Diet is one of the most important parts of keeping your dog healthy. Raw food advocates argue that the raw diet is the most natural and healthiest way to feed your pup. People wanting to offer their dog a raw diet, but also wanting to avoid the hassle and mess of doing it themselves often seek out freeze-dried dog foods because it offers them the nutritional superiority of raw with the convenience of kibble. Raw freeze-dried foods are particularly convenient for those who who want to continue their dogs on a raw diet when boarding, camping, or traveling.
Why Do People Choose a Raw Diet For Their Dogs?
The raw diet argument traces back to wolves as the ancestors of dogs and the fact that wolves are carnivores, eating only eat raw meat, bones, and organs. Dogs, like wolves, have short digestive tracts, made specifically for processing meat (also one of the reasons dogs have trouble digesting grains). Their jaws only go up and down, not side to side to crush vegetation like an herbivore or omnivore. And dogs do not produce amylase in their saliva to help break down carbohydrates, a task that falls predominantly to the pancreas (one of the reasons some dogs are so prone to pancreatitis).
Though the raw diet is the most expensive way to feed your dog, advocates argue that it is the most nutritious. Generally, makers of freeze-dried dog foods have an extraordinary commitment to sourcing top-quality ingredients, and the food has an extremely long and stable shelf life without the use of any preservatives (or with a natural preservative only). Many are made with organic ingredients, as well as certified humanely raised or grass-fed meats. Some contain as much as 95% animal muscle meat, organ meat, and raw ground bone. Most other ingredients in freeze-dried dog food are lightly processed, and almost all are grain-free.
Pros and Cons of a Raw Diet
✔ diet fans often site the benefits of a raw diet as:
✔ coat and healthier skin
✔ teeth and better breath
✔ muscle tone
✔ able to maintain a healthier weight
✔ digestion leading to improved nutrient absorption
✔ more compact stools
Cons of a raw diet:
✘ is very expensive
✘ of bacterial infection from raw meat (E. coli and salmonella)
If you don’t know what your doing or you don’t choose a prepared raw food that is complete and balanced, an unbalanced diet may cause more harm than good. How, you ask? Puppies who don’t get the proper ratio of calcium and phosphorus can develop bone deformities and growth issues. For adult dogs, a lack of calcium and phosphorus can lead to bone fractures and dental problems. Diets high in liver may supply too much Vitamin A, which can lead to Vitamin A toxicity if fed for an extended period of time. And dogs with cancer or other immunosuppressive diseases can be put at further immune risk if they get a bacterial infection from contamination.
Is Freeze-Dried Food Raw?
Yes, it is raw. You can read extensively on the internet, and there are a surprisingly high number of bloggers who will tell you that the freeze-drying process kills the bacteria in the raw food, but let me be clear. Freeze-dried food is raw food, and you must still treat it like you are handling raw meat… because you are. It is dry, so you are not dealing with the mess, but the meat in the freeze-dried food is raw.
What is Freeze-Dried?
Freeze-drying is a way to prepare food without preservatives. It is a process that removes 98% of the food’s water content without any heat or cooking, and this is what gives freeze-dried foods such a long shelf life. Removing the moisture prevents the food from spoiling, while still maintaining most of its texture, color, flavor, and nutritional value. In fact, freeze-dried food maintains its flavor so well, everyone agrees that when rehydrated, dogs LOVE this type of food. Dogs with poor appetites and chronically ill dogs often eat these foods when nothing else appeals to them. Once the freeze-drying process is complete, no additional refrigeration or freezing is required.
Is Freeze-Dried Food the Same as Dehydrated Food?
No. Dehydration uses heat to remove moisture from the food, which does cause structural changes to the ingredients. Whether or not this has a negative impact on the nutrient value is up for debate. Dehydrated foods shrivel as the moisture is removed.
Freeze-drying does not use heat at any point of the process, and raw food advocates consider this an important distinction. Freeze-dried foods retain their original color, form, size, taste, and texture.
The Best Freeze-Dried Dog Foods
1. Stella and Chewy’s Chicken Meal Mixers
Stella and Chewy’s is committed to quality. This formula uses 95% raw cage-free chicken, nutrient-rich organs, and bone. They add a few organic fruits and vegetables, vitamins, minerals, probiotics and antioxidants. It has no added hormones, antibiotics, grains, or fillers. Each Stella and Chewy’s formula contains only a single meat source, which is helpful if you have a highly allergic dog. They never source ingredients from China, and all of their small batch products are made in the USA. Meal Mixers are intended as a raw freeze-dried supplement to your dogs kibble. They are an easy, convenient way to add raw, nutrient-rich meat, wholesome fruits and vegetables, probiotics and antioxidants to any diet. Just mix a scoop on top and go. No rehydration is required. Having said that, the Meal Mixer can be used as a complete and balanced meal if you would like to do so, but it should be rehydrated before feeding. The company’s Meal Mixer Superblends formulas add a boost of superfoods to the mix, such as organic bananas, blueberries, and strawberries.
2. Stella and Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Beef Dinner Patties
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This formula contains 95% raw grass-fed beef, nutrient-rich organs, and bone, plus organic fruits and vegetables. It is fortified with vitamins and minerals, and enhanced with probiotics and antioxidants. The dinner patties are a complete and balanced meal. These should be rehydrated before feeding unless your dog drinks plenty of water at mealtime.
3. Primal Freeze-Dried Foods Chicken Formula
Primal’s freeze-dried nuggets are a complete and balanced meal for your
4. Sojos Complete Natural Beef Recipe
Sojos Complete is a complete and balanced meal for your dog. Sojos recipes are made without genetically engineered ingredients, fillers, preservatives, or anything artificial. The list of ingredients is short and sweet, all blended with care, one batch at a time, in their Minnesota kitchens. Just mix the raw, freeze-dried ingredients with water, let soak for 15 minutes to fully activate the nutrients and enzymes, and watch Fido dig in. For best digestion, the company recommends allowing the food to soak in the refrigerator overnight. Once rehydrated, each 2 pound bag makes 14 pounds of fresh food. It’s important to note that this company also offers a raw, freeze-dried complete meal for the puppy life stage as well. They have also recently released a line of raw, freeze-dried Mix-A-Meal formulas that you can add to your dog’s kibble for a boost of raw nutrition.
5. Instinct Raw Boost Mixers All Natural Beef Recipe
Instinct uses responsibly-sourced all natural beef and non-GMO fruits and vegetables. Their freeze-dried mixers are grain-free and are made at their facility in Lincoln, Nebraska. These are intended as a supplement topper to your dog’s kibble, or they can be used as treats, and do not need to be rehydrated ahead of time. Though instinct believes all dogs should be eating raw, they make a variety of products to meet different owners’ needs, including their own blends of high protein Kibble + Raw recipes, the Raw Boost Mixers that you can add to your dogs own kibble, and Raw Boost Mixers with “functional ingredients” added for immune health, mobility support, and gut health.
6. Liberty Freeze-Dried Beef Recipe
This formula is made with 80% beef, organs, and bone, supplemented with fresh vegetables and healthy fats. It is 100% balanced and complete, and can be rehydrated to use as a complete meal, or used as a raw topper for your dog’s kibble. All of Liberty’s formulas are grain- and filler-free, and ingredients are 100% sourced and made in the USA.
Many raw food companies make their products to be used as supplements, and the foods themselves are not intended to provide complete nutrition. This is due to the fact that most people simply cannot afford to feed their dog a completely raw diet, and companies that believe in the benefits of raw are trying to find ways to help people incorporate it into their pet’s diet. If you want to use freeze-dried food as a complete meal for your furry friend, make sure the product is labeled “complete and balanced” and look for an AAFCO statement on the package saying that it is adequate for your dog’s life stage. If you decide to go the raw freeze-dried route, it’s also important to transition your dog to the new food over a period of 7-10 days. Start day 1 with 25% new food, 75% old food and gradually increase the new while decreasing the old until the transition is complete on day 10. If you’re looking for the benefits of raw with the ease of kibble, freeze-dried raw food is the way to go and these are our top picks.