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Canned Dog Foods and Refrigerated or Frozen Cooked Foods

Photo of cans of dog food

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Canned Dog Foods

There are several reasons why canned food may be a better choice than kibble if you are feeding your dog a commercial food. First, canned foods contain far fewer chemical additives than dry foods. Artificial colors and flavors are much less common, and preservatives are unnecessary due to the canning process itself (however, this also means that canned food will quickly spoil if left out at room temperature). Second, canned foods generally have much less grain than dry foods. Kibble must be at least 50% carbohydrates  in order to be extruded without gumming up the machinery; canned foods have no such requirement. Fewer carbs also means more protein and fat, both of which are good for most dogs. And third, canned food has more moisture and is better for the kidneys, which makes it easier to digest -- you can achieve the same result with kibble by soaking it first, but remember that soaked kibble will also spoil quickly if left out at room temperature.

Here are some of the better canned foods that I have heard about. This is not a complete list of the high quality foods available, which is growing all the time. For a more detailed list, see the Whole Dog Journal, which publishes an article on the best canned foods every other January in odd-numbered years. You can also write to me for comments on any individual food you may be interested in (my email address is at the bottom of the page). I have added links to Amazon and other online sources for many of these foods if you are unable to find them locally, though shipping will add substantially to the cost.

Note there are some drawbacks to canned foods as well. Many canned foods use carrageenan as a thickening agent. Carrageenan has been associated with intestinal ulceration, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and acid reflux. Most cans are lined with Bisphenol-A (BPA), which has been associated with certain problems in humans, although at this time there does not appear to be a viable alternative. See the following for more infomation:

Some of these companies offer vegetarian diets, but I do NOT recommend feeding your dog a vegetarian diet. See Don't Bite on the Veggie Dog and Vegetarian Diets for Dogs? for more information on this topic.

Recommended Canned Dog Foods
Product Description Available Online From
Addiction High quality ingredients. Grain-free, limited-ingredient diets that use mostly unusual proteins such as venison, rabbit, duck, buffalo, unagi [eel] and brushtail. Ideal for feeding to dogs with severe food allergies, but I would not recommend feeding exotic proteins to healthy dogs, as it's better to reserve them for future use in case your dog ever develops food allergies. White Dog Bone Company
Artemis Available in Europe and Asia, as well as the US. Human-grade, antibiotic- and hormone-free meats Amazon
PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
Blue
(Blue Buffalo)
Human-grade ingredients.
Blue recalled certain lots of its foods in October 2010 due to concern that these lots may contain higher levels of vitamin D than are specified, which can be life-threatening. The company was not as forthcoming as they should have been about the problem that led to this recall. See Another Blue Buffalo fail for more information. Another problem was found with the wrong food in a package in 2013, and once again, the company's attitude was poor; see Blue Buffalo Kibble Change? for more info.
Amazon
PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
By Nature Organics
(Blue Seal)
Organic chicken and turkey formulas that look very good. Both are grain-free. Note that the 100% Organic Chicken and Turkey are NOT complete diets and are useful only for supplemental feeding. Their Naturals line of 95% Meat formulas are OK, but make no mention of using human-grade ingredients. PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
California Natural See Natura below. Amazon
PetFoodDirect
Canidae Human-grade, hormone- and antibiotic-free ingredients. All ingredients are tested for melamine and cyanuric acid.
Grain Free Pure line of foods offers higher-protein, grain-free formulas that were reformulated in 2014 to use fresh meats and whole foods.
Amazon
PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
Castor & Pollux Organix Over 70% certified organic ingredients. In addition, chicken and turkey are free-range. Products are tested for melamine and cyanuric acid. Natural Ultramix line also appears to be high-quality, though not organic and it's not clear whether ingredients are human-grade. Company offers direct shipping to your home.
PetFlow
Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul High quality, hormone- and antibiotic-free ingredients. Offers higher-protein senior diet. PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
Doctors Foster & Smith High-quality ingredients, high meat content. Company offers direct shipping to your home.
Dogswell Uses antibiotic-free, cage-free chicken and duck. All canned foods are grain-free. Products are inspected for melamine. Note that the duck products contain other meats (chicken, salmon), so cannot be used as a novel protein for an elimination diet. Amazon
PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
Eagle Pack Holistic Select and Super Premium On the original web site, chicken and duck are listed as hormone- and antibiotic-free. Ingredients appear to be human-grade. Eagle Pack recently split off its Holistic Select label. The new Holistic Select web site has no specific information about ingredients. The following information appears on the original web site only, not on the Holistic Select web site: "Eagle Pack Super Premium formulas are nutritionally balanced so pet owners can mix up to 25% raw food with the Eagle Pack formulas." Eagle Pack and Wellness are now owned by the same company, called WellPet. Amazon
PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
EVO See Natura below. Amazon
PetFoodDirect
Fromm Family Foods Human-grade, USDA inspected meats, high-quality US-sourced ingredients. "We pay more for our fish, whitefish, and salmon to not be treated or preserved with ethoxyquin." Several varieties are limited-ingredient and grain-free, with unusual proteins, which can help dogs with food allergies. Fromm has replaced their canned foods in the Four Star Nutritionals line with Shredded Chicken, Shredded Pork, and Shredded Beef (as of 2/11), all grain-free. Their Gold Nutritionals line also includes canned foods. PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
Go! Natural (Petcurean) Human-grade ingredients. Now available in Germany, Israel and several Asian countries. Amazon
PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
Halo Spot's Stew Human-grade ingredients. Note these foods are higher in moisture (broth) than many canned foods, meaning you'll probably have to feed more than you would of other foods. PetFoodDirect
Holistic Select See Eagle Pack above.  
Homestyle See Nature's Variety below.  
I and Love and You New company founded in 2012 by the owner of Only Natural Pet Store. Human-quality ingredients; the company says, "Select Wild-Caught, Grass-Fed, Free-Range and Cage-Free meats raised without the use of antibiotics and growth hormones when available." Canned foods are grain-free. Appears identical to and is likely replacing Only Natural's EasyRaw below.

Amazon
Only Natural Pet

Innova See Natura below. Amazon
PetFoodDirect
Instinct See Nature's Variety below.  
Life4K9 Human-grade ingredients.  
Lotus Human-grade ingredients. All ingredients are sourced in North America (USA and Canada) except for lamb and green mussel, which come from New Zealand. Fish is ethoxyquin-free. No gums (carrageenan, guar, or xantham) used as thickeners. Canned at their own facility. See An Admirable Model: Lotus Pet Foods and An Inside Look at How Canned Dog Food is Made for more information about this company and their facility.

Amazon
PetFoodDirect

Merrick Offers several grain-free varieties in both their Classic and Grain Free (formerly Before Grain) lines, including a tripe variety.
Merrick has had treats recalled in 2010 due to salmonella contamination. While I don't consider salmonella to be a big concern and this doesn't affect their foods directly, the company's poor handling of the recall is an issue. See Friday-night dump-and-run recalls for more info.
Amazon
PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
Natura: California Natural, EVO and Innova All foods are tested by an independent laboratory for melamine and cyanuric acid (see press release). 
Natura was purchased by Proctor & Gamble in May 2010. The company claims that no changes have been made as of July, 2011. They no longer state on their web site that their foods use human-grade, hormone- and antibiotic-free ingredients, or that none of their ingredients are sourced from China, but they say this has to do with corporate policies rather than changes to ingredients sources. The company settled a lawsuit in 2011 regarding human-grade claims, filed before the buyout, which had to do with prohibitions against such claims for pet food, not any problems with their foods or ingredients.
California Natural: A limited ingredient diet that can be helpful for dogs with food allergies.
EVO: Grain-free, high in protein and fat (both of which are good for dogs, though fat should be limited to more moderate amounts for inactive dogs) and low in carbs. Now offering beef, chicken/turkey, duck, rabbit and venison varieties.
Innova: Original line of foods.
Amazon:
California Natural
EVO
Innova
PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
Natural Balance Human-grade ingredients. Products are tested for melamine and cyanuric acid. L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets are grain-free and may help dogs with food allergies; note that Potato and Duck formula replaced duck meal with potato protein in 2009, and so is very low in meat protein, which can lead to problems when fed long term. Also see the new Eatables line.
Natural Balance was bought by Del Monte in 2013.
Amazon
PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
Nature's Variety Instinct, Prairie and Homestyle Instinct is higher-protein, lower-carb and grain-free. Instinct now offers limited-ingredient diets for dogs with food allergies as well.
Homestyle is offering several new flavors that use unusual proteins (salmon, pork, bison), but they are mixed with more common proteins (chicken, turkey, beef), so not appropriate for dogs who need a limited-ingredient diet, and remember to save some of those exotic proteins for the future in case they're needed if your dog develops food allergies.
Amazon
PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
Newman's Own Organics Now offering grain-free Beef and Liver varieties that are 95% organic meat, with no carbs.

Amazon
PetFoodDirect
PetFlow

Party Animal "Organic" Gourmet Dog Food Uses organic (hormone- and antibiotic-free) meats and other high-quality ingredients. Several varieties are grain-free. Limited availability, can be found at Whole Foods (see their store locator for other sources)
Performatrin Ultra Human-grade, hormone- and antibiotic-free ingredients.  
Pet Promise Hormone- and antibiotic-free ingredients from animals raised humanely on family farms.
Note the company that makes this food has discontinued the line as of January 2010, though you can still find it on shelves.
PetFoodDirect
Prairie See Nature's Variety above.  
Solid Gold In addition to their regular canned foods, they also offer a Green Tripe canned dog food with very limited ingredients, which can help dogs with food allergies. Amazon
PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
Spring Naturals Products use meat (not meal) plus eggs, whole vegetables, fruits, and grains. Also offers grain-free and organic varieties. Grain-free dinners (not stews) are 95% meat. All ingredients are from the U.S.

Amazon
PetFoodDirect

Tiki Dog (Petropics) Human-grade ingredients, most appear to be from Thailand. All foods include fish that is sustainably caught. PetFlow
Timberwolf Organics Offers four new canned foods, all high-protein and low-carbohydrate. Despite the name, these foods are not organic. Amazon
PetFoodDirect
VeRUS Pet Foods Human-grade ingredients. Chicken is antibiotic-free. PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
Vets Choice Holistic Health Extension Human-grade ingredients, but no mention of antibiotics and hormones. I have been told third-hand that this company is privately owned in Long Island, NY. Limited availability. Limited availability
PetFlow
Wellness Human-grade ingredients. Products are tested for melamine and cyanuric acid. Now offering their high-protein, grain-free CORE formulas in two canned varieties. Also offers 95% Meat Formulas (see Mixers and Toppers category on their web site) that are not complete diets but can  be used as a mixer, similar to adding plain meat. Eagle Pack and Wellness are now owned by the same company, called WellPet. Amazon
PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
Weruva Approved for human consumption. Chicken is antibiotic-free. Some varieties are grain-free. Non-Kobe varieties are very high moisture percentage (lots of water), so you will likely have to feed more than with other canned foods. PetFoodDirect
Wysong Wysong also makes Au Jus all meat diets that are not complete diets but can be used as a mixer, similar to adding plain meat. They include some exotic proteins (duck, rabbit, venison) that can be used in an elimination diet to test for food allergies. Check out their new Uncanny dehydrated products, which are high-protein and low-carb, with low heat processing, but very expensive and designed for supplemental feeding only (not a complete diet). Amazon
PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
ZiwiPeak New Zealand food made from human-grade, free-range, antibiotic- and hormone-free meats. Products are 85% meat-based and grain-free. Limited ingredients, may be good for dogs with food allergies. Varieties include Lamb, Venison, and a mixture of those two meats with lamb and venison tripe. "Where to Buy" link indicates it is available at limited locations in the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

K9RawDiet
Amazon
PetFoodDirect
White Dog Bone Company
PetFlow

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"All Meat" Diets

"All meat" diets are not complete, but they may be useful for feeding short-term (up to three months) as an elimination diet to determine whether your dog has food allergies, especially if they use unusual proteins. When you do this, you should feed a food your dog has never had before, and nothing else, including no treats, supplements or chews. See Allergies for more information on elimination diets.

All meat diets can also be used to supplement dry or canned dog food (as can fresh meat, cooked or raw). If you do this, I would stick to the more common meats rather than feeding exotic proteins, which should be reserved in case they are needed in the future for food allergies. See the section on Adding Fresh Foods for more info.

See Dog Food Mixes for mixes and supplements that can be used to balance an all-meat diet.

All Meat Diets
Product Description Available online from
By Nature
(Blue Seal)
100% organic canned all meat chicken and turkey varieties. They also offer these same meats combined with limited vegetables and supplements. The all meat diets are definitely not complete, and there is no mention of meeting AAFCO guidelines even on the varieties that have added veggies and supplements, though they may. These foods contain only 20 kcals per ounce, which is lower than most canned foods, so you'd have to feed more of them. Amazon
PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
Canine Caviar Makes a canned Beaver diet that is nothing but processed beaver meat (from animals harvested to control their population). This company also makes canned Duck (with sweet potato), Turkey and Venison Tripe all meat varieties with nothing else added. Beaver variety is available by the case at Whole Pet Foods. PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
Evanger's
100% Meat Classic and Game Meats lines. PetFoodDirect
Merrick Grain-free varieties, including Tripe. Formerly called Before Grain. PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
PetKind PetKind Venison, Duck and Salmon has fish oil added, but is still not a complete diet. Due to having three different proteins plus fish oil, it would not be a good choice to use to test for food allergies. There is no mention of using human-grade ingredients. PetFoodDirect
Tripett Offers canned beef and lamb tripe with very little added (just garlic and vegetable gum, plus fish oil and glucosamine/chondroitin in the lamb variety).
Warning: tripe smells awful, but dogs love it.
Amazon
PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
Wellness Makes 95% meat formulas designed to be added to kibble (they are not complete diets) -- see Mixers and Toppers category on their web site. They add natural flavors, cassia gum, and carrageenan, which should be avoided if you're trying to feed a true elimination diet to test for food allergies, but are otherwise OK. Varieties include chicken, beef, venison, salmon and turkey. PetFoodDirect
PetFlow
Wysong See their Au Jus varieties. Amazon
PetFlow

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Refrigerated or Frozen Cooked Foods

Country Pet Naturals is a frozen, cooked diet made from hearts, lungs, livers, kidney, meat and bone from range-raised lamb, beef, chicken and poultry, free of antibiotics and hormones. One variety has a small amount of veggies. No grains. Made in New Zealand and available at some retailers such as Whole Foods. Meets AAFCO guidelines for all life stages. Note that Country Pet is made by Canz, who also make Butch (New Zealand only) and Real Meat labels. The Real Meat line is now dehydrated.

freshfetch A relatively new company located in Southern California (cooking is done in Palm Springs; offices are in LA). They make complete diets that meet AAFCO and NRC guidelines. Options include Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Salmon, Lamb and Meatless (includes eggs, so is OK to feed). All varieties except meatless (which contains rice) are grain-free. Foods are lightly cooked. Can be shipped anywhere in the US and Canada. Shipping costs around $20 to Southern California; $20-$35 to adjacent areas (Arizona, Nevada, and as far north as Sacramento). Anything further must be shipped by air to ensure food stays cold, so it costs more, around $50+. Costs will vary depending on the amount purchased, but generally the more you buy, the less the cost per package. Add foods to your shopping cart and begin checkout process to see exact shipping charges (no registration required; costs will be shown before checkout is complete). If you live in Southern California, you can make arrangements to pick up the food locally.

Freshpet makes three fresh (not frozen) refrigerated products: Homestyle Select, Vital, and Deli Fresh. All are pasteurized and "gently cooked with minimal heat." Both Homestyle Select and Deli Fresh are made up of approximately 70% meat and 30% vegetables and grains. Deli Fresh contains a mix of fibers and prebiotics, which may be helpful for dogs with digestive issues. Vital is grain-free, with 80% or more poultry, meat or fish, with 20% or less vegetables and fruits. All ingredients are human-grade, but there's no mention of whether meat is hormone- and antibiotic-free. Homestyle Select is available at some Costco and grocery stores. Deli Fresh is available at Petco, PetSmart and other stores.

Nature's Kitchen is a cooked, frozen complete diet from Maverick Pet Foods, who also makes Genesis Raw (frozen raw). All ingredients are human-grade, and are cooked at low temperatures to preserve nutrients. Food is flash-frozen after preparation so that no preservatives are needed. I tried this food with my dog, and found it to have less moisture (just 67%) than most similar products, meaning it is more nutrient-dense and therefore more cost-effective to feed (and to ship). Billed as "the raw diet alternative providing the high fresh meat content of raw, with the convenience and safety of cooked foods," all varieties are 80% meat (including bone), plus approximately 8% organs.

VibraPet makes a frozen, cooked product using human-grade ingredients that meets AAFCO guidelines. Delivery available and carried in a number of stores in the greater Sacramento CA area. Will ship to other areas, but shipping of frozen foods is generally prohibitively expensive.

My Perfect Pet makes frozen, cooked diets prepared with human-grade standards. Diets meet AAFCO guidelines, including some approved for puppies. Several grain-free varieties available. Most blends have moderate amounts of fat (appropriate for most pet dogs). The company also makes Snuggles Blend (low phosphorus for dogs with early kidney disease) and two Ultra-Low Glycemic (ULG) blends (suitable for dogs with diabetes), and will prepare custom blends as well. Complete nutritional analysis provided for all foods. Currently available only at stores in California, Arizona, and Colorado. Shipping is also available.

JustFoodForDogs makes frozen, cooked diets made with high-quality, human-grade ingredients. Each recipe uses its own customized supplement blend. The company also offers their JustDailyMeals supplement blends and recipes in JustDoItYourself kits so that you can make the food at home if you choose. All daily diets meet AAFCO guidelines, and two can be used for puppies (though their Fish recipe is quite low in fat for a puppy). The food is made in Southern California, where delivery is available, or it can be shipped anywhere in the U.S. This company also offers prescription JustVetSupportDiets and customized diets. Unfortunately, they do not offer JustDoItYourself kits for their prescription diets, but for their customized diets, you can choose to make them yourself or have the company make them for you. See my article, Better Choices for Home-Prepared and Special Needs Recipes, for more information.

Rayne Clinical Nutrition makes a line of wet "peel and serve" and frozen limited-ingredient diets using exotic proteins. They come in two forms: an incomplete diet that consists of just one protein and one carbohydrate and nothing else, suitable for use as an elimination diet for diagnosing food allergies; and a complete form of those diets that add supplements. They also make treats using the same limited ingredients. These foods are very expensive (estimate $4-$11.50 per day for a 30-pound dog) plus shipping ($5.95 per case for "peel and serve;" frozen is more).
Update: One person reported that their two dogs experienced severe gastrointestinal upset from the Cod & Sweet Potato Maintenance diet. The food looked different than it had before, but the company told them that nothing had changed. Please let me know if anyone else experiences similar problems.

Evermore Pet Food offers a frozen, cooked complete diet in chicken and beef varieties using high-quality, human-grade, antibiotic- and hormone-free ingredients. No AAFCO statement on the website, but nutritional analyses indicate both foods meet AAFCO guidelines for adult dogs. Currently available only in the Northeast.

Frenchie's Kitchen offers frozen, cooked diets made  in a USDA human food facility with 100 % USDA approved human grade ingredients. While the ingredients look very good, the company does not provide an AAFCO nutritional statement, and it appears these diets would not meet AAFCO guidelines without added supplementation. They would be fine to feed short-term, or as part of a complete diet, but I would not feed them exclusively. The company is located in Corpus Christie, Texas, with retailers in Texas, Southern California, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Utah.

Rudy Green's Doggy Cuisine offers homemade, human-grade cooked and frozen foods, but these are not a complete diet, as no supplements (not even calcium) are added. Fine to feed occasionally, or to add as top dressing to kibble, or to feed short-term to an adult dog, but long-term feeding of this food only would lead to nutritional deficiencies.

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If you have any questions or comments, you can contact me, but I have less time to answer questions than I used to, and it may be several days to a week before I can respond. My name is Mary Straus and you can email me at either or

   


Rocky is a Yorkie-Poodle mix who had suffered from digestive problems his whole life. Click on his image to read about the diet his owner finally found to help him.
Pashoshe Fisher, a Chihuahua, was a wonderful, joyful companion to his owner for 19 & a half years. He was on a high quality raw diet for over half his life.
This is Ella, my Norwich Terrier.