We’re bombarded with a slew of different types of pet food: kibble, raw, freeze-dried, grain-free, pâté, and more.
The options might be intimidating; they frequently appear unappealing. And when social media feeds claim “fresh pet food,” it’s only natural to want to know more about this option.
Fresh pet food is exactly what it sounds like: frozen canine and feline meals made to order by local chefs or food artisans.
Freezing isn’t harmful to foods, in fact, some fresh fruits are flash-frozen for safe transport before arriving on your grocery store shelves.
The FDA has guidelines for the proper handling of human foods before they’re served, and these rules also apply to pet foods.
What is fresh dog food?
Pet owners can find fresh dog food at farmers’ markets, pet stores, and online.
It’s beneficial for a few reasons:
When it comes to feeding your canine companion, buying local is a plus. “Grocery store meat may have been stored in a freezer or refrigerator during transport,” Dr. Jennifer Coates, veterinary advisor with petMD.com, tells us.
“If it sat for any length of time in those conditions, its nutrients and flavor may have deteriorated.”
Some dog owners seek out this food to ensure their pets are eating well-sourced ingredients. Additionally, raw diets – which focus on meat – can be difficult to find and prepare at home.
What are the benefits of fresh dog food?
If you have time to cook for your pup, Coates says there are a lot of advantages to feeding him or her fresh foods.
She explains that these meals can help dogs get rid of chronic digestive problems because they’re nutritionally better balanced than traditional diets.
“They may also be more palatable to pets who aren’t used to having their food cooked for them,” Coates adds.
Not only that, but cooking cuts down on your dog’s risk of food poisoning. According to the FDA, “raw animal foods can be contaminated with germs like Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria that can make your pets sick.”
Fresh pet food might offer an alternative to raw foods
According to Dr. Kate Winkle, DVM, of Animal Wellness Care, “The larger benefit is that it is what we call a ‘start new’ type of food – meaning it hasn’t already been stored and transported and stored and transported.”
For some pets, it’s easier to stomach. Denise Flaim of Long Island, NY, has her dog, Daisy Mae (a Shih Tzu and Pomeranian mix), who eats fresh pet food because she has a sensitive stomach.
“I make sure she gets all the nutrients she needs – and less waste – because I’m using up-to-date research and advice rather than information passed down from previous generations,” Flaim tells us.
Of course, fresh pet food isn’t the best option for every owner: “If it’s not handled and stored properly, bacteria can grow to unacceptable levels and make your dog sick,” Coates says.
Additionally, she adds that some owners may not have the time to cook for their pets. In those cases, Coates recommends dog foods that are highly digestible and nutrient-dense with minimal waste – so you avoid stinky accidents!
Does freezing fresh food affect a dog’s health?
While fresh food is safe, the FDA warns against refreezing certain types of foods.
For instance, if you purchase a whole turkey from the grocery store but don’t have time to cook it that day, you should only thaw it once before cooking it thoroughly for your family.
“Freezing and then re-thawing reduces the quality of the product,” says Dr. Jodie Gruenstern, DVM, of Manhattan Cat Specialists.
The same rules apply to pet food, keep your pet’s meals fresh, and don’t re-freeze them. “Transfer foods you’ve prepared for yourself to separate containers before freezing so they remain fresh until ready to serve,” Coates says.
Can you warm up fresh dog food?
PetMD recommends warming up pet food slowly, ideally to an internal temperature of at least 98 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, if you’re short on time, Coates says it’s okay to microwave some foods after thawing them in the refrigerator overnight.
However, “use care when removing containers from the microwave,” she warns. “It’s easy to underestimate the heat of the steam that may arise under the lids.”
While frozen food can remain safe indefinitely, Coates explains that once it’s thawed, you should discard any uneaten portions after 24 hours.
“The bacteria level in ready-to-eat foods will quickly multiply if left at room temperature or warmer,” she warns.
To avoid a potential stomach ache, Flaim tells us that Daisy steers clear of fresh pet food. “They can’t handle gassy foods as well as some dogs, and I don’t want to take any chances,” Flaim says. So, no more veggies for this pup!
How long can fresh dog foods be left out?
Dr. Gruenstern says that while “it should be safe within appropriate storage,” the FDA recommends that prepared pet food shouldn’t be left out for more than two hours.
That’s because human foods can spoil quickly and make your dog sick.
“If you’re not home during the day, it’s best to keep your dog on a feeding schedule so they don’t become too hungry and eat their food too quickly,” she adds.
If you’re running really low on time, Coates says it’s okay to put the food in a tightly covered container to seal in moisture and heat.
Just be sure not to cover it with an airtight lid lest you trap harmful bacteria inside.
Remember, there’s no substitute for fresh food! Nutrients found in fresh foods are often better than supplements.
However, if pet owners can’t make time to cook at home or purchase raw their dog’s food (which requires refrigeration), commercial dog foods offer an easy alternative. Just remember to keep things safe by handling and storing them properly!
If you have any questions about how best to handle your pet food or would like more information, contact your veterinarian.