If you find yourself shopping for pet food online or perusing the shelves at your local neighborhood pet store, you’ll likely find a “home prepared” or raw pet food section. This fast-growing category has seen a lot of interest from pet parents like yourself seeking healthier, more nutritious food for your dog. You may have noticed two types of pet food – freeze-dried raw dog food or dehydrated dog food. These two types are often considered the same, but there are key differences that set them apart.
Both options remove moisture from the food (to preserve shelf life), but in regards to nutritional value, texture and serving, one clearly comes out on top.
What’s the Difference Between Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Dog Food?
Although both can start with a healthy source of raw food for your dog, there are several differences between dehydrated dog food and freeze-dried dog food. Everything from the way the food is processed to the feeding routine, to the resulting nutrition for your pet varies between freeze-dried and dehydrated pet food.
Dehydrated Raw Dog Food
Dehydrated raw dog food goes through a heated drying process to remove the moisture from the food. This process of heated dehydration can sacrifice some of the nutritional value of the dog food.
Freeze-Dried Raw Dog food
Freeze-dried pet food is frozen, and vacuum pressure is applied to remove ice and moisture at a low temperature (our raw, freeze-dried food starts out frozen and goes through a 48-hour freeze drying process to maintain nutritional integrity).
In addition to a potential loss in nutritional value, the dehydrating process creates a hard-cooked texture that often requires rehydration before serving to your dog. Rehydrating dehydrated dog food becomes inconvenient and time consuming. Freeze-dried dog food can also be rehydrated—if that’s what your pup prefers—and the process is quicker and completely optional thanks to its lighter and easily digestible consistency.
Let’s review the main differences between freeze-dried and dehydrated dog food:
Freeze-Dried: Our custom freeze-drying process removes moisture under pressure without cooking the ingredients, keeping the nutritional integrity intact.
Dehydrated: Processed quickly under high velocity heat, which sacrifices the nutritional value.
Freeze-Dried: Retains most of the vitamins and minerals found in fresh, raw pet food.
Dehydrated: Many vitamins are lost in processing, with only 40-50% of nutrients remaining in the food.
Texture & Consistency
Freeze-Dried: Food and treats are lightweight and easy for pets of all ages to chew and digest, thanks to the freeze-drying process that removes moisture without heat or cooking.
The lightweight treats are great for training, agility, and outdoor activities. Plus, freeze-dried raw pet food is a convenient meal to take on the road!
Dehydrated: Food and treats have a hard, cooked texture and may be more difficult for young or mature pets with sensitive teeth to chew. Most dehydrated foods require rehydration with water, making it more difficult and less convenient for feeding on the go.
Freeze-Dried: Food can be conveniently served “as is” or rehydrated to meet your pet’s preference. It only takes two to three minutes to rehydrate our freeze-dried dinner patties.
Dehydrated: Food must be rehydrated (five to ten minutes), requiring additional time to prepare and becomes inconvenient for traveling.
Are there other options for raw dog food?
There are several options for raw dog food including frozen, air baked, lightly cooked, and homemade raw food. Each of these options come with pros and cons but the heating/cooking concern associated with dehydrated dog food—the nutritional loss—can also occur with air baked and other forms of cooked food.
Homemade raw food can also be a difficult choice. Either you’re serving food that is in its raw form or cooking the ingredients. These purely raw ingredients can be difficult and expensive to access. If you’re buying raw meat from the grocery store, you are getting meat that’s intended for humans to cook and consume meaning there could be bacteria and other concerns that make this food unsafe for dogs. Additionally, you’re relying on yourself, instead of commercially tested dog foods, to provide a balanced diet for your pup.
Frozen raw dog food is a great alternative to freeze-dried food. It maintains the nutritional value by starting frozen and staying frozen throughout the entire process, and offers the closest alternative to a wild dog’s natural diet. The main concern with frozen dog food is it requires additional time and effort to thaw before serving (we’ve made it easy with individually frozen dog food patties).
Raw vs Freeze-Dried vs Dehydrated Dog Food
When people think of raw dog food, they sometimes think of a homemade raw diet or freshly purchased raw protein. These forms of raw food are risky, but it isn’t the only way to offer your pup the benefits of a raw diet. Freeze-dried and frozen dog food both start out raw and leave nutrients in their uncooked, raw state throughout the process. You can’t necessarily say the same about dehydrated dog food, because the heated drying process is a form of cooking that removes nutrients and the ability for it to be defined as raw.
Ultimately, freeze-dried dog food provides an affordable, safe and nutritious raw diet. At first glance, dehydrated dog food may seem similar, but it pales in comparison.
This post was originally published on July 20, 2019 but edited and republished on July 12, 2021.