It’s no secret that feeding your dog or cat raw meals comes with a few more rules than a canned or kibble diet. But here at Red Dog Blue Kat, we subscribe to the belief that you should “feed the pet in front of you”. That can involve taking some of the rules around raw and turning them into guidelines.
However, when it comes to cooking or refreezing raw meals, those guidelines come with stipulations, and that’s what we’re here to talk about today—how to safely modify your dog or cat’s raw meals to meet their unique needs.
Why Would You Cook a Raw Meal?
We’ll be honest, this was a question that perplexed us here at RDBK for a while. Many of us got into raw feeding for the amazing effects raw food can have on our pets, like a healthier gut, smaller poops, smoother, softer coats—raw feeders, you know what’s up. Some of these results are either impossible or significantly more challenging to get from other methods of feeding. So why would anyone want to opt-out of that?
But pet health in regard to nutrition is a constantly evolving science, and we are always looking for ways to learn, adapt, and make quality pet nutrition accessible for everyone. This led us to realize that some pet parents don’t just want but need to cook their pet’s food.
And that’s fine! What works for one dog or cat might not work for another, and trying to force the same methods from one to the other can be a waste of time, food, and patience. Besides, despite some nutrient loss that occurs when cooking raw foods, feeding a lightly cooked raw diet is still better than resigning your pet to dry, ultra-processed pellets day after day.
Some reasons pet parents might be interested in cooking raw can include the following:
To help pets transition
To entice picky pets
To whet the appetite of pets who may be ill or on medication that reduces their appetite
For pets or residents of a pet household who are immunocompromised
For those that are just not quite comfortable serving up raw food and are looking for a way to feed whole, fresh, species-appropriate food while reducing possible bacterial risks
While this isn’t an exhaustive list, these are all valid reasons for wanting to cook your pet’s meals. In an ideal world, some of these reasons leave the door open for transitioning to fully raw meals as your pet adapts to the taste and texture, but it isn’t strictly necessary to still reap some of the benefits of raw.
Which RDBK Meals Can You Safely Cook?
One of the many great benefits of feeding Red Dog Blue Kat is that we create wholesome, nutritious meals from varied proteins with unique nutrient profiles. These include essential macronutrients as well as vital healthy fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, including—in some cases—roughly ground whole bones.
It is absolutely essential that you never cook meals with bone pieces in it. Heating bones makes them brittle, indigestible, and can cause anything from uncomfortable GI irritation and constipation to severe and potentially deadly damage to your pet if they ingest it.
On the other hand, the ground bone powder and fish bones in our meals are generally too fine to cause GI issues or damage once heated. With that in mind, here are the options for RDBK meals that you can safely cook.
Meals For Dogs (Without Bone)
Beef and Tripe Foundations
Meals For Dogs (With Bone Powder or Fish Bones)
Wild Boar Foundations
Salmon and Tripe Foundations *
Herring Foundations *
Beef and Salmon Everyday Raw *
* Contains Fish Bones
Meals For Cats (With Bone Powder)
Wild Boar Foundations
Base Meals for Cats and Dogs* (Without Bone)
Beef Base Mix
Beef and Tripe Base Mix (dogs only)
Lamb Base Mix
Venison Base Mix
*Base meals are made with only muscle meat and organs; add vegetables and supplement to create a balanced meal.
Of course, you might not be carrying the above list with you when you’re shopping for meals without bones. Fortunately, we print our labels in-house, so what you see on the ingredient list is always what you get in the package. Here’s where you’d see bones listed in a meal you cannot cook.
How Do You Cook Raw Meals?
Generally, cooking raw food does cause some nutrient loss. However, because RDBK meals start from the highest quality fresh foods (including organic vegetables in our Foundations meals), whatever nutrient amount you are left with after cooking will still be vastly better than other ultra-processed options on the market.
This means you may be interested in supplementing your pet’s cooked meals to add back in some of the nutrients lost in the process, especially if you have a pet battling an illness that might compromise their ability to absorb even the best quality nutrients. Additionally, if you’re feeding a cat cooked meals, they require some essential nutrients that are severely depleted once their food has been cooked.
So without further ado, let’s get into some methods and additions to consider if you’re feeding a cooked diet!
After you’ve selected your safe-to-cook raw meal, heat it in a pan at the lowest temperature possible for the shortest amount of time to retain as many nutrients as possible.
Since cooking kills bacteria indiscriminately, you’ll want to add a probiotic to continue to support your pet’s gut health with good bacteria.
Cooking will reduce the amount of moisture in your pet’s meal, so add a splash of filtered water and mix it in.
Choline is an essential nutrient that can naturally be a little low in raw meals, and it becomes even lower when cooked; add it back in with a raw or soft-boiled egg.
Oils become oxidized when exposed to air and heat, so if you add beneficial oils to your pet’s meal, keep them cold, fresh, and add to the meal just before serving.
For dogs: to add an overall boost of vitamins, we like using Dr. Dobias’ SoulFood, and for minerals there’s GreenMin, also from Dr. Dobias. You can also use a fish oil with EPA & DHA, or another omega-3 fatty acid.
For cats, you can use the Rx Vitamins product Amino B-Plex, which has taurine and B vitamins (as well as some other essential amino acids, superfood spirulina and iron) to keep your cat on track. If you’re wondering how much to add to your pet’s meals follow the manufacturer's recommendations, but don’t stress about it: B vitamins and taurine are water soluble, so you can’t really over-do it—they’ll just pee out the excess! You can also pick up powdered taurine for a quick mix-in.
Reach for wholefood supplements over synthetic ones whenever possible. Your pet’s body recognizes them as food more readily than synthetic supplements and is able to more efficiently determine how much nutrients needs to be absorbed and how much should be excreted. In this way, wholefood supplements help set your pet’s health journey to “auto”!
Now that we’ve covered cooking raw, let’s go in the other direction on the temperature scale: refreezing.
Why Would You Refreeze Raw?
Refreezing raw meat after thawing is generally a no-no, not only for pet food but in kitchens worldwide, and with good reason. Without proper food handling or an awareness of how bacteria grow on raw meat, refreezing can introduce harmful bacteria to your pet and decrease the meat’s nutritional value.
But there are ways of doing it safely! Not to toot our own horn or anything, but as huge fans of frozen molds, we’ve become experts on refreezing parts of our pet’s meals. But before we go into safety procedures, let’s talk about two main reasons pet parents might want to refreeze their pet’s raw meals.
Frozen paws, molds, and other creations. Making a meal into a special layered cake or adding frozen paws to their dish requires thawing, portioning, and refreezing. It’s a great way to add a little fun to mealtime!
Mismanaged portioning. Sometimes you (or someone in your household) can accidentally start thawing more food than you’ll be able to use over a few days, so it needs to go back in the freezer.
Of course, there are more reasons why you might want or need to refreeze a raw meal, but these are the two we run into the most often. No matter what reasons you have for refreezing raw, there are a few simple but utterly mandatory rules you have to follow.
How To Safely Refreeze Raw
Similar to cooking raw, be mindful of nutrients lost in the thawing/refreezing process. Moisture is one of the main ingredients that decrease when thawing, so remember to incorporate a little extra water in a meal that features a refrozen element.
In the same vein, there will be minor nutrient loss with refreezing, but so long as you’re not refreezing every meal, this shouldn’t be a major issue. Remember that long-term health is a continuous journey, and you can balance out any missing nutrients in meals to come.
With that said, let’s get into it!
The most important rule of safely refreezing raw is safely thawing it first! Only meals thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen, as this is the only method of thawing at home that keeps bacterial growth in check.
If the meal has been thawing in your fridge for more than two days (48 hours), don’t refreeze it.
Refreezing is a one-time event only: after you thaw out a meal, frozen paws, or another tasty raw treat for a second time, then they shouldn’t see the inside of your freezer again. If your dog or cat doesn’t eat their refrozen treat, then take notes and try something different next time!
To Pack It Up…
While our meals are designed to be fed raw and work best that way, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some wiggle room to be creative and engage your dog or cat with food! As long as you’re careful and attentive with which meals you use and how you prepare them, there’s nothing wrong with modifying raw to suit your needs.