When planning a trip with your pup, it’s easy to pack and store kibble or canned food. For raw fed dogs, it can come off a bit more intimidating for the pet owner since there is some more preparation involved. However I am here to give you all the tips and tricks on keeping your pups raw food fresh as well as some other options to keep you from resorting to feeding kibble on the road!
First, you will want to plan out your trip completely with keeping your dog in mind. Sometimes trips don’t always go as planned, so it’s vital to ensure that you will have access to a grocery store or pet store in case something happens to your dog’s meals. Check in advance for any grocery stores or pet stores along your route where you can buy fresh raw food or freeze-dried food!
Calculate how many days you will be gone and how many meals you need to pack for your dog, then add a couple of days worth of meals onto that just in case anything happens. If you suspect you will not have enough room for all of your dog’s meals, you will want to research grocery stores and/or pet stores along the way to stock up. Keep in mind that it’s OK for your dog to go a day or two without a full balanced meal. Some table scraps are safe to feed your pup to hold them over, and before we domesticated dogs they were living in the wild lucky to eat one meal a day! Some pet parents like myself actually skip at least 1 day of feeding meals for nutrient and therapeutic fasting.
If you will be staying at a friends house, ask in advance if you can use their freezer for the meals. If you are staying at a pet friendly hotel, bring the cooler into the hotel room and refill it completely with fresh ice every morning and night. Keep in mind that purchased bags of ice from a gas station or store will last longer than the free hotel ice! In addition, you may want to pack yourself a separate cooler if you will be bringing cold drinks, snacks and food for yourself so that you aren’t sharing a cooler with a bunch of your dog’s raw meals.
Now it’s time to pack! You may not need everything I list, but they will surely be helpful during your travel!
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
1. High quality cooler. I have named a few of the top rated brands further into this article for reference - you will not want to buy a cheap cooler and have it result in thawed raw food that you can’t feed after 3-4 days, especially if it’s summertime and the food goes rancid.
2. Raw meals. The most important part of traveling, you will need your dog’s food! You will want to tightly package each meal to utilize the entire space of the cooler. To make it simple, package each meal individually in ziploc bags, remove any air bubbles, and roll like you would a burrito. If your dog eats twice a day, package the morning and evening portions in separate bags. If you are feeding different meals, be sure the first days worth of meals is packed closer to the top and the last meals at the bottom.
3. Water. You can never pack too much water! Hopefully after you have planned your trip out you have found that you won’t have to worry about being out of water, but it’s crucial your dog stays hydrated during this trip especially if it’s hot outside since dogs can get dehydrated quicker than you think.
4. Ice and/or reusable ice packs. Reusable ice packs are great to start off with, but you will need to maintain the coldness of those ice packs by packing some fresh ice as well. When you make pit stops for gas or to use the restroom, refill on ice to ensure everything stays cold and frozen.
5.Paper plates and/or paper bowls. I have to say, paper plates make traveling a lot simpler so that you don’t have to worry about washing a bowl each time. Plus, paper plates save on space!
6. Gloves. At home, I never use gloves when it comes to preparing and feeding raw meals, but when you are on the road, the last thing you will want to worry about is cross contamination. For road trips and camping you will be limited to sinks, so wearing gloves gives you a peace of mind that you won’t get raw meat on your hands.
7. Containers. I like to pack a couple containers while I travel even if I am using ziploc bags just in case a hole happens in the bag. Some pet parents prefer to pack the raw meals in containers versus ziploc bags, which is totally fine, but containers do tend to take up more space.
8. Paper towels. You will want to pack at least one roll of paper towels to have with you in case of spilling, leakage, or if you are feeding in the car and you don’t want an entire mess!
9. Wet wipes and/or bleach wipes. Following paper towels, you may want to pack a bag of wet wipes or bleach wipes to help disinfect after wiping down with paper towels!
Although this article is based on how to travel with a raw fed dog, I wanted to provide some extra items that you may want to think about taking with you on your trip!
1. CBD oil or calming aid. I am lucky that my pups don’t get anxious or car sick, however on longer trips they tend to get excited and are ready to get out of the car and play. Even though making frequent stops to let your dogs out to potty and walk around for a bit is ideal, I understand that you are wanting to get to your destination as quick as possible. CBD oil or calming aids can help your pups relax during long travel and can help with anxiety or car sickness.
2. Raw Bones. Bones such as necks, wings, or femurs can help keep your pup busy on a car ride, when you take a rest break or when you arrive at your destination. I love giving my pup a fresh bone to chew on while we cook ourselves up some dinner at the campsite, so it’s always helped me to pack a few bones in the cooler.
3. Supplements. Generally when I go on trips I tend to leave behind spirulina, bone broth and other additional supplements that I don’t make apart of daily meals. But I do feed raw probiotics daily such as goat milk and kefir which need to stay cold. Luckily, these generally last in the refrigerator for at least 7 days, so you don’t need to freeze and thaw daily if you are on a trip shorter than a week. I pack these thawed supplements in a separate cooler that I just keep around 40 degrees. These liquid supplements also help keep your pup hydrated too! If you have supplements that you feed daily with your pups meals such as joint powder or non raw supplements that can be kept at room temperature those can be packed in a small bag!
When it comes to thawing the raw meals, this is also an easy step! Place one day’s worth of meals on top of the ice (between the ice-filled cooler and lid.) This allows the meals to thaw on top of the ice without going rancid outside of the cooler and kept at around 40 degrees. Do not thaw raw food in the hot sun if you are trying to speed up the process because raw food can start growing bacteria quickly especially sitting in the heat. Although most dogs’ stomachs can handle bacteria growth, it’s not worth the risk!
HIGH QUALITY COOLERS:
Yeti is known to be one of the best, if not the best, cooler out there to keep all your food frozen and staying fresh. They are a bit pricier, but as I mentioned before you don’t want to pinch pennies and have food end up going rancid. Comparable coolers are: Igloo, RTIC, Orca and Coleman.
Although traveling with fresh, frozen raw food can be made simple, there is always the option of packing and feeding freeze-dried food during your trip! Freeze-drying is a process where the moisture is removed from the raw food while still maintaining the meat’s enzymes and natural vitamins. Freeze-drying retains about 97% of the nutrients, which makes it a great food choice compared to extruded foods like kibble. There are quite a few quality brands of freeze-dried food out there that are convenient for traveling. You can actually take frozen, raw meat on a plane as long as it is packed and stored correctly, however, one of the reasons freeze-dried food is used often is the convenience factor, so it can be worth it to travel by plane with freeze-dried food instead. Besides the convenience factor for freeze-dried foods, the cost of it is significantly higher than feeding fresh, frozen raw food for medium to large dogs. However I personally love to have at least one bag with me at all times regardless of traveling in case of a power outage and I don’t have fresh food to feed my pup.
Even though you can feed freeze-dried food the way it is, keep in mind it’s highly concentrated and extremely dry, so it’s best to add in some water to rehydrate for at least 10 minutes so that your pup doesn’t become dehydrated.
In addition to freeze-dried foods, there are some air-dried foods and treats that you can use during travel if you are in a pinch. Air-drying is when raw ingredients are placed into drying chambers, where air is continually circulated, slowly and gently evaporating moisture until a maximum level of 14% is reached. Air-drying is a method that has been used for centuries to naturally preserve meats and can be a cost friendlier option.
Freeze-dried versus Air-dried
Two of my favorite air-dried products are Ziwi Peak and Real Dog Box.
Ziwi Peak’s ingredients all come from local farms in New Zealand that include over 96% fresh meat, organs, bone and seafood. Their air-dried food is extremely cost friendly for smaller to medium dogs. My 50lb husky only needs 3 scoops a day of their food (scooper comes in the bag) so a 16oz bag would last me around 3-4 days, that’s not too bad for around $20 in my opion (in exception of their Venison, that’s a much higher price.)
3 bags of treats, 3 bags of chews, 2 add-on super chews
Real Dog Box uses local suppliers and distributors in the U.S. to source almost all of their products. Some exceptions are their lamb and mussels from New Zealand and Australia, and in some cases wild-caught fish from the Pacific Northwest whose country of origin is technically Canada. They offer an amazing value box of 3 bags of treats (muscle meat, organ meat and seafood) as well as 3 bags of chews for $39 - that makes each bag of treats around $6.50! I can’t remember the last time I found a bag of single ingredient, high quality meat treats for that price. Generally around 3lbs of meat is used per 2-3oz bag of treats, so a little goes a long way. I always add-on 2 super chews for $8 each for my pups since they keep them busy, provide a great teeth cleaning and also replace a meal! I also feed these treats in place of meals sometimes too and my dogs are always satisfied. You can even rehydrate their treats and chews back to their original form with some warm water!
You see, traveling with your pup is a lot of fun and it doesn’t have to be stressful prepping and planning! Traveling is great for introducing your pup to whole new environments they have never been in before. Be sure to plan ahead, invest in a high quality cooler, and bring items that are easy to throw away. Lastly, remember to have fun and use this time as an opportunity to really bond with your pup!