These days, it seems like there’s almost as much focus on our pets’ nutrition as there is on our own. If you’re a dog parent, you probably already know that the market is flooded with options from designer kibble, wet foods, dehydrated meals and now freeze-dried dog food, one of the latest trends.
Freeze-dried pet food is actually made with the same technology used to prepare food for space travel. Other than making it lighter and easier to store, this type of diet also has certain other benefits for your pet.
If you’ve heard of freeze-dried dog food but aren’t quite sure what it is or what it can do for your fur baby, read on. We’ll fill you in on the benefits, how it’s different from dehydrated dog food and some things you should know before making a switch.
We’ll also cover off some of our favorite options for freeze-dried dog foods. Let’s get rolling.
If your pet were living in the wild, they’d be eating mostly raw proteins like meat and fish. Although cooking food makes it safer from bacteria, it also changes the nutritional composition. That’s why some dog owners prefer feeding their pet a raw diet.
Not only is it naturally suited to their digestion, but it also has more nutrients. The downside is that feeding your pooch a raw diet can be labor intensive and may contain dangerous bacteria. Although dogs are more resistant to bacteria than humans, they too can become ill from certain pathogens from time to time.
Additionally, raw food needs to be handled with a lot of care to avoid cross-contamination and has a short shelf life. The next best thing? Freeze-dried dog food!
What Is Freeze-Dried Dog Food?
Freeze-dried dog food is prepared with raw, frozen meat (and, in some cases, vegetables). In order to dehydrate the food, it’s placed in a large machine that lowers the atmospheric pressure. This causes the water inside the food to convert directly from a solid to a gas – a process called sublimation.
Because there’s no heat involved in the dehydration process, freeze-dried dog food is considered to be a raw product. However, because the water has been removed, bacteria can’t reproduce as rapidly, which does make it slightly safer than unprocessed raw foods.
(However, it should be noted that once you add water to this food, the bacteria can start to reproduce again.)
Freeze-Dried Dog Food vs. Dehydrated Dog Food
So what’s the difference between freeze-dried dog food and dehydrated dog food? Although water is removed from the food in both cases, the process differs.
In the case of dehydrated foods, the raw ingredients are placed in a low-heat environment for an extended period of time until the water slowly converts into a gas. (This is the same process used to make dried fruit or jerky). So technically, dehydrated dog food is not a raw product.
Although the heat used is extremely low, it still changes the structure of the food, which is why raw dogs food fans usually opt for the freeze-dried approach.
Benefits of Freeze-Dried Dog Food
If you’re still wondering why you should feed your dog like an astronaut, here are some important benefits.
Nutritionally speaking, most freeze-dried dog foods are made with high-quality ingredients like whole meat, organs and ground bones (in contrast to meat meals and fillers you may find in other types of dry dog food.) And even though you may think of your dog as solely a carnivore, their diet would be partially plant-based in the wild.
To round out the nutritional profile of their food, some companies also include freeze-dried fruits and vegetables. Most freeze-dried foods are also made without artificial ingredients or fillers, which is another big plus.
These small changes can help them get the right amino acids and antioxidants and give your pup a better immune system.
Easy to Store
Although they are considered raw products, freeze-dried dog foods don’t require refrigeration and have an extremely long shelf life. This makes them easy to store and is also convenient for when you’re traveling with your dog.
And because this type of food lasts for a long time, it’s perfect to put in your emergency food storage bin for those times when getting to the pet store may not be possible.
Dr. Linda Simon, a veterinary surgeon and consultant for FiveBarks expanded on this idea, “A real benefit of this food type is that it lasts longer and can be transported, making it convenient to bring on the road with you when you’re traveling with your furry friend. Having food available with a long shelf life is also important during a pandemic, as was recently highlighted!”
A Simpler Alternative to Unprocessed Raw Food
As mentioned, unprocessed raw food is labor-intensive and requires a lot of care during preparation. Freeze-dried dog food, on the other hand, is more shelf-stable and as simple to serve as kibble. Just put it in the bowl, add water, and it’s ready!
Dogs Eat It Up
Most dogs really seem to like freeze-dried dog food. So if you have a picky eater on your hands, you may want to give this option a try, whether on its own or as a dog food topper.
The Drawbacks of Freeze-Dried Dog Food
It can’t be all fun and games. Here are some of the drawbacks of freeze-dried dog food.
Because the water is removed from freeze-dried dog food, bacteria can’t grow as fast, and there’s less chance of contamination than with unprocessed raw food. However, once rehydrated, bacteria can start to proliferate again.
That’s why it’s important to consult with your vet before you make any changes to your pet’s diet. While freeze-dried dog food may be safe for many dogs, for others (such as aging dogs, puppies or dogs with immunity problems), the risks may be too great.
Dr. Simon adds, “While raw food is preferred by some owners, it does pose a risk to dogs and humans with compromised immune systems and could potentially lead to food poisoning.”
So, again, best to check with your vet!
The biggest drawback to freeze-dried dog food is that it’s quite pricey compared to kibble. And while it does cost more and come in smaller bags, it’s important to keep in mind that the food does expand 3 to 5 times its original size once you add water.
Still, there’s no denying that freeze-dried dog food will affect your bottom line.
Best Freeze-Dried Dog Foods
Now that you know more about freeze-dried dog food, here are some of our favorite options.
For dogs with allergies to chicken or beef, this limited ingredient recipe with real turkey meat, organs and herring oil is hypoallergenic and easy to digest. This Crunchy Gourmet Gobbler is also wheat, gluten, corn, soy and grain free.
Pros: Limited ingredients, hypoallergenic, grain-free, no artificial colorings or flavorings, made in the USA
Cons: Pricey and contains no fruits or vegetables
If you want to add some fruits and vegetables to your pet’s diet, Buckley Liberty Freeze-Dried Lamp Recipe features real lamb meat and organs as well as squash, carrots, apples, blueberries, cranberries and dried kelp. Flaxseed and salmon oil also help to promote a healthy coat.
Pros: Made with real lamb, contains fruits and vegetables, has no grains or gluten, helps to promote a shiny coat, sourced completely in the USA, no artificial colors or preservatives
Cons: Although well-priced for the category, this option is still more expensive than kibble. It also contains eggs which may be an issue for dogs with an allergy to chicken.
A Dr. Simon recommendation, Instinct Raw Meals Chicken is made from 85% cage-free chicken meat and 15% non-GMO fruits and veggies for a complete and nutrient-rich meal. It also contains no grain, soy, legumes, artificial colors or preservatives.
Pros: High in protein, made with cage-free chicken meat and non-GMO veggies, contains no grain, soy, legumes, artificial colors or preservatives.
Cons: This freeze-dried dog food is one of the most expensive in an already expensive category. Chicken may be an allergen for some dogs.
While pricier than kibble, Rawwble is one of the more economically priced freeze-dried dogs foods on the market. Still, it’s made from quality ingredients. This recipe features duck raised without antibiotics or added hormones.
Made in small batches to ensure quality and freshness, it’s 98% muscle meat and organs and 2% pumpkin, omega-rich oils and vitamins and minerals.
Pros: Made with duck that’s free of antibiotics and added hormones, rich in omega fatty acids, free of soy, corn, wheat, artificial colors and preservatives, made and sourced in the USA, more affordable than many freeze-dried options
Cons: This food is not suitable for large-breed puppies, low in vegetables
It’s also fortified with supplements like fish oil, vitamin E and iron and is grain and gluten-free.
Pros: Made with antibiotic-free chicken, grain and gluten-free, contains produce and supplements to round out your pet’s diet, made in the USA
Cons: Some buyers complained that when mailed, these dog nuggets can crumble into a fine powder.
If your dog likes to get his beef on, this recipe from Bravo gets high marks from pet parents. Raw meat raised with no added hormones or antibiotics is the number one ingredient, but it is more than just a high-protein food. This beef recipe also has a nice serving of garden vegetables and cranberries. Bravo homestyle is also available in turkey and pork.
Pros: Meat has no added hormones or antibiotics, grain and gluten-free, no artificial color or preservatives, made in the USA
Cons: Some pet parents complained that their dogs lost too much weight on this lean formula.
If you have a small beef lover in your house, Vital Essentials Mini-Nuggets are just the right size for them (though big dogs will enjoy them too). Grain and gluten-free, it contains American beef, bone and organ meats and absolutely no fillers. Also great for dogs on a limited ingredient diet!
Pros: American Beef is the first ingredient, made with no fillers, grain or gluten, good for limited ingredient diets, no synthetic vitamins or minerals, no added hormones, antibiotics or colors
Cons: Contains no vegetables
Another favorite with pet parents is this turkey recipe from Steve’s Real Food. Made with free-range, vegetarian-fed turkey, it also has fruits and vegetables like broccoli, spinach and watermelon. This pick is also antibiotic and hormone-free and has no artificial ingredients or fillers.
Pros: Made with vegetarian-fed, free-range turkey, contains fruits and vegetables, antibiotic and hormone-free, no artificial ingredients or fillers
Cons: This recipe is fortified with goat’s milk and contains some ground eggshells, which some dogs could be allergic to
Stewart Raw Naturals Chicken Recipe is made with 80% chicken and a healthy serving of fruits and vegetables, including cantaloupe, carrots and broccoli. It’s also grain-free, hypoallergenic and contains no gluten, potatoes, lentils, peas, or corn.
Pros: 80% chicken, non-GMO, contains fruits and vegetables, hypoallergenic, made in the USA, no additives or preservatives
These patties are made with 95% grass-fed venison and lamb and are completely grain-free. They also contain a small amount of organic fruits and vegetables like spinach, broccoli and cranberries.
This recipe also contains no peas, lentils or potatoes and is fortified with probiotics for good digestion. We love that all of the recipes from this brand are crafted in small batches to ensure quality and are made with responsibly sourced ingredients.
Pros: Made with grass-fed venison and lamb, grain-free, made with organic fruits and vegetables, made in the USA in small batches, responsibly sourced
Cons: Like many dog foods in this category, this kind of quality comes with a high price tag.
Ready to Go Raw?
If you like the idea of feeding your pet a raw diet but don’t have time for labor-intensive prep, freeze-dried raw dog food could be for you. As mentioned, it’s always best to consult your vet before making the transition, as a raw diet could be risky for certain dogs.
Also, always keep in mind that though dry, these foods are still raw and need to be handled with care. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid cross-contamination.
When transitioning your dog to freeze-dried food, you may want to start small and add the food as a topper at first. In fact, some dog parents only use this type of food as a treat or topper in order to avoid the high cost.
With those things in mind, many picky eaters love freeze-dried food. And because it’s generally made with high quality ingredients and no artificial fillers or additives, you can feel good about it too!
Hopefully, your fur baby will give it a paws up and live a happier and healthier raw life!
You might also be interested in: 9 Reasons Why Dogs Lick People [And Some Common Misconceptions]
Best Freeze Dried Dog Foods:
- True Dog Food Munchy Crunchy Gourmet Gobbler
- Buckley Liberty Lamb Freeze-Dried Lamb Recipe
- Instinct Raw Meals Chicken Recipe
- Bixbi Rawbble Duck Recipe
- Northwest Naturals Chicken Recipe
- Bravo Homestyle Beef
- Vital Essentials Beef Mini-Nibs
- Steve’s Real Food Turkey Canine Recipe
- Stewart Raw Naturals Chicken
- Stella and Chewy’s Venison Blend