Traveling with raw dog food takes a little advance planning and preparation, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating, and you don’t need to resort to kibble when on the road. Here are some tips to make sure your entire family has a great trip!
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CHOOSE A COOLER
We recommend a plastic cooler, on wheels, for easy mobility and packing. To calculate your cooler size, figure out the pounds of food or number of bags you’ll need per day, and multiply by the number of days you’ll be traveling.
As an example, our Rottweiler eats three pounds per day and our Miniature Bull Terrier eats half a pound on average. We usually travel for four to five days. We fit their meals in a 60-quart rolling cooler. When gone longer than five days, we pack an extra cooler.
You may be scratching your head, wondering how we fit all this food in a smaller cooler: I pack it tight! Remember, frozen food acts as ice, which maximizes space.
FILLING THE COOLER
Once food is prepared, divide into meal portions, a separate bag for each meal. We use clear plastic zipper bags, as food is easily molded into different forms for packing the cooler tightly.
Place the food into the plastic bag, push all the food to the bottom section of the bag, remove any air pockets, seal, then roll the remaining plastic around the food, just like wrapping a burrito. Stella Mae, our Bull Terrier, has food allergies. Her food is stored separately, and we can easily identify it through the clear plastic bags.
After packing and rolling the bags, freeze them.
Once all portions are frozen, it’s time to layer them inside the cooler.
We organize by day; the top layer contains meals for the first two days. Add the frozen food portions vertically, instead of lengthwise, as you can pack more food into a space using this method and you can view all food portions at a glance.
Once the first layer is complete, fill the gaps with smaller ice chunks.
Then add a second layer of rolled up food portions; this top layer will be used during your first days of travel. Most coolers are colder at the bottom, so the bottom portions will stay frozen longer.
It’s vital to pack the cooler completely and tightly. Frozen food bags act as large ice chunks, which stay frozen much longer than smaller ice chunks. Fill any gaps with smaller ice chunks. Gaps are air pockets that trap heat, which causes food to thaw quicker, so fill them up. For larger gaps, or if the cooler is not filled completely with frozen food, fill the extra space with ice packs or frozen plastic bottles of water. The larger the frozen item, the more slowly it thaws. If traveling or camping in hot and humid weather, we line the bottom, sides and top of the cooler with aluminized bubble wrap, which you can find at your local home improvement store and cut into rectangles to fit the cooler.
We divide supplements into daily doses, pack them in labeled glass or plastic containers and store them in a backpack. We don’t add supplements to frozen raw meals, as some supplements become unstable or lose their effectiveness when frozen. Into the backpack we add measuring spoons, dog treats (dried fruit and dehydrated meat), food-stuffed toys, chews and our pet first aid bag. Then we attach the backpack to the handle of the cooler, so everything is packed together.
Staying with friends
Ask if you can store frozen food in your friend’s freezer. Ask your friend before leaving for your trip, as many people have overflowing freezers with limited space. Asking ahead provides plenty of time for your host to create space in their freezer, and if they don’t have space, you’ll know to pack your cooler.
Feeding a commercial raw food
Locate suppliers along your travel route and estimate when you’ll need to purchase more food. This works great if you have limited vehicle space, so you can pack a smaller cooler to store food in until your next purchase. For the most part, feeding a commercial raw food while traveling is well tolerated by dogs who are used to eating a homemade raw diet at home.
Fresh food from grocery stores
This is a great option if you want access to fresh food daily. Pick up chicken and turkey wings, leg quarters or whole poultry -whatever protein your dog loves. If feeding vegetables, cooked versions work wonderfully, as your dog can easily digest them. As a general rule, fresh food lasts three days when stored in a cooler. Depending on the raw food model used, storage may be a concern for some pet guardians.
Freeze-dried raw food
This is an excellent option that is well tolerated by most raw fed dogs. Due to the hydration process, smaller amounts of freeze-dried raw food are needed. The only drawback is the price. While reasonable for smaller dogs, the cost can add up quickly for larger dogs, putting quite a dent in your wallet!
So, there you go! Choose which variation works best for your dog, travel schedule and itinerary. Happy travels!