You always want what’s best for your dog, and there are few things more important to her health than the type of food you choose to give her. If you’ve done any research into dog food at all, chances are you’ve heard that a raw food diet can be extremely beneficial for a dog’s health, as it mimics what she evolved to eat in the wild.
Unfortunately, if you do decide to switch your pup to a raw food diet, you’ll soon discover that it’s not as simple as grabbing the first bag that says “raw” on it. There’s a lot to understand on each label, and since many raw diets scrimp on important vitamins and nutrients, it’s important to make sure you buy one that will keep your dog healthy and happy.
Fortunately, we’ve done most of the work for you. In the reviews below, you’ll find our favorite raw foods on the market today. They’ve got everything your mutt needs to stay healthy and trim — and best of all, your dog should find every one of them delicious.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites (2022 Update)
The 10 Best Raw Dog Foods
1. Stewart Raw Naturals Dog Food – Best Overall
Stewart Raw Naturals is a grain-free option made using freeze-dried chunks of meat, including beef, lamb, turkey, and more. It’s the best raw dog food for picky eaters or dogs that have shown they have a sensitivity towards gluten or grains.
The ingredients are all human-grade, so you don’t have to worry about feeding your pooch old, nasty meat. It’s made in the USA as well, reducing the risk of some strange contaminants making their way into the recipe.
There are vegetables like carrots and broccoli included for vitamins and antioxidants, and the manufacturer even adds a little ground bone for extra calcium. It has everything necessary to maintain a healthy weight and build a shiny, lustrous coat.
The biggest negative with the Stewart Raw Naturals is the texture and consistency. It’s very crumbly and tends to fall apart inside the bag. As long as your dog doesn’t mind licking her bowl clean, though, this demerit is hardly enough to keep the food out of our top spot.
2. Wellness Core Rawrev Dog Food – Best Value
Wellness Core Rawrev is a mixture of dry kibble and chunks of raw, freeze-dried turkey. We like this configuration, as the chunks of meat increase the likelihood your dog will wolf it down, while the kibble helps keep her teeth strong and clean.
This also makes it a good stepping stone if your goal is to go completely raw or to cook your own dog food. That can be a drastic change, especially if she’s been eating kibble, so this lets you take baby steps towards a new diet.
Even if you removed the freeze-dried chunks, there would still be a lot of protein in here. It includes chicken fat and organ meat, which adds plenty of omega fatty acids and lean protein.
Surprisingly, Wellness Core Rawrev is pretty affordable, especially for a raw food. The only reason we didn’t make it our top choice is because it has ingredients that some dogs are sensitive to, like potatoes and tomatoes. If your dog has a touchy stomach, you’re probably better off with a limited-ingredient food like the Stewart’s above, but otherwise, the Wellness is the best raw dog food brand for the money.
3. Open Farm Raw Dog Food – Premium Choice
The biggest downside to transitioning to a raw diet for most people is that it’s expensive. Open Farm Raw is no exception to this rule, but if you can afford it, it’s a premium pick that your pooch should love.
It’s an especially good choice for socially-conscious owners, as all of the protein sources are either humanely-raised or wild-caught. This also ensures it isn’t full of antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals.
There’s a lot of protein in each bag, too — each formula is at least 30% protein. If your dog needs to shed a few pounds, all that protein will go a long way towards helping achieve that goal.
Open Farm Raw is a dehydrated food that has to be mixed with water. You can use it as a topper on regular kibble, helping to make garden-variety food more nutritious.
The biggest problem with this food is the bag size. It’s only sold in one small size, so larger-breed dogs will go through this stuff quickly — and given its high price, that will make a noticeable dent in your pocketbook. This is a premium food, but it’s not a better value for the price than the ones listed above it.
4. ORIJEN Puppy High-Protein Dog Food – For Puppies
The easiest way to get your dog on a raw diet is to introduce her to it when she’s still a puppy, so when it comes to the best raw puppy food, ORIJEN Puppy High-Protein is a great way to do just that.
Like the Open Farm above, ORIJEN uses humane practices in regards to its meat sources — and those sources include chicken, turkey, and fish. That’s a lot of protein and omega fatty acids, which should help your developing pup grow a healthy coat and powerful immune system.
It’s a grain-free recipe, which reduces the risk that it will upset sensitive young stomachs. It’s confusing to us, then, that the manufacturers included many other ingredients (like eggs) that can cause upset tummies.
The multiple fish sources in the food can make your kitchen smell like the docks, which isn’t typically very appealing. There’s no way to seal the bag, either, so you’ll have to buy a special container if you want to keep the marine aromas to a minimum.
Still, that smell is likely to drive your pup wild, and the nutrients inside ORIJEN will help her develop properly. Those minor issues mean this is a good food that falls just shy of greatness, but is still our pick for the best raw puppy food.
- Related Read: 7 Health Benefits of Raw Dog Food Diet
5. Stella & Chewy’s Grain-Free Dog Food
Stella & Chewy’s FDB-15 is certainly one of the more convenient raw options out there, as the food comes prepackaged in individual patties. You can either give your dog a patty as-is or rehydrate it with water, but there’s no need to measure or mix anything if you don’t want to.
That said, the food is pretty dry, so we’d definitely recommend adding water to it to make it more palatable.
Natural protein sources make up the first few ingredients, so you won’t have to worry about fillers or additives. There’s also additional taurine inside, which is important for keeping her heart healthy and functioning.
In addition to lots of protein, though, this food is exceptionally high in fat. That’s not necessarily an issue if your dog is super active, but if you have a couch potato on your hands, she might balloon on this food. We’d also like to see a bit more fiber.
All in all, Stella & Chewy’s FDB-15 is a solid middle-of-the-road option, but there’s not enough here to displace the superior raw food options above.
6. TruDog Raw Superfood
TruDog bills their product as a “superfood,” so you’d expect to find it stuffed with vitamins and minerals. That’s true — but only up to a point.
The fact of the matter is, this food is almost all meat. The beef formula includes beef, tripe, ground bone, organ meat, and even blood. While that may not sound appetizing to you, your dog will love it.
However, there’s not a lot else here. There’s some vitamin D and a little vitamin E added, but past that, you’ll only find the nutrients that are naturally found in beef. As a result, you may need to supplement with some vitamins or add some veggies to the mix.
Also, take a second to think about what a mixture of tripe, organ meat, and blood smells like. Yep, you’ve probably got a good idea of what’s in store for you every time you open this bag. While that strong odor may get your dog salivating, it may also put you off your feed for a few days.
While it’s nice to find a product with this much meat in it, we’d like to see a little more from TruDog Superfood before we rank it any higher.
- Related Read: 5 Best Human-Grade Dog Food Brands
7. Sojos Complete Raw Grain-Free Dog Food
Sojos Complete is intended to be just that — complete. It has freeze-dried meat as well as air-dried fruits and vegetables, giving your dog a well-balanced meal in every bowl.
If you read the ingredients list, you’ll likely find that it all sounds pretty good…so it’s a mystery why many dogs turn their noses up at it. It does seem to be extremely heavy on the fruit, so if your dog isn’t naturally drawn to cranberries and the like, she may not care for this, either.
Another issue we have is that there’s really not much protein in it. Meat is the first thing listed — and then you’ll go a long way down the ingredients list before you come across another protein source. While the foods listed in between are all high-quality, we’d prefer to see more muscle fuel in there.
The good news is that your pooch should get plenty of nutrients from each helping of Sojos, as it includes vitamin-packed ingredients like kelp, flaxseed, and cranberries. Of course, all those vitamins go to waste (along with your hard-earned cash) if you can’t convince your dog to actually eat them.
8. Northwest Naturals Raw Dog Food
This offering from Northwest Naturals attempts to bridge the gap between kibble and treats, as it’s made into large cubes that can be given as rewards or poured into a bowl at dinnertime.
Unfortunately, it ends up being the worst of both worlds in many ways. It crumbles in your hands, making it very difficult to break up the cubes to use as treats for training, yet rehydrating it to serve as a meal takes quite a while (usually around 20 minutes).
The bags are extremely small and equally expensive, so don’t think about feeding this to your Great Dane unless you have buildings named after you on a college campus somewhere.
That same tendency to crumble makes it a good food for senior dogs or those with dental issues, however, as it will be soft on their teeth. You can also sprinkle it onto other kibble for a raw boost, but for the reasons outlined above, we’d hold off on feeding your pooch Northwest Naturals exclusively.
9. Instinct Raw Boost Natural Dry Dog Food
Instinct Raw Boost just barely meets the criteria of a “raw food,” as it has a little bit of freeze-dried chicken mixed in with regular kibble. This keeps the price down and lets you experiment with a raw diet, but ultimately gives you few of the benefits that said diet can provide.
This is a healthy weight formula, so it’s a worthy choice if you’re trying to trim a few pounds off your mutt. However, while it’s lower on calories than some of its competition, it’s also packed with fillers like animal meals. This makes it a lower-quality food than some of the others on this list.
There are a few ingredients that many dogs won’t appreciate, like alfalfa meal and tomato pomace, so getting your pup to eat it may be a chore. There’s more salt than we’d like to see as well, especially when it’s targeted to overweight animals.
It’s hard to recommend Instinct Raw Boost, but it may be a way of cheaply testing whether your dog is willing to eat raw foods. If she is, though, we’d recommend switching to one of our higher-rated options above as soon as possible.
10. Steve’s Real Freeze-Dried Raw Food
The big selling point with Steve’s Real Food is what it doesn’t have: specifically, antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals. This is because the meat is sourced from free-range animals that eat a natural diet.
Unfortunately, it’s not an easy food to give your pup. It must be rehydrated before serving, and that can take a long time (and dogs aren’t exactly known for patiently waiting around for dinner). If you find yourself rushing to feed your dog on the way out the door every morning, this won’t be the food for you.
It’s also combined with raw goat’s milk, which can cause problems for some dogs. This can cause digestive issues, including diarrhea, and that’s not something any pet owner wants to deal with.
The nuggets are a little large as well, to the point that smaller breeds may not be able to eat them without it becoming a choking hazard. You can break them up, but again, that’s just making this food even less convenient for you.
While we love the spirit behind Steve’s Real Food, it’s hard to recommend it unless you have a lot of time on your hands.
Buyer’s Guide – Choosing the Best Raw Dog Food Brand
While you may have heard that raw diets are good for dogs, do you know what a raw diet is, exactly? And why is it better for your pup than regular helpings of dry kibble or canned wet food?
In this guide, we’ll show you why many people prefer feeding raw diets to their dogs, and what you should consider before making the switch.
The basic idea behind a raw diet is that it closely approximates what your dog would “naturally” eat; that is to say, what your dog would eat if she were running loose in the wild.
That means heavy doses of raw meat, including organ meat. You won’t find that in regular dog food, as that meat tends to be heavily processed (and can sometimes be filled with antibiotics, hormones, and who knows what else), and raw diet advocates believe all that processing leaches out a lot of the vitamins and nutrients.
Also, many dog foods have a lot of fillers and additives that may not be good for your pup’s health. Going natural cuts those things out of your dog’s diet completely.
Does It Work?
This is a difficult question to answer, as when we say “raw diet,” we’re not talking about a single, specific meal plan.
As such, there’s little in the way of research to either confirm or deny the claims made by raw food advocates.
What Are the Benefits of a Raw Diet?
Raw diet advocates say that, since the diet hews closely to what nature intended for these animals to eat, it’s easier for them to process and reduces the risk of digestive issues. They also claim it leads to shinier coats, healthier teeth, and a longer lifespan.
Beyond that, there are also claims that a raw diet increases a dog’s energy, mood, and vitality.
One of the biggest potential benefits of a raw diet is all of the things that aren’t a part of it. This includes ingredients found in many commercial dog foods, such as all manner of chemicals and additives, grains and other potential allergens, and questionable meat sources.
What Are the Downsides of a Raw Diet?
There are several risks associated with feeding a dog a raw food diet, ranging from sanitation concerns to nutritional imbalances.
One of the biggest issues with home-cooked raw diets is they tend to omit certain foods (like fruits and veggies) that are essential to a well-rounded diet. As a result, dogs who are fed home-based raw diets often have nutritional deficiencies. This is less of a concern if you buy commercial raw food, however.
Another potential problem is the safety of the meat. Raw food is — you guessed it — uncooked, and it may pose an increased risk of food-borne illness. Again, this risk is lessened by buying a commercial raw food, but chances are you won’t be able to completely eliminate it. Regardless, you should always wash your hands after handling raw dog food.
Finally, raw diets are much more expensive than conventional dog foods. This is partially a good thing, as a big reason for the increased expense is the use of higher-quality ingredients. Nevertheless, going raw will dramatically increase your dog food budget, and many people find it unrealistic to make the switch for that reason alone.
When and How to Switch Your Dog to a Raw Food Diet
Before you switch over to a raw diet, be sure to check with your vet to make sure it’s a good idea. Some dogs have health conditions that make a raw diet inadvisable.
While you can technically switch your dog to a raw diet at any time, younger dogs will typically fare better than seniors. Regardless, you need to make the transition slowly and methodically.
Start by introducing a little bit of raw food to your dog — maybe even as treats. Over a period of a few weeks, gradually increase the amount of raw food in her kibble until you’re ultimately feeding her a raw diet exclusively. Again, this process should take a few weeks, so don’t try to do it overnight.
Finding the Right Raw Food
Unless you’re going to be making your own dog food (which we don’t recommend, for reasons outlined above), you’ll need to decide which food to give your dog.
The main things to look for are quality protein sources, a balanced nutritional profile, and enough fat and fiber.
You want plenty of high-quality protein in each serving — a good rule of thumb is that the food should be at least 30% protein. Ideally, the meat should be lean as well, so if it’s greasy to the touch or leaves a residue in the bowl, you may need to find a better food.
The type of protein is also important. Beef and chicken are the most common, but fish, turkey, and exotic game can be great as well. Just make sure your dog can tolerate it and actually likes the flavor.
When reading the ingredients list, look to be sure bone and organ meat are included. These are essential to a raw diet, as they have a lot of the vitamins and minerals your pooch needs.
Balanced Nutritional Profile
Many natural foods go overboard on meat and neglect some of the other nutrients that dogs need. Make sure your food has plenty of vegetables in it, and fruit is always good, too.
There’s plenty of disagreement over whether or not grains are good for dogs; we won’t relitigate that argument here, but even if you go grain-free, be sure the food is full of high-quality vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and the like. Basically, if you turned your nose up at it when you were 7 years old, your dog should probably eat it.
Fat and Fiber Content
Fat and fiber are often neglected when making dog food, but they’re almost as important as the amount of protein inside.
Fat is one nutrient that exists in the Goldilocks zone; that is to say, you don’t want too much or too little — it has to be just right. Typically, this is somewhere between 5 and 15%, depending on the protein source.
Fiber, on the other hand, should be in the 5 to 10% range. Any more than 10% and it’s likely to cause issues like diarrhea, but any less than 5% could cause constipation or lead to weight gain.
Making the Switch Successfully
While picking any dog food can be confusing, picking a good raw food is especially so — and since they’re so expensive, getting the wrong one can be an expensive mistake.
This guide was intended to take some of the guesswork out of your decision. Using it and the guidance of your vet, you should have all the information you need to switch your dog over safely and successfully.
If you’re planning on switching your pup to a raw diet, Stewart Raw Naturals is our pick for the best raw dog food on the market. It’s filled with human-grade freeze-dried meat, and it has plenty of veggies, ensuring your dog gets all the nutrients they need to stay happy and healthy.
For a low-cost option that’s almost as good, try Wellness Core Rawrev. It’s filled with lean protein and omega fatty acids, and it’s a great way to transition from regular kibble to a raw diet.
Switching to a raw diet isn’t a decision that should be made lightly, and finding the best raw dog food, or the best raw dog food brand, isn’t easy either. We hope the reviews above demystified the process somewhat, so you can find a raw dog food that will keep your dog healthy and happy.
After all, finding a good raw dog food is a lot easier than letting her have half of what’s on your plate.
Featured Image Credit: fetrinka, Shutterstock