How to travel with a raw-fed dog: Food prep, storage, recipe resources and more
If you love to travel and are passionate about feeding your dog raw or cooked food, you may face a dilemma about whether to stick with a raw diet or go back to processed foods when you and your dog hit the road.
This article includes everything you need to know to ensure that your dog is well nourished and happy on your journey. I have used the following methods for 25 years, and they work like a charm.
What food choices do you have when travelling? Your options are not endless, but there are many.
Here is your list of DIY travel food options:
- Homemade frozen raw food
- Store-bought raw frozen food
- Glass jar home preserves
- Road-made fresh raw food
- Road-made cooked food
- Homemade dehydrated raw (or cooked) food
- Canned processed food
- Natural kibble or any other dry processed food
Let's have a closer look at the pros and cons of each option. I have organized them in the order of my preference (from first to last), but the mode of transportation, the distance you’re travelling, and your location all play a role, so be flexible when making the right choices for your dog, your trip, and the time involved.
Homemade frozen raw food
There are benefits to making food at home. Firstly, you know what ingredients you are putting in; secondly, you can establish the proper ingredient ratios for your dog.
All meats and fish should be previously frozen for at least 7 days in temperatures below -0.4F (-18C) to kill tapeworms. Tapeworms can be present even in inspected meats.
Keep the food frozen as long as possible in a cooler or, even better, an electric car cooler that plugs into the lighter. If you use a regular cooler, purchase a new bag of ice daily to avoid food spoilage.
You can store your dog's raw food in the cooler for up to four days. I suggest you cook any leftover food on day four, and feed it on days four and five, in order to prevent the growth of gastrointestinal pathogens.
Store poultry for one less day than red meats as it may have a higher bacterial count. Do not keep fish longer than two days if you plan to feed it; however, I no longer feed fish because of heavy metals, toxicity and overfishing. Plus, if your cooler leaks, you may have to buy a new car — if you know what I mean!
If you have been feeding your dog fish, you can easily check their heavy metal levels by submitting a hair sample and running a highly accurate HairQ Test.
Store-bought raw frozen food
This group carries some benefits as it is usually packaged in leak-proof packaging. On the other hand, you rely entirely on the integrity of the food manufacturer, and the quality ranges greatly. Be picky; go with your gut and the brand's reputation. If the food doesn't smell like fresh meat and vegetables, avoid it.
When it comes to storage and transportation, the same rules as for homemade raw food apply.
Can you use dry ice for storing frozen raw food?
The answer is yes if you have access to it, and the storage time will extend significantly for any frozen food. It is just not as readily available in most locations.
Glass jar preserves
Such foods are a reasonable alternative; there are many tutorial videos and recipes with detailed instructions for how to safely and properly go through this jarring process online. Here is a link to one resource you can look at: https://homesteadingfamily.com/step-by-step-tutorial-for-canning-meat-raw-pack-method/
However, heating does reduce the nutritional value to a certain degree; and since this process does involve heating I do not recommend feeding such food for extended periods of more than 2 - 4 weeks.
Road-made raw food
We use this alternative when travelling to the USA and aren’t allowed to bring any meat with us, or if we travel within Canada for longer than four to five days. Pretty much any small town will have a grocery store with a selection of meats. If your dog is okay with eating raw poultry bones (more info here), chicken or turkey carcasses and bones are an easy meal as your dog doesn't need to eat vegetables daily.
BONES MUST BE FED RAW!
NEVER FEED COOKED BONES!
Cooked bones are indigestible
Note: Do not feed poultry that is at its expiration date. Ensure all meat and bones are previously frozen as outlined earlier in this article. All meals must be stored in an electric cooler or a cooler with fresh ice.
I usually like adding 10 - 25 percent raw veggies to meals whenever possible, but if you skip veggies here and there while travelling, that's okay. More details on feeding veggies to dogs can be found by clicking here.
You can use our FREE Recipe Maker tool to help you create healthy natural dog food recipes, and get more info on how to properly feed different ingredients.
Road-made cooked food
This is an option to reach for when you can't get previously frozen meat, especially red meat. Cooking will destroy tapeworm larvae.
Remember, never feed cooked bones!
Homemade dehydrated raw (or cooked) food
If you are hiking and camping and you know there will be no grocery stores around, preparing your dog's meals with a food dehydrator ahead of time is the way to go. In this case, you will dehydrate the whole meal, including vegetables, and it will shrink to about 10% of its original volume and weight, making it perfect for a multiple-day hiking trip.
Personally, I prefer dehydrating raw meals; just make sure that it is thoroughly dehydrated at about 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit).
Click here to watch my video on how to make dehydrated dog meals.
If you have a larger dog, you might want to consider getting them a backpack so they can carry their own meals. Also, remember that you must feed less volume if you feed dehydrated food without rehydrating it. Rehydrating the food before feeding is always better.
Store-bought dehydrated raw or cooked food
Everything I said above applies to this category. Beware of cheap imported foods, and even if you are buying local brands, the quality is generally less likely to be as good as if you make your dog's meals at home.
Canned processed food
This food is what I consider to be an emergency option. If you do not have anything else and your dog needs food, canned food is an option but rarely provides sufficient nutritional value due to lower quality ingredients in general. My dog is 3 years old at the time of writing this article, and he has never had a canned meal.
As a caring dog parent, you should also be concerned about the toxicity of can lacquers. You can find more information here.
Natural kibble or any other dry processed food
I am committed to never feeding my dog Pax kibble no matter what the label says unless it is a life-and-death emergency. The processed food habit is easy to get into, and difficult to get out of.
I understand that some of you may feed kibble as a part of your dog's daily diet, and I do not hold this against you. I am merely suggesting that processed food should always be the last resort if possible.
How often to feed
There are many opinions about feeding frequency, but I am confident that based on the evolution of the canine species, and contemporary science, feeding once per day, and fasting your dog once a week, is better than feeding them twice or three times daily.
Research has shown that fasting activates the cleansing processes and Sirtuin enzymes responsible for DNA repair and longevity. In other words, if you want to increase your dog's chances of a healthy and long life, once-a-day feeding is the way to go.
How much food to feed
What to do if your dog has diarrhea on your trip
From time to time every dog has a meal that doesn’t fit and their body will need to cleanse in order to restore balance. For a detailed natural guide to diarrhea in dogs, click here.
What supplements to bring
I always bring supplements for Pax and myself when I travel. Travelling is a source of additional stress no matter how fun it is, and ensuring optimal and complete nutrition is the best way to protect you and your dog so you can remain healthy and enjoy your trip.
There are four essential nutrient groups that I supplement:
Whatever food you decide to bring on your trip, I hope you will have a fantastic time with your beloved dog. The fact that you are taking them along with you makes you an amazing, caring, and compassionate dog parent.
I wish you a safe journey with your furry friend by your side,
they are fortunate to have you! ❤️