products carried at PetSmart.

Nutrition, color and the taste of the meat are not negatively affected by HPP.

Frozen Raw

There are a many frozen raw diet options, which provide your pet with a complete meal or give you the option to incorporate or alternate with your pets’ kibble. Frozen raw diets are made with natural ingredients, are minimally processed and frozen for freshness. There are a variety of formats, proteins and include natural grain- free and gluten-free.

Alternative Raw Options

If you’re not ready to commit to a completely raw diet for your pet but would like to explore some of the same nutritional benefits, there are other raw choices that can suit your needs. These alternative raw options are also shelf-stable.

Freeze Dried Raw

Freeze-dried raw food carried at PetSmart can be served as a complete meal or added to kibble. This type of nutrition removes the water from the meat while preserving nutrients. Chemicals and additives do not need to be used to maintain shelf life.

The raw food is frozen first. Next, frozen water is removed through a process called sublimation, which essentially vacuums out moisture. The result is freeze-dried raw food.

Kibble with Raw Coating or Inclusions

Raw feeding options have expanded to include freeze-dried raw pieces incorporated with kibble, as well as diets featuring freeze-dried raw coated kibble. These formulations offer an easy way to introduce or feed raw, either as a meal or a topper.

Things to keep in mind with a raw diet

Check the packaging of your packaged raw food to ensure that it meets AAFCO standards as a complete and balanced source of nutrition for your pet’s life stage. Before making the switch to a raw pet food, consider a 7-day diet transition to help prevent gastrointestinal upset in your pet that can result from a sudden switch.
Homemade raw diets are not recommended. Not only can they increase the risk of exposure to harmful bacteria, but they also may not offer the complete and balanced nutrition of raw food brands.
Take care in handling your pet’s raw food by always washing your hands before and after serving and properly cleaning bowls after feeding.