Defining Freeze-Dried, Dehydrated, and Air Dried Foods for Dogs and Cats

Written By:  Ashlyn Mandelin

Freeze-Dried, Dehydrated or Air Dried? What’s the difference?

I see a lot of people mixing up the differences between the three aforementioned terms. As one of the many Pet Food Nerds, I will explain 😉

Let’s start with my favorite of the three: FREEZE DRIED (raw)

Freeze-drying is a process that removes the moisture from the meat in a vacuum chamber, while it’s still frozen. It basically takes the moisture form from a solid to a gas without the application of intense heat that would destroy the enzymatic activity in a living food.  Freeze drying is an expensive process, but is also the most effective way of having a “convenient” raw food. Freeze Dried is Raw without the Thaw. A raw feeders best friend for boarding, backpacking and as storage for natural disasters (I have 5 boxes of K9 Natural in my emergency kit ;P )

Examples or Freeze Dried food: K9 Natural, Vital Essentials, Sojo’s and Stella & Chewy’s

Next up: DEHYDRATED (not raw)

Dehydration is a process that basically wicks water away by blowing warm/hot air at it. Ingredients may start off raw, but are cooked by the end of the process. (Anyone with a dehydrator knows what the smell of cooking liver smells like, ick). While most prefer raw of freeze dried to dehydrated because raw provides live enzymes and untouched nutrients, some pets have extreme immune deficiencies can’t handle it therefore a less processed cooked diet can be deemed better in some situations. Dehydrated is much better than canned or kibble, and is about as cost effective as a large bag of human grade kibble.

Examples of Dehydrated food: The Honest Kitchen, Addiction, NRG

Finally: “Air Dried” (not raw)

The reason I put the “” around air dried is simply because the name is deceiving. When you hear air dried you think, sitting out in the sun to dry right? Wrong. Most air dried dog foods have the following done before the drying process: raw meat ground and cooked into a slurry, then poured into trays that are then stacked into a space where the temperature is high and the meat sits until the water has dissipated. There was a company marketing it as raw without the thaw, but it is most definitely not. However, it is better than kibble by far, and excellent for cancer dogs because of the lack of carbs.

Examples of Air Dried: Ziwi Peak, Real Meat, DNA (basically an air dried canned dog food)

Hope this helps, if there are any more questions ask away!!!


3 thoughts on “Defining Freeze-Dried, Dehydrated, and Air Dried Foods for Dogs and Cats

  1. Pingback: Prey Model Diet; The Best Food Choice For Your Pets | Pawfect Manners: Dog Training & Behavior Rehabilitation

  2. Hi! I want to make sure I got it right – because I intend to add on to some home cooked vegetables. The air-dried is definitely “raw ground, then cooked” before “dehydrating” right? Of the three options, I think I must most definitely not mix the “freeze dried” food with the home-cooked due to digestion rate issues..? Besides that, the other two are classified as “cooked” and therefore safe to serve together, right? Thanks in advance!

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