So I’m looking into switching my dog to raw. She has always eaten kibbble and wet food and has been on Wellness since end of last year. She is 7 years old, 50lbs, rottie/beagle/lab/who knows what.
She has had some issues the last few years and I’ve tried changing her food and have taken her to the vet for each individual issue (sensitive stomach — she vomits and/or has diarrhea a day or 2 every couple of months, chews her paws, and has low energy) but I am realizing that these individual concerns might be a symptom of the same main problem and have heard that switching to raw has helped some dogs with similar issues. I’m a bit overwhelmed by the options (freeze dried vs frozen vs dehydrated), brands, etc so would love to hear from *real* people about the following:
– what raw brands have you tried and liked?
– do you have any recommendations on form of raw (freeze dried, frozen or dehydrated)?
– has anyone had dogs with similar issues as mine (above) and seen positive results when switching to raw?
I’m also a little concerned about the fat content of a lot of raw food I found online, especially since I’ve heard my dog *may* have pancreatitis (she is going to the vet today for blood work). Idk if anyone has any thoughts on that?
Sorry for all the questions:) just curious about your personal experiences and recommendations:) thanks in advance!!
Madison I have dogs’ which have digestive problems with higher fat in their diet. I came to that conclusion because whenever I fed certain home cooked food as a kibble topper they would have loose stools. That being dark meat chicken vs boiled white meat, ground beef that wasn’t 90% fat free, fatty pieces of steak vs very lean(when they got lucky lol). They have no trouble with plain, boiled salmon.
So, that being said I hope I can make some suggestions of a starting point in switching to raw and then you can see how she does with each of these brands.
I got used to my dogs’ with one brand/protein VERY, VERY, VERY slowly. Then when i knew that they were digestively good with the brand/protein I would switch the protein also very slowly. Just giving them bits mixed in with the other protein. Eventually, I also would change brands and did the same. I just feel better not sticking always to one brand, but that’s me.
I used a starting point by looking at the raw food reviews on DFA. This led me to Primal, Stella Chewy’s, I have Chihuahuas’. This allowed me to use freeze dried. However, for a larger dog as yours, I believe the frozen raw would be most cost efficient. Freeze Dried should be the same as raw nutritionally once hydrated.
I always only feed his 5* reviews in the protein/flavor of that brand. I believe he rates by protein to fat ratio. So the 5* ones are lower in fat. So I stick to Primal’s turkey/sardine, venison, pork, duck. All of these proteins/flavors are non HPP (HIGH-PRESSURE PROCESSING (HPP)
High-Pressure Processing, or HPP, is an FDA- and USDA-approved cold water pressure process that allows us to target salmonella and other food-borne pathogens—without cooking.) Some raw feeders do not like the HPP process claiming it effects nutritional values. However other studies show he use of High Pressure Processing (known as HPP) is becoming increasingly common with commercial raw dog foods. However, HPP can be a controversial process. Some view it as an effective way to eliminate disease-causing bacteria while having only minimal effect on the integrity of the finished product.)
I believe Stella’s uses HPP in all their products. With their food I use chicken, venison bland and their rabbit.
Their are many other companies which are rated highly on this site. I believe VITAL ESSENTIALS is the brand which Is as a whole below in fat . If you go to the reviews on DFA they are all listed as a 5*. Many different flavors also. They are also low in calories . Their company goes by the prey model which is no veggies/fruits which are sometimes added to other brands. vital essentials example (ngredients: Beef, beef tripe, beef lung, ground beef bone, beef liver, beef heart, beef kidney, beef blood, beef fat, herring oil, d-alpha tocopherol)
I also want to suggest possibly kibble with salmon. Pancreatic digestive enzyme supplements have been reported to help some dogs with pancreatitis while fish body oils (such as salmon oil or EPA oil but not cod liver oil), can help to lower blood lipid levels which may reduce the workload on the pancreas.
I believe your dog does not suffer from pancreatitis but just occasional IBS? So I hope she does well with any of these . Just go slowly. So much confusion with all those brands. Hope I gave you a good starting point and she does well with these suggestions.
ooops..I just saw the reviews for Vital Essentials. The freeze dried is low in fat. The frozen is above average fat. I understand when the reviews are based on “as a whole” above average in fat since not all their proteins/flavors rate the 5* . However, only one protein/flavor in the Vital Essentials rate as lower then the 5*. So don’t know why “as a whole” the raw would be higher in fat or even know why the freeze dried would be rated differently then their raw in the same protein/flavors. Maybe someone can clear this up for me also.
I will disclose that I’m not a fan of raw feeding so that you can keep that in mind as you read my comments.
I have used raw foods as a topper and I have cooked them before feeding as a “kill” step for pathogens.
Of the companies offering raw I think Natures Variety is the best option because it best meets criteria that are important to me ( boarded veterinary nutritionist on staff, all products are HPP’d for pathogen control)
In general controlled fat levels are used for pets with digestive concerns and in my experience most raw diets are very high in percent of calories that come from fat. However, it takes a bit of sleuthing to figure that out as I often note that fat levels reported as Min fat is lower than the actual fat.
Patricia, I think the reason you are finding the same food offered as raw or freeze dried reported with different star rating and average fat amounts has to do with how the company is reporting nutrients. For example raw frozen chicken the GA is min 14.5 % protein, 8% fat and max 2 fiber and 74 moisture. Adding those up and subtracting from 100 leaves 2.5% of the diet unaccounted for which is assumed to be carbs. In the freeze dried raw chicken the GA is min protein 55 min fat 27 max fiber 1.5 and max moisture 8. Adding those up and subtracting from 100 leaves 8.5% unaccounted for, assumed by this site to be carbohydrate. But the carbohydrate content of this food would be minimal as the only really source is carb in the form of stored glycogen in muscle or liver. More likely that unaccounted 8.5% is fat or protein. Protein is costly fat is cheap and the higher fat content is accounted for in the frozen version. This becomes evident when you look at the reported protein to fat ratios in the G.A. 14.5/8 =1.8:1 for the raw but jumps to 2:1 in the freeze dried version. Hence the raw is given high fat rating than the freeze dried even though they are reportedly the same recipe. This si one of the problems with rating foods based on a G.A. which reports mins and max.
Hope this helps your understanding.Madison KParticipant
Thanks so much, Aimee and Patricia! Very helpful. I will check out these brands!
@aimee – out of curiosity, what food do you feed your dogs? And what turned you off raw? I appreciate the honest responses– super helpful in determining what might be right for my dog 🙂
Overall, I’m just looking for something with less fat and a different protein source because my vet suspects she may have some sensitivity towards chicken…
You’re welcome Madison.
Aimee you’re so knowledgable with understanding the ratio breakdowns. I wish companies would make it easier and give real amount and not min/max. I get a little ptsd with even looking at a label. I went to Catholic school in the 60’s and if you didn’t get your math right you’d get the dreaded “paddle”. lol
Is my understanding of the star ratings correct. Being that if I pick the Primal Freeze dried in a protein/flavor rated 5* it would be higher in protein then fat? When I fed the lower stars (2.5) they always got lose stool. So it made sense to me. The DFA also clarifies at the bottom of his breakdown/reviews for the brand as a whole.
So, yes I see that some of the freeze dried in Primal are lower star ratings. Hence the review of above fats . However, the ones with the 5* are lower? Uhhh..hope I’m making sense with this probably senseless question. They are doing well on the food but I like to rotate brands somewhat and want to know if I come across in the future I will know if I’m picking one with more meat then fat.
Below is the overall review for Primal Freeze Dried. Thank’s Aimee for helping me.
Above-average protein. Above-average fat. And below-average carbs when compared to other raw dog foods.
Even when you consider the mild protein-boosting effect of the alfalfa, this looks like the profile of a raw dog food containing an abundance of meat.
However, with 64% of the total calories in our example coming from fat versus just 33% from protein, some recipes may not be suitable for every animal.
Primal Freeze-Dried Formula is a grain-free raw dog food using an generous of named meats and organs as its main source of animal protein, thus receiving 5 stars.
I’ve fed a mix of kibble moist and home cooked. For the kibble I’ve use primarily Purina Pro Plan and Royal Canin and I used California Natural when that brand was around, Iams, Eukaneuba. For moist I’ve used various Purina products , Rpyal Canin therapeutic some Wellness, some Hill’s products some Iams/Eukaneuba
I’ve used Primal venison “raw” as a topper but always cooked it first
The home cooked is primarily a topper, unbalanced mix of basically leftovers lean meats and veggies that I puree together But I will also cook a complete and balanced recipe and use that instead of the moist component of their diet.
I’m not a fan of raw because I don’t see any real benefit to feeding a raw diet vs the same diet cooked and I do see risk of bacterial infection. I do think there can be greater digestibility of some components of a raw diets over the same diet cooked but I think in most cases the overall effect is minimal and not of significance to me.
In regards to commercial raw I’ve been very disappointed in the companies whom I’ve contacted in that I felt they had little nutritional knowledge, When fact checking their marketing material I found numerous errors and if I could get them to send me a typical analysis I found profound nutrient deficiencies in some products when compared to AAFCO or NRC recommendations. The one raw company I found to be an exception to the above concerns was Nature’s Variety.
Finally, most commercial raw diets have a higher percentage of calories coming from fat than I’m comfortable feeding. So when I’ve use a raw product I us only as a small portion of the overall diet and I always cook it first.
If you asking if the star ratings can be relied upon to pick a lower fat product I’d have to say they can be used as a starting point but always do your own evaluation. This is no fault of the site it is factor of how manufacturers report their numbers AND the formula may have been changed since the last review or information may not transfer across line like you think it would
Looking at Primal’s website today, they report their Turkey and Sardine raw frozen recipe to have a G.A. of min protein of 16% and min fat as 17% for both the pronto and and patties forms. But the nugget analysis reports min 16% protein and min 7 % fat. Which is it?? I think the 17 may be a typo because when using 17 the GA is over 100%. but I don’t know for sure where the error is. Is it a low fat diet or a high fat diet? I cant tell from the website. Maybe the product label would have the correct information I do find it disconcerting that the manufacturer hasn’t noted and corrected, a red flag for me.
Looking at the ratio of reported protein and fat give you an idea I like to see at least twice a much protein as fat for my dogs and closer to three Personally, I don’t want more than about 33% of calories from fat for my crew and even the 5 star raw often are far above that.
You can also compare calorie counts on a weight basis ( kcals/kg) as the higher fat products will have higher calories . And you can go to balance it dot com and under their help section is a tool called guaranteed analysis converter. You put in the information and it tells you what percent of calories come from fat But like this site, anything unaccounted for will be considered carb when it may actually be fat Getting a typical analysis from manufacturer is best.
I would prefer to have protein twice as much as the fat also Aimee.I am doing just what you suggested regarding the kcal/kg. I actually wrote all the flavors down on paper of the three different brands I rotate with .I put the Kcal in order of lowest to highest. I always have a few different protein/flavors and brands to rotate with. For their snack they get one freeze dried piece of either Open Farm or Bixbi So when my two are more active being I take them for a longer walk, I don’t mind giving the the one higher in the calories because they love those flavors. I notice a BIG difference between Stella and Chewy’s Kcal vs Primal in the same protein also. My one that tends to get chubby is given more of the Primal in the lower kcals. But really their diet is varied with home cooked when appropriate also. Had their checkup recently and they got a clean bill of health with the blood work. So, so far so good.
Thank you so much Aimee for posting. You give me a much better understanding of how to look between the lines when reading labels. I’m going to use the dot.com site . Thank you again Aimee.
Thanks for the kind words.
It sounds like you are doing all you can then. Compare kcals/kg on dry matter basis if moisture contents are different between the products. Fiber will affect that as well and the fiber levels in the G.A. only measure a portion of the true fiber amount.
The calculator is the best tool, BUT as they say garbage in garbage out…and the numbers you are using from a G.A. may have so much variation from the actual that unless you can get a typical analysis from the manufacturer the result you end up with may be a far cry from the actual caloric distribution.
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