Giving raw dog food to your pup is a personal choice that can be motivated by several reasons. For example, some dog owners are gradually abandoning conventional food because they want to offer their pets more natural and less processed food. Also, since this type of food contains fewer ingredients, it may be easier to identify what is causing intolerances or allergies in a dog. Raw foods have the advantage of being low in carbohydrates and high in protein and fat, which can be beneficial for some dogs.
That said, before diving into these reviews of the best raw dog foods in Canada, we recommend talking with your veterinarian. Raw food is not appropriate for all dogs, so it’s best to discuss it with your vet before making any change in your pet’s diet.
A Quick Comparison of Our Winners (2023)
|Best Overall||Big Country Raw Dog Food||
|Best Value||Zeal Canada Air-Dried Dog Food||
|Premium Choice||Open Farm Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food||
||Click to Save 5%|
|Best for Puppies||Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost||
|Dr. Harvey’s Raw Vibrance Dog Food||
The 6 Best Raw Dog Foods in Canada
1. Big Country Raw Dog Food Breeder Blend — Best Overall
|Main ingredients:||Chicken (meat and bones), green beef tripe, beef liver|
Big Country Raw Dog Foods launched its products in Canada in 2012 and has since established its reputation as one of the top raw dog food suppliers in Ontario and Vancouver. It offers several varieties of products, such as complete dinners, signature blends, meal replacement bones, and cooked and dehydrated foods. In addition, several flavors are offered, such as chicken, turkey, and beef, and there are even exotic options, such as bison and kangaroo!
All the fresh, whole ingredients used to make the recipes are delivered to the Big Country Raw facility, where the team provides quality control for all their products. Big Country Raw foods are also endorsed by veterinarians and sold in several veterinary offices across Canada. Finally, this company is committed to the welfare of dogs and proudly supports dog rescue and working programs. All these reasons make Big Country Raw the best overall raw dog food in Canada.
The only downside is that delivery is only available in Canada (for now!), and the products are quite expensive, especially if you have several pups to feed.
2. Zeal Canada Air-Dried Dog Food — Best Value
|Main ingredients:||Beef, beef lung, beef heart|
|Protein content:||45% (min)|
|Fat content:||18% (min)|
Zeal Canada Air-Dried Dog Food Beef Plus is the best raw dog food in Canada for the money, especially for small breeds or older, less active dogs that don’t need too much food. Keep in mind that raw or freeze-dried dog food is generally more expensive than conventional food, so this option may be less suitable if you are on a tight budget.
However, you will get what you pay for if you choose Zeal, as this reputable Canadian company offers high-quality air-dried dog food. These tasty recipes are made only of human-grade ingredients and of local origin. They contain 96% locally sourced beef and beef organs, pumpkin, vitamins, and minerals. There are no traces of fillers, grain, antibiotics, preservatives, artificial colors, or flavors in the formulas, which can be beneficial for dogs with sensitive stomachs or allergies.
3. Open Farm Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food — Premium Choice
|Main ingredients:||Chicken with ground bone, chicken liver, chicken neck|
|Protein content:||41% (min)|
|Fat content:||33% (min)|
Open Farm freeze-dried raw dog food is a premium option that will satisfy even the most discerning palates. For one thing, all the recipes are made from meat, offal, and bones from chickens that are raised ethically and cruelty free. They contain no artificial colors, by-products, wheat, corn, or potatoes. They are full of probiotics and fiber from fresh foods like pumpkin and blueberries. Additionally, the company enables dog owners to trace the origin of each ingredient using the lot number found on the packaging.
However, in addition to its steep price, the main disadvantage of this high-quality freeze-dried raw food is that it comes in a loose bag. Therefore, food can sometimes be smushed during transport.
4. Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost — Best for Puppies
|Main ingredients:||Chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal|
|Protein content:||33.5% (min)|
|Fat content:||18.5% (min)|
Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost is a great option if you want to slowly transition your pup to an all-raw diet. This food includes dry kibble made with high-quality ingredients and is mixed with bites of freeze-dried raw meat. This enables your puppy to gradually get used to raw food while providing complete and balanced nutrition. With cage-free chicken as the first ingredient, your pup will have all the protein that they need to support their growth.
Instinct Raw Boost also contains DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which is an omega-3 fatty acid important for the neural development of puppies. The great taste and texture of this food also seem to be appealing to even the most finicky puppies. However, some owners have reported that their dog suffers from stomach upset when switching to this food, so monitor your pet’s behavior after eating this food, especially for the first few days.
5. Dr. Harvey’s Raw Vibrance Dog Food
|Main ingredients:||Broccoli, green beans, squash|
|Calories:||70 calories per scoop|
Dr. Harvey’s Raw Vibrance is a grain-free base mix that novice raw food feeders can use to create balanced homemade raw meals. It’s easy to use, but you have to add your choice of raw protein and oil (like flaxseed, hemp, or sesame oil) to the mix. The premix is a blend of all-natural, human-grade, non-GMO ingredients like broccoli, green beans, squash, carrots, blueberries, spinach, chia seeds, and raw goat’s milk powder. There is no trace of fillers, by-products, or artificial flavours or preservatives.
Basically, this makes a great base for a raw dog food meal, as long as you follow health and safety rules when adding the raw protein of your choice.
However, keep in mind that you must add the cost of other ingredients (high-quality protein and oil) to the already expensive premix, which may not suit all budgets. Also, you need to calculate the right number of scoops to feed your pup based on their weight and mix it with other ingredients, so the preparation is a bit time-consuming.
Overall, though, Dr. Harvey’s Raw Vibrance is a good option when you’re venturing into the world of raw dog food and need help creating balanced, healthy meals for your furry friend.
6. Healthybud Freeze-Dried Turkey Patties
|Main ingredients:||Turkey with ground bone, turkey heart, turkey liver|
|Protein content:||50% (min)|
|Fat content:||14% (min)|
Healthybud Turkey Patties are freeze dried, meaning that they have been dehydrated at very low temperatures in order to stabilize the product while preserving a large part of the nutrients. Therefore, it is a good alternative for dog owners who do not want to switch their dogs to a 100% raw diet right away.
Indeed, freeze-dried foods are generally closest to the composition of raw foods and are a good compromise between raw foods and classic dry kibbles. In short, Healthybud freeze-dried foods offer all the benefits of raw foods without any of the hassle. However, the freeze-drying process is quite expensive, hence the hefty price tag of this dog food option.
Buyer’s Guide: Important Things to Consider Before Switching to Raw Dog Food
What Are the Benefits of Raw-Meat Diets for Dogs?
Raw food feeding has become increasingly popular among pet owners, especially Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF). Proponents claim that this type of feeding provides a plethora of health benefits for our four-legged friends, such as:
- Silkier and shinier coat
- Improved longevity
- Better digestive health
- Better palatability
- Better oral health
Most of these observations, however, remain subjective and are not exclusive to raw food; it is entirely possible to achieve these kinds of results with good quality conventional food.
Furthermore, some of these claims are based on scientific studies on the effect of heat or dry food production processes on the nutritional quality of the ingredients. As for the argument of digestibility, it finds its origin in the data proving the increased digestibility of certain specific raw diets. Although these studies are scientifically sound, they do not prove the practical benefits of raw food to animals.
In short, there is currently no robust evidence proving that raw pet food is superior to conventional food. Also, it’s important to know that the long-term effects of raw feeding are not yet documented.
What Are the Risks of Raw Meat Diets for Dogs?
Although there is no scientific consensus on the superiority of raw food over conventional food, there is a great deal of data demonstrating the risks of this type of diet.
One of these risks, which has been documented many times, concerns the possible contamination of food by dangerous bacteria, including salmonella, clostridium, and E. coli. While these contaminations rarely inconvenience healthy adults, humans, or animals, small children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised can become very ill or even die.
Another important fact to mention is that various veterinary associations discourage the inclusion of raw or undercooked animal-source protein in dog and cat diets, including the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that “raw diets, especially raw meat diets, are not recommended because of the risk for salmonellosis and other infections that can affect pets and their owners.”
So, Should You Feed Your Dog Raw or Dry Food?
Raw dog food may provide certain benefits but is not necessarily suitable for all dogs. Therefore, it is essential to carefully weigh the pros and cons associated with this type of diet before undertaking the transition.
You also need to consider the time, organization, and cost associated with raw feeding, especially if you want to prepare your dog’s meals yourself. It is strongly recommended to consult a veterinary nutritionist who can accompany you and help you provide your precious pooch with everything that they need.
That said, the raw dog food options on this list come in several forms, most often freeze-dried, which preserves a large part of the nutrients while limiting the risk of contamination. However, even though these options are more convenient and can provide complete and balanced nutrition for your pup, it is still recommended that you seek the advice of a veterinary nutritionist before taking the plunge.
Choosing a raw meat diet for your pet should be an informed and well-considered decision. If you opt for this type of food, we hope that these reviews will help you find the best choice for your beloved dog’s needs. As the best overall raw dog food in Canada, the Big Country Raw Breeder Blend has all the important things, including product quality control and veterinarian approval. If you are looking for a more affordable option without compromising on quality, then Zeal Canada Air-Dried Dog Food should be your choice. Open Farm Freeze Dried falls in a higher price bracket, but its traceable ingredients and human-raised meat will appeal to concerned dog owners. If you have a new puppy and want to give them an alternative to conventional dog food, Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost will do the trick.
Featured Image Credit: Kira_Yan, Shutterstock