Raw dog treats include raw (uncooked), dehydrated and freeze-dried treats. While all three types have their specific benefits, dehydrated and freeze-dried treats are the go-to rewards for most situations of your canine companion’s life. Especially single ingredient treats made of premium quality meat, poultry or fish are highly enticing and may offer additional benefits, like the support of the dental health of your dog. We’ll explain the pros and cons of all three categories, and provide you with a list of the top recommended made-in-the-USA raw dog treats.
What Exactly are Raw Dog Treats?
Raw dog treats not only include pieces of uncooked meat, vegetables and fruit, but also dehydrated and freeze-dried products. The latter two also qualify as “raw” as dehydrated or freeze-dried food items are prepared without being heated up to boiling temperature.
Raw (not cooked)
Raw Uncooked Dog Treats
While raw, uncooked treats often come to mind first, their disadvantages outnumber the benefits they offer. This is especially true for meat, poultry and fish treats.
Benefits of Raw Uncooked Dog Treats
The main benefit of raw, uncooked dog treats is that they are the most likely cheapest treat you can give to your dog. The other benefit of entirely raw dog treats are their slightly better nutritional values in comparison to dried or freeze-dried treats. This is because several amino-acids and vitamins are highly temperature sensitive, and already start to degrade when exposed to moderate heat.
Disadvantages of Raw Uncooked Dog Treats
Entirely raw dog treats have three key disadvantages: handling, perishability and the risk of contamination with pathogens.
Not all types of meats or fish can be cut in pieces, which stay in shape and can easily be handled. Additionally, nobody wants to put pieces of raw beef heart in their pocket to have an instant reward handy when walking the dog.
Fresh meat, and even more so for poultry or fish, have a shelf life of a few days at best when stored in a refrigerator. At room temperature, they will perish within hours.
The third disadvantage of uncooked meat is the risk of a possible contamination with food pathogens like salmonella.
Raw Dehydrated Dog Treats
Drying is one of the oldest forms of food preservation known to humankind. Already 30,000 years ago, the Neanderthals dried the meat of the mammoth they hunted to prevent it from turning bad.¹ Nowadays, raw dehydrated dog treats are made in industrial dehydrators, which allow the precise control of the drying process to ensure shelf stability and the effective elimination of possible food pathogens.
Benefits of Raw Dehydrated Dog Treats
Dehydrated raw dog treats offer numerous benefits over raw, uncooked treats, as well as conventional dog treats.
Dehydrated dog treats are highly enticing, especially when made of premium meats, poultry or fish.
As dehydration is a low-temperature process, nutrients get extremely well preserved. Especially in comparison to traditionally made treats, which are typically baked at high temperatures, dehydrated dog treats are highly nutritious and healthy.
Dehydrated treats are also safe to give to your dog. Commercial drying processes are designed in a way that they ensure the elimination of potential pathogens like salmonella.
Dehydrated dog treats are easy to handle, as they are typically neither crumbly nor greasy.
Raw dehydrated dog treats don’t need to be stored in a refrigerator or freezer. They can simply be kept in a dry place like a kitchen pantry. Typical shelf life is six to 12 months.
Disadvantages of Raw Dehydrated Dog Treats
Dehydrated dog treats, especially if made of premium quality ingredients, are more expensive than raw, uncooked or traditional dog treats.
Raw Freeze-Dried Dog Treats
Like dehydration, freeze-drying is also preserving food items by removing their water content. Freeze-drying is a three-step process that begins with freezing. Next, the food is placed in a vacuum chamber under low heat. The frozen water crystals evaporate directly from ice to water vapor in a process called sublimation. The food then undergoes “secondary drying,” in which any remaining water molecules are removed under slightly higher temperatures. The food is nitrogen sealed for storage to prevent contamination from water or oxygen.²
Benefits of Raw Freeze-Dried Dog Treats
As freeze-dried and dehydrated dog treats are using the same preservation principle, their benefits are also comparable.
Freeze-dried dog treats are highly enticing, especially when made of premium ingredients.
As freeze-drying does not involve high temperatures, nutrients are extremely well preserved. Especially in comparison to traditionally made treats, which are typically baked at high temperatures, raw freeze-dried dog treats are highly nutritious and healthy.
Freeze-dried dog treats are also safe to give to your dog, as the preparation processes are designed to ensure the elimination of potential food pathogens.
Freeze-dried dog treats typically have a shelf life of several years, as long as they remain in their unopened original packaging.
As almost the entire water gets removed from freeze-dried dog treats, they are extremely light weight.
Disadvantages of Raw Freeze-Dried Dog Treats
Freeze-dried dog treats are typically the most expensive type of dog treats.
The Best Raw Dog Treats Sourced and Made in the USA
Our recommendations for the best raw dog treats sourced and made in the USA cover beef, chicken, fish and turkey as protein sources, as well as dog training treats as an additional category.
All recommendations are single-ingredient, raw dehydrated treats made of premium quality meat, poultry or fish. All treats are handcrafted in Northern California and rated between 4.8 and 5.0 stars by existing customers.
Not for the looks that’s for sure. However, chicken feet are rich in protein, and naturally high in chondroitin and glucosamine, which support joint health and mobility. They are also great for your dog's gum and dental health, as they naturally clean your canine's teeth as they gnaw.
Another benefit is that dehydrated chicken feet can be given to dogs of all sizes, from toy breeds to XXL-sized dogs like Great Danes.
These dehydrated beef liver treats are loaded with protein and only contain 3% fat. Beef liver is also a great source of the minerals iron and zinc. Both play an important role in the immune system and metabolism of your canine.
An added benefit is that this beef liver comes from grass-fed, pasture-raised, USDA certified beef, which is sourced from family farms in Northern California. The meat of grass-fed and pasture-raised cattle is significantly higher in nutrients than that of their conventionally raised counterparts.
This turkey jerky for dogs is extremely lean and high in protein. It is also free of antibiotics, hormones and any additives or preservatives. This makes it a great choice for dogs with a sensitive stomach or sensitivity to chicken protein.
Anchovies are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, minerals and vitamins. It’s the omega-3 fatty acids that make these treats so extremely beneficial. Amongst others, omega-3 fatty acids support the heart, skin and coat health of dogs and cats.
An added benefit is that most dogs love the fishy flavor of anchovies. Dehydrated anchovies are a great way to add variety to your dog’s diet, which can often be monotone.
Our top recommendation in the dog and puppy training treats category are Hearty Bites™.
Why Have we Chosen this Treat?
Hearty Bites™ are little cubes of dehydrated beef heart. Their benefits for dogs are manifold. Their small size is perfect for dog training, as it causes little to no distraction for a dog to eat and swallow a single treat. This makes them suitable for dogs of almost all sizes and life stages. These beef heart bites are also healthy (high in protein, low in fat, rich in minerals like iron and zinc), and have only very few calories per treat. Hearty Bites™ are also highly enticing and rewarding, which makes them an attractive treat for easily distracted dogs, and specialized dog training situations like nose work.
An added benefit is that Hearty Bites™ are great from a human point of view as well. These dried beef meat cubes don’t smell or crumble, and they aren’t greasy either. This means you can just put them in your pockets, and you have an instant reward handy any time you need it.
Raw dog treats include raw (uncooked), dehydrated and freeze-dried treats. Dehydrated and freeze-dried treats are the recommended go-to rewards for most situations in your canine companion’s life. Especially single ingredient treats made of premium quality meat, poultry or fish are highly enticing and may offer additional benefits like the support of the dental health of your dog.
What are your favorite raw dog treats? We’d love to hear from you! Please comment below.