Are you looking searching for a natural diet for your dog? Check out Dehydrated and Freeze-Dried dog foods!
Dehydrated Dog Food
Dehydrated dog foods are part of a new movement toward safer, healthier dog food. These products take the dog’s natural diet into consideration. Dehydration produces food that doesn’t way weigh much, takes up little space, and provides an easy to prepare “complete and balanced” meal.
The Process of Dehydration
Dehydrated foods are made by cutting meat and produce ingredients into bite-size pieces and heating them at temperatures between 104 – 120 degrees Fahrenheit to evaporate the moisture.
The process of dehydration does destroy some nutrients, but much less than extruding or canning would.
Also, most bacteria (like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria) would not survive the heat of the dehydration process.
Grains and other starches go through a different process called flaking.
Once dehydrated, they mix ingredients and add vitamin and mineral supplements.
Benefits of Dehydrated Diets
- Less processed than kibble and canned foods.
- Ingredients are identifiable.
- The whole foods still contain essential phytonutrients
- Simpler to prepare and feed than homemade or raw diets
- Lightweight and compact makes them great for travel
- Shelf stable for one year after opened
- High quality
Cons of a Dehydrated Diet
- Much more expensive than kibble or canned
- Not as convenient as kibble or canned foods
- Many are high in starch
How do you feed a dehydrated dog food?
Dehydrated foods should always be mixed with water or broth at least 10-15 minutes before feeding.
Because manufacturers cut the ingredients to various sizes, it will affect the time it takes to rehydrate completely. It’s best to follow the instructions on the package.
To save time you can rehydrate and refrigerate up to 3 days worth of food at a time.
Conclusion on Dehydrated Dog Food
Lucy Postins, the creator of The Honest Kitchen, saw the difference dehydrated whole foods made in her dog as opposed to nutrient dead kibble.
“I was trying to address his ear infections and skin problems, and knew that his diet played a role. There was nothing on the market that offered a healthy, whole-food solution that was also easy to prepare and store – so I decided to make it myself…” – Lucy Postins, Creator of The Honest Kitchen
Dehydrated dog foods are beneficial because they tend to use healthier ingredients than most commercial wet or dry foods. They are easy to feed and great for travel. If your dog’s not doing well on traditional canned or kibble diets than a dehydrated dog food full of healthy whole foods with minimal fillers and additives, might be the right choice.
Freeze-Dried Dog Food
Recent movements toward finding the most natural, healthy diet possible for our beloved pets has led to the creation of freeze-dried dog foods.
What is Freeze Drying?
Producers harvest each ingredient, cut into the desired size/shape and freeze to create a freeze-dried dog food recipe. The frozen foods are placed in a vacuum chamber that keeps them at a temperature below freezing.
Instead of using heat to evaporate the moisture, the pressure, and temperature inside the vacuum change to cause the ice crystals to vaporize. This prevents the food from returning to a liquid state before removing the moisture.
Freeze drying changes the liquid from a solid to a gas, which allows the ingredients to maintain their original shape and size. It causes a minimal amount of cellular rupture in the formula. Freeze-dried foods much less processed diets than canned or kibble.
Removing the moisture allows the food to store without deterioration with a long shelf life.
Benefits of Freeze Dried Diets
- Are minimally processed,
- Have a long shelf life,
- Have nutrient profiles similar to raw foods,
- Are quick and clean to feed,
- Require no colors, preservatives, gums, or emulsifiers,
- Can be made grain free,
- Are lower in carbohydrates than kibble,
- Require few vitamin and mineral supplements.
Are Freeze-Dried Foods Raw?
There is some controversy over whether freeze-dried dog foods are considered raw or not.
Veterinarian Cathy Alinovi says “… the enzymes are degraded, the moisture is gone, it’s processed food.” She does not consider it a raw food, but says it is better than kibble.
Is It Sterile?
There have been some companies and proponents of feeding freeze-dried foods that say the freeze-drying process kills harmful bacteria like salmonella. However, this is not accurate.
Labs even use freeze-drying to preserve bacterial samples.
Still, freeze-drying does stop bacterial growth. Additionally, companies making freeze-dried dog foods use raw ingredients and strict quality control measures.
Most manufacturers of unadulterated (non HPP) raw pet food use high-quality USDA-inspected meats. They also test their products for proper nutrient levels and contaminants, which is why raw meat diets have substantially less potential for high loads of toxins and are typically not the subject of pet food recalls. By contrast, most mass-marketed dry foods, which are regulated by the FDA not the USDA, use rendered and 4-D meats (meats from dead, dying, disabled, and diseased animals). – Dr. Becker, DVM.
Bacteria like salmonella are found, in small amounts, to live normally in your dog’s gut. This provides your dog with some natural measure of immunity, and memory cells to respond to invasions.
When your dog’s immune system is well supported and fully functioning, he is easily able to deal with small amounts of harmful bacteria in raw foods.
There is some evidence that deep freezing raw meats for several days inactivates specific harmful pathogens. Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, recommends freezing fresh meats for several days before thawing and feeding. You can find her recommendations for different meats here.
Freeze-drying does not produce a sterile product, but a freeze-dried food that undergoes High-Pressure Pasteurization can be sterile.
High Pressure Pasteurization – High Pressure Processing:
High pressure pasteurization is a processing method some freeze-dried dog food manufacturers use to sterilize their product.
HPP is the non-thermal (no heat) process of applying extreme amounts of pressure to food. The result is the removal of bacteria (both good and bad) that cannot survive in such high pressure. HPP has minimal effects on the taste, texture, size or smell of the food.
HPP produces a sterile food, void of all disease-causing germs like salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria.
Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, says that dogs with compromised immune systems, including dogs undergoing chemotherapy, can benefit from such a diet. A sterile diet made of whole natural foods can safely provide necessary nutrition to immunocompromised dogs (and cats).
Safe handling and storage measures necessary for raw meat, are also required for handling and storing freeze-dried HPP (and non-HPP) dog foods.
In summary, HPP produces a sterile food with a similar nutrient profile to that of a raw diet. It should be handled and stored as a raw food to reduce the risk of re-contamination. And Freeze-dried, HPP-processed foods can be a beneficial diet for dogs with compromised immune systems.
Cons of a Freeze-Dried Diet
One disadvantage of freeze-dried dog foods is the price. Freeze-dried diets can be more expensive, considering the equipment necessary to freeze-dry the ingredients, the quality of the ingredients and the benefits of freeze-dried over kibble.
There are a few cons to the “sterile” HPP, freeze-dried dog foods. Though HPP will destroy what pathogenic contamination was in the recipe at the time of processing, it does not protect it from the risk of re-contamination.
Another concern, especially for many raw food purists, is that HPP denatures proteins.
Biology-online.com gives this definition of Denaturation: “A process in which the folding structure of a protein is altered due to exposure to certain chemical or physical factors (e.g., heat, acid, solvents, etc.), causing the protein to become biologically inactive.”
How to Feed
Most freeze-dried foods are either rehydrated by adding the correct amount of water, or can be fed as is. Because freeze-drying leaves the food in the same shape and size as the fresh form of that food, there isn’t the trouble of the ingredients expanding once in your dog’s stomach.
This simple feeding method for freeze-dried foods is one of its benefits. It makes a cleaner alternative to feeding raw and a faster alternative to whole-food homemade meals.
Conclusion on Freeze-Dried Dog Foods
Freeze-dried dog foods can have a lot of benefits from being quick and clean, to providing your dog many more nutrients in a less processed form. They are an acceptable alternative diet for dogs with compromised immune systems, like dogs with cancer, allergies, or leaky gut syndrome.
If you’re looking for a way to provide your dog a less processed, highly nutritious food without the fears of raw diets, or the cook time of homemade meals, freeze-dried might be a good choice for you.
How to Pick a Dehydrated or Freeze-Dried Dog Food
Use the same standards you would use for choosing a canned or kibble dog food. Read the ingredient list, checking for high-quality ingredients (such as named meats, vegetables, and fermentation products) and no additives like toxic preservatives and colors.
Read the guaranteed analysis to find the protein, fat, fiber, and carbohydrate content. Opt for higher protein and lower carbohydrates.
Finally, check out the manufacturer and their product recall history. Fewer recalls may mean they have had safer quality standards in their ingredient processing and handling practices. Find out where they source their ingredients and avoid ingredients from China or Thailand.
Also, choose a formula that uses fewer supplements. Fewer supplements mean the whole foods are supplying the necessary micronutrients in the most bioavailable form for your dog.
To learn more check out our articles on Choosing a Dog Food.
Find Dehydrated and Freeze-dried diets at Chewy.com.
What Do We Think of Dehydrated and Freeze-Dried Diets?
Because these diets go through less processing than canned or kibble diets, they offer your dog whole food nutrients.
Dehydrated and Freeze-Dried diets have been created to provide higher quality nutrition using high-quality ingredients.
And, these diets are a great alternative to feeding raw, while avoiding the difficulties of kibble and canned foods.
Because of these benefits, Dehydrated or Freeze-dried diets are two ways to get a Satisfied Dog!
– Cassy Kay & Ivy Alexis
Becker, Dr. Karen. “The High Pressure Pasteurization (HPP) Process” healthypets.mercola.com. Oct. 22, 2012. Web. Accessed Nov. 4, 2017. https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2012/10/22/sterile-raw-pet-food.aspx
Bruso, Jessica. “Advantages $ Disadvantages fo Freeze-Dried Food” LIVESTRONG.COM. Oct. 3, 2017. Web. Accessed Nov. 4, 2017. https://www.livestrong.com/article/509074-advantages-disadvantages-of-freeze-dried-food/
Freeze-Dry Foods, LTD. “What is Freeze-Drying?” freeze-dry.com. 2017. Web. Accessed Nov. 4, 2017. http://www.freeze-dry.com/technology/
Kimberly. “Freeze Dried and Dehydrated Raw Food – Is this Really Raw?” Keep the Tail Wagging. Apr. 7, 2015. Web. Accessed Nov. 4, 2017. https://keepthetailwagging.com/freeze-dried-and-dehydrated-raw-food-is-this-really-raw/
Sagman, Mike. “High Pressure Processing for Raw Dog Food – Is It Still Raw?” dogfoodadvisor.com. Accessed Nov. 4, 2017. https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/high-pressure-processing-raw-dog-food/
“What’s the Difference Between Dehydrated and Freeze-Dried Pet Food?” smileydog.com. Oct. 21, 2015. Web. Accessed Nov.4, 2017. https://smileydog.com/whats-the-difference-between-dehydrated-and-freeze-dried-pet-food/