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How to Safely Handle and Store Frozen Raw Dog Food

by Scott Marshall June 05, 2024 16 min read

How to Safely Handle and Store Frozen Raw Dog Food


Frozen raw dog food is often viewed as a niche choice compared to traditional kibble or canned diets for dogs. Yet, it distinguishes itself with a focus on preserving natural nutrients and offering a diet that closely mirrors what dogs would eat in the wild. This unique approach not only caters to a dog's nutritional needs but also appeals to pet parents looking for a more natural feeding option for their furry companions.

This specialized feeding choice stands out in the broad spectrum of dog diets, providing a distinct experience that positions frozen raw dog food as a unique category within pet nutrition. Key forms of frozen raw dog food include whole pieces, ground mixes, and pre-formed patties, each known for their convenience and specific benefits. Frozen raw treats also offer a refreshing and nutritious option for pet owners wishing to indulge their dogs with something special.

Delving deeper, each type of frozen raw dog food introduces its own set of nutritional benefits, storage requirements, safety considerations, and recommendations for feeding routines. The subsequent sections will delve into these topics in more detail, offering a comprehensive understanding of how to safely handle and store frozen raw dog food, ensuring it remains a beneficial and enjoyable part of your dog's diet.

Table of Contents


Frozen raw dog food is a diet for dogs that embraces the philosophy of feeding pets a diet that closely mirrors what their ancestors would consume in the wild. It consists of uncooked meats, bones, fruits, and vegetables, all preserved through freezing. This diet aims to provide dogs with a nutrient-rich feeding option that maintains the natural integrity of its components.

Unlike traditional dog foods that are subjected to high levels of cooking and processing, frozen raw dog food keeps essential vitamins, minerals, and enzymes intact, thanks to its minimal processing. This preservation method ensures that the food stays as close to its natural state as possible, offering a high-quality dietary choice for dogs. By opting for frozen raw dog food, pet parents make a conscious decision to prioritize natural ingredients, minimal processing, and the preservation of nutritional value, catering to the instinctual dietary preferences of their canine companions.

To provide a clearer understanding, here's a detailed breakdown of typical components found in frozen raw dog food and their nutritional benefits:



Nutritional Benefits


Beef, Chicken, Lamb, Fish

High-quality proteins, essential amino acids for muscle development and energy.


Chicken necks, Lamb ribs

Natural source of calcium and phosphorus for bone and dental health.


Apples, Blueberries

Vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber for digestive health and immune support.


Carrots, Spinach

Vitamins, minerals, and fiber for overall health, including eye health and immune system support.

This diet aims to mimic the natural eating habits of wild ancestors, providing a balanced and nutrient-dense option for domestic dogs. By incorporating a variety of raw ingredients, frozen raw dog food offers a comprehensive approach to canine nutrition, emphasizing the importance of natural, unprocessed foods in maintaining health and vitality. Studies supporting the health claims of raw diets highlight the potential benefits of such nutrient-rich ingredients.

For instance, research suggests that diets high in unprocessed meats and fresh produce can contribute to improved digestion, healthier skin and coat, and more stable energy levels in dogs. However, it's crucial for pet parents to consult with a veterinarian to ensure that their dog's individual nutritional needs are being met, as each dog may require adjustments to their diet based on health status, age, and activity level.


Safe handling and storage of frozen raw dog food are paramount to prevent bacterial growth, such as Salmonella, and to maintain its nutritional value and freshness. These practices are essential for safeguarding the health of both pets and their human families. Properly managing the thawing, handling, and storing processes ensures that the food retains its beneficial properties and minimizes the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Recent studies have shown that improper handling and storage of raw pet food can significantly increase the risk of foodborne illnesses. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine found that up to 30% of raw pet food samples tested were contaminated with harmful bacteria, including Salmonella and E. coli.

These findings underscore the critical need for strict safety measures. Furthermore, research indicates that poor storage conditions can lead to the degradation of essential nutrients in raw dog food. A report by the National Research Council highlighted that vitamins and enzymes in raw food can degrade by over 50% when not stored at the recommended temperatures, emphasizing the importance of maintaining proper storage conditions to preserve the nutritional value and freshness of the food.


Adhering to safe handling and storage protocols for frozen raw dog food is critical to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria such as Salmonella. These bacteria can pose significant health risks to both dogs and humans, potentially leading to foodborne illnesses. By ensuring that raw dog food is stored at the correct temperature and handled with care, the risk of bacterial contamination is significantly reduced.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that Salmonella infections can lead to serious health complications, highlighting the importance of preventing contamination through safe handling practices.


Proper storage and handling also play a pivotal role in preserving the nutritional value and freshness of raw dog food. Keeping the food frozen until it is time to thaw it for feeding helps maintain its essential vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. This preservation of nutrients ensures that dogs receive the full health benefits of their diet, supporting their overall well-being and vitality.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, maintaining the cold chain is crucial for minimizing nutrient loss in raw diets, further illustrating the importance of correct storage and handling methods.


Proper thawing of frozen raw dog food is essential to maintain its safety and nutritional integrity. Thawing should always be done in the refrigerator, not at room temperature, to minimize the risk of bacterial growth. This process requires planning ahead, as it typically takes 12-24 hours depending on the quantity and density of the food.

Thawing in the fridge ensures a slow, safe transition from frozen to thawed, preserving the food's quality and making it safe for your dog to consume. This methodical approach to thawing is crucial for maintaining the balance between convenience and the health benefits of a raw diet. Thawing at room temperature can not only increase the risk of bacterial growth but also lead to changes in the food's texture and composition, which might make it less appealing or even indigestible for some dogs.

For instance, rapid temperature changes can cause the fats in the raw food to oxidize more quickly, potentially leading to rancidity and a loss of nutritional value.


Thawing frozen raw dog food in the refrigerator is crucial to prevent bacterial growth and ensure the food remains safe for consumption. This method significantly reduces the risk of harmful bacteria like Salmonella from developing, which can occur when food is thawed at room temperature. Additionally, refrigerator thawing helps maintain the food's original texture and nutritional profile, ensuring your dog receives the full benefits of their diet.


Due to the time it takes for frozen raw dog food to safely thaw in the refrigerator, planning ahead is essential. Depending on the size and density of the food, thawing can take 12-24 hours. To accommodate this, consider establishing a regular feeding schedule that includes setting aside time each day to transfer the next meal's portion from the freezer to the refrigerator.

For example, moving the food to thaw overnight can ensure it's ready by your dog's next mealtime. This slow thawing process is key to maintaining the food's nutritional integrity and ensuring it's ready for your dog's next meal, without the risks associated with quicker, less safe methods.


Handling frozen raw dog food safely is essential to protect both your pet's health and your own. This involves using separate utensils and bowls for your dog's food to prevent cross-contamination with human foods or utensils. It is also crucial to wash hands thoroughly before and after handling raw dog food to minimize the risk of transferring bacteria like Salmonella or *E.

coli* to yourself or other surfaces in your home. These simple yet effective practices help maintain a hygienic environment and ensure the safe preparation of your dog's raw diet, contributing to the overall well-being of your household.


Using separate utensils and bowls for preparing and serving your dog's frozen raw food is crucial. This practice helps prevent cross-contamination between your pet's food and your family's meals. By keeping these items separate, you significantly reduce the risk of spreading bacteria and ensure a safer environment for both your pet and your household.


Washing hands thoroughly before and after handling raw dog food is essential for maintaining hygiene and preventing the spread of pathogens. Here are detailed instructions to enhance safety:

  • Water Temperature: Use warm water to help remove oils and residues that can harbor bacteria.
  • Type of Soap: Any antibacterial soap is recommended, but any soap will work effectively if used properly.
  • Duration of Washing: Scrub your hands and under your nails for at least 20 seconds. A simple way to time this is by humming the "Happy Birthday" song twice from beginning to end.

This simple yet effective measure protects against bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli, which can be harmful to both humans and pets. The friction created by scrubbing, combined with the soap's ability to break down fats and oils, effectively removes bacteria from the skin.

Rinsing with warm water then washes the bacteria away, significantly reducing the risk of contamination. Ensuring clean hands during the preparation and serving process safeguards the health of everyone in the home.


Correct storage of frozen raw dog food is vital to preserving its quality and safety. The key is to keep it at 0°F (-18°C) or below, which ensures that the food remains frozen and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria. Using airtight containers or freezer bags can further protect the food from freezer burn and contamination, maintaining its nutritional value and freshness over time.

Additionally, labeling containers with thawing and expiration dates helps manage the rotation of your dog's food supply, ensuring they are always fed the freshest possible meals. Proper storage techniques are crucial for maximizing the benefits of a raw diet while safeguarding the health of your pet.


Keeping frozen raw dog food at 0°F (-18°C) or below is essential for preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. This temperature ensures the food stays frozen, preserving its safety and nutritional integrity over time. Beyond preventing bacterial growth, maintaining this temperature is crucial for preserving the food's texture and nutritional integrity.

Freezing food at this consistent temperature slows down the enzymatic processes that can cause food to spoil, ensuring that the food's natural flavors, vitamins, and minerals are preserved until consumption.


Storing the food in airtight containers or freezer bags helps protect it from freezer burn and contamination. This method maintains the food's freshness and quality, making it a safe and nutritious option for your dog. Freezer burn, which occurs when air reaches the food's surface and dehydrates it, can significantly affect the food's texture and taste, making it less appealing and potentially less nutritious.


Labeling containers with thawing and expiration dates is a crucial practice for managing your dog's diet. It helps ensure that you are feeding your pet the freshest food possible and aids in the proper rotation of stock, contributing to the overall health and well-being of your dog. Proper labeling also helps prevent waste by ensuring that older food is used first, maintaining an efficient feeding schedule.


To further enhance the storage process, below is a detailed table with examples of suitable airtight containers or freezer bags and tips for organizing the freezer to ensure proper rotation and preservation of the food's quality:

Storage Container Type


Tips for Use

Vacuum-Sealed Bags

Minimizes air exposure, preventing freezer burn and bacterial growth.

Label with dates before freezing. Flatten bags to stack and save space.

Airtight Plastic Containers

Reusable and durable, offering good protection against contamination.

Use square or rectangular containers to maximize space. Label lids with dates.

Freezer-Safe Glass Containers

Chemical-free and prevents flavor transfer. Good for long-term storage.

Ensure containers are freezer-safe to prevent cracking. Label with a non-permanent marker.

Heavy-Duty Freezer Bags

Convenient for portioning and easy to label.

Squeeze out excess air before sealing to prevent freezer burn. Label with dates and contents.


When serving frozen raw dog food, it's crucial to follow safe practices to ensure the health of your pet. Discard any leftovers after 2 hours to prevent the risk of bacterial growth, as raw food can quickly become unsafe at room temperature. Additionally, do not microwave the food to thaw or warm it, as this can unevenly heat the food and potentially lead to the growth of harmful bacteria.

Microwaving frozen raw dog food is not recommended because it can compromise the food's nutritional integrity and structure. The rapid heating process can destroy sensitive nutrients and alter the food's natural composition, reducing its health benefits. Furthermore, microwaving can lead to uneven heating, creating hot spots that can be harmful if ingested by your pet.

Instead, plan your pet's meals in advance, allowing the food to thaw in the refrigerator and serving it at a safe temperature. If you need to bring the food to a more palatable temperature for your dog, consider placing the thawed food in a sealed plastic bag and immersing it in warm water for a few minutes. This method gently warms the food without cooking it, preserving its nutritional value and making it more appealing to your pet.

These steps help maintain the safety and nutritional quality of the raw diet, contributing to your dog's health and well-being.


Discard any leftovers after 2 hours to minimize the risk of bacterial contamination. Raw dog food left at room temperature for longer can become unsafe, as it provides an ideal environment for bacteria to grow.


Do not microwave frozen raw dog food to thaw or warm it. Microwaving can cause uneven heating and potentially cook some parts of the food, which can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria and compromise the nutritional integrity of the raw diet.


Identifying spoiled raw dog food is crucial to ensure your pet's health and safety. A foul odor is a clear indicator of spoilage, signaling that the food is no longer safe for consumption. Additionally, discoloration or mold growth on the food can indicate bacterial or fungal contamination.

Another sign to watch for is a slimy texture, which suggests that the food has begun to decompose. Being vigilant about these signs of spoilage can help you prevent feeding your dog contaminated food, thereby protecting them from potential health risks associated with spoiled food. To properly dispose of spoiled raw dog food, it's recommended to seal it in a biodegradable bag and discard it in a trash can that pets cannot access.

This prevents any risk of your dog or local wildlife from consuming the spoiled food and potentially getting sick. Understanding the difference between normal variations in raw food and actual signs of spoilage is also important. For example, some discoloration can occur due to freezer burn, which, while not ideal, does not necessarily mean the food is unsafe.

However, any signs of mold growth or a sour, rancid smell are definitive indicators of spoilage and the food should not be fed to your pet.


A foul odor emanating from raw dog food is a strong indicator of spoilage. This unpleasant smell suggests that the food has undergone bacterial degradation and is no longer safe for your dog to consume.


Discoloration or mold growth on raw dog food points to contamination. These visual cues signal that the food has been compromised and could pose health risks if ingested.


A slimy texture on the surface of raw dog food is a clear warning sign. This change in texture indicates that the food is starting to decompose and should not be fed to your dog. Feeding spoiled raw dog food to pets can lead to serious health issues, including vomiting, diarrhea, and food poisoning.

If you suspect your dog has consumed spoiled food, monitor them closely for any signs of illness and consult with a veterinarian immediately.


Cleaning thoroughly after serving raw dog food is crucial to maintaining a hygienic environment for both your pet and your family. Using hot, soapy water to wash bowls, utensils, and any surfaces that came into contact with the raw food helps eliminate harmful bacteria and prevent cross-contamination. Additionally, disinfecting these areas can further ensure that any lingering pathogens are killed, safeguarding the health of everyone in the household.

This practice not only contributes to a cleaner home but also supports the overall well-being of your dog by reducing the risk of foodborne illness. To enhance this section with specific recommendations and a practical framework:


Use hot, soapy water to clean bowls and utensils used for serving raw dog food. This step is essential for removing any residual food particles and bacteria, ensuring these items are safe for future use.

  • Recommended Disinfectants Safe for Pets:
    • Diluted bleach solution (1 part bleach to 32 parts water)
    • Vinegar and water solution (equal parts)
    • Pet-safe commercial disinfectants (follow label instructions for dilution and use)

Ensure that all cleaning agents are thoroughly rinsed off to prevent any residue.


Disinfect surfaces that came into contact with raw dog food to eliminate harmful pathogens. This precaution helps prevent the spread of bacteria and maintains a hygienic environment in your home.

  • Instructions for Proper Use:
    1. Clean the surface with hot, soapy water to remove food particles and debris.
    2. Apply the chosen disinfectant according to the manufacturer's instructions.
    3. Allow the disinfectant to sit for the recommended contact time.
    4. Rinse the surface with clean water if required by the product instructions.
    5. Dry the surface thoroughly with a clean towel or allow it to air dry.


Establishing a routine ensures that pet feeding areas remain clean and safe:

  • After Each Feeding: Wash and disinfect bowls and utensils.
  • Daily: Clean and disinfect the feeding area, including the floor beneath and around the feeding station.
  • Weekly: Conduct a deeper clean of the feeding area, including walls and any pet food storage containers.


Monitoring your dog's health is an integral part of feeding them a raw diet. Watch for signs of foodborne illness, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy, which could indicate that something in their diet isn't agreeing with them or that they've ingested spoiled food. Regular veterinary check-ups are recommended to ensure that the raw diet is meeting all of your dog's nutritional needs and to address any health concerns promptly.

This proactive approach helps in identifying potential issues early, allowing for timely intervention and adjustments to their diet as necessary, ensuring your dog remains healthy and vibrant.


Watch for signs of foodborne illness in your dog, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or unusual lethargy. These symptoms can indicate that your pet may have consumed spoiled food or is reacting adversely to their current diet.


Regular veterinary check-ups are recommended to ensure your dog's health while on a raw diet. These visits allow for professional monitoring of your dog's nutritional health and the early detection of any potential issues.


Health Aspect

Positive Effects

Negative Effects


Coat and Skin

Improved coat sheen and skin health

Possible allergic reactions to certain raw ingredients

Monitor for changes in coat texture or unexplained itching.


Better digestion, less stool volume

Risk of gastrointestinal upset or parasites from contaminated raw food

Observe stool consistency and frequency.

Energy Levels

Increased energy and vitality

Lethargy or decreased activity, possibly due to nutritional imbalance

Note any significant changes in activity levels.

Dental Health

Cleaner teeth, reduced tartar build-up

Risk of dental fractures from hard bones

Regular dental check-ups are advised.

Weight Management

Easier to maintain healthy weight

Risk of obesity if raw diet is not properly balanced

Regular weight checks and dietary adjustments as needed.

Behavioral Changes

Improved behavior due to better diet satisfaction

Potential for resource guarding with high-value raw foods

Monitor interactions with food and other pets.


Navigating the world of frozen raw dog food can raise many questions for pet parents, from understanding the basics of safe handling and storage to recognizing the signs of spoilage. This FAQ section aims to address common inquiries, providing clear and concise answers to help you confidently manage your dog's raw diet. Whether you're curious about the correct thawing methods, the importance of maintaining hygiene, or how to monitor your dog's health on a raw diet, this resource is designed to offer guidance.

By equipping yourself with this knowledge, you can ensure that your dog benefits fully from their raw food diet, maintaining their health and vitality.
How do I transition my dog from a traditional diet to frozen raw dog food?

  • Transitioning your dog to a raw diet should be done gradually over a period of 7-10 days. Start by mixing a small amount of raw food with their current food, gradually increasing the amount of raw while decreasing the amount of their old diet. Monitor your dog's digestion and adjust the transition period as needed.

Is frozen raw dog food more expensive than traditional dog food?

  •  Initially, frozen raw dog food may seem more expensive due to high-quality ingredients and minimal processing. However, investing in a raw diet can lead to better overall health, potentially reducing veterinary bills related to diet-induced health issues.

How can I ensure my dog's raw diet is nutritionally balanced?

  •  To ensure a balanced diet, choose commercially prepared raw dog food that meets AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standards, or consult with a veterinary nutritionist to design a balanced raw diet if you prefer homemade options.

How long can thawed raw dog food be safely stored in the refrigerator?

  •  Thawed raw dog food should be used within 2-3 days after thawing in the refrigerator. Always check for signs of spoilage before feeding.

 Can I feed my dog raw food if they have a health condition?

  •  Dogs with certain health conditions may require specific dietary considerations. Consult with your veterinarian before transitioning your dog to a raw diet, especially if they have a compromised immune system, chronic health issues, or are pregnant.

How do I properly dispose of spoiled raw dog food?

  • Dispose of spoiled raw dog food in a sealed plastic bag to prevent other animals from accessing it. Place it in an outside trash can to minimize the risk of spreading bacteria.

Can all breeds of dogs be fed a raw diet?

  • Most dogs can thrive on a raw diet, but individual needs can vary based on breed, age, and health status. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if a raw diet is suitable for your dog.

How often should I clean my dog's feeding and preparation areas?

  • Clean and disinfect your dog's feeding and food preparation areas daily to prevent bacterial growth and cross-contamination. Use hot, soapy water followed by a disinfectant safe for food surfaces.

What should I do if my dog shows signs of foodborne illness?

  • If your dog exhibits symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy, contact your veterinarian immediately. These could be signs of foodborne illness or other health issues.

Are there any foods that should never be included in a raw diet?

  • Avoid foods that are toxic to dogs, such as onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, and chocolate. Also, avoid feeding raw pork or fish due to the risk of parasites unless it has been frozen for an appropriate length of time to kill potential parasites.

By addressing these FAQs, pet parents can gain a better understanding of how to safely and effectively incorporate frozen raw dog food into their dog's diet, ensuring their furry friend enjoys the full benefits of a nutritious, balanced raw diet.

Scott Marshall
Scott Marshall

Scott has been feeding a raw dog food diet for over 13 years. He lives in Utah with his wife Arianne, his 11.5 year old german shepherd Wolken, and his 2.5 year old labradoodle Montu. Scott has been teaching others about raw feeding since 2013, started Raw Feeding 101 in 2017, and has been solely focused on simplifying the process of pet parents meeting their dogs’ daily nutrient requirements since 2018.

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