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Most pet owners are familiar with kibble and canned foods but there are other choices when it comes to buying your dog’s food. One of them is freeze dried food. Freeze dried pet food is only a small segment of the pet food market and it is primarily used by pet food makers who want to include a raw food, usually made without preservatives, that is freeze dried as soon as it’s made. Freeze dried foods are especially popular with pet owners who feed a raw diet since the food is freeze dried in a raw state.
Benefits of a Raw Diet
Many people who feed raw diets believe that they are healthier for their dogs and that they are more like what their dogs would eat in the wild. They believe these diets provide the following benefits to their dogs:
- Better skin and coats
- Whiter teeth
- Fresher breath
- Better weight and condition
- Improved digestion
- Less likelihood of allergies
- Smaller, less smelly stools
However, feeding raw foods can be messy and time-consuming if you have to gather all the ingredients yourself and try to balance your dog’s nutritional needs. A dog eating a raw diet tends to get the raw food all over his face, body, and the area where he eats. Handling raw foods poses some bacterial risks for humans, too, unless very good food safety measures are taken. Most dogs can eat the soft bones in raw food, but some bones need to be ground or used only as recreational bones. Even raw frozen diets available from pet food makers have some of these same drawbacks.
The Advantages of Freeze Dried
This is where a freeze dried diet can be useful. It has the ease and convenience of kibble yet it’s comprised of the same ingredients as a raw diet. The food is not messy to feed so your dog doesn’t get it all over himself or the area where you feed him. Ideally, the food will already be nutritionally balanced so you don’t have to spend time choosing the ingredients or making the food yourself. Freeze drying kills the bacteria that sometimes poses a problem with raw foods. And the bones in the freeze dried food are already ground. You can still give your dog bones for recreational chewing to help keep his teeth clean.
Plus, freeze dried pet foods have a long life. If you keep them in their packaging, they can last a long time until you are ready to rehydrate them and feed them. No additional refrigeration or freezing is required. You can store them in a kitchen cabinet or take them with you when you travel with your dog.
How Does Freeze Drying Work?
Freeze drying is a form of dehydration so the food you are feeding your dog with this method is condensed and has had the moisture removed. In most cases companies sell small bags or bars of freeze dried food compared to larger amounts of kibble or frozen raw food. You usually need to add some water back to the freeze dried food to rehydrate it.
The freeze drying process includes freezing the food, lowering the pressure around the food, removing the moisture, and sealing the product. The freeze drying process acts as a preservative which is how the food can last so long once it has been freeze dried. Other preservatives are not necessary.
Choosing a Freeze Dried Food
When choosing a freeze dried pet food you should look at the ingredient list and consider the same things you would consider when choosing a raw food diet for your dog. Look at the amount of protein, fat, and fiber on the guaranteed analysis. Make sure that the food has an AAFCO statement saying that it is adequate for your dog’s life stage. Many raw food companies make products that can be used as supplements – they may feature lots of meat or vegetables, but they are not intended to provide complete nutrition. Be sure you are buying a freeze dried product that is for all life stages or for adult maintenance, for example.
When looking at the guaranteed analysis for raw and freeze dried foods you will need to convert the food to a dry matter basis, just as you do for canned food. Here’s an example using Northwest Naturals Freeze Dried Lamb Nuggets:
- Crude Protein (12% min)
- Crude Fat (10% min)
- Crude Fiber (2.0% Max)
- Moisture (72% max)
All Northwest Naturals Diets are complete, balanced and formulated to meet the nutritional levels established and recommended by the AAFCO Food Nutrient Profiles For All Life Stages.
In order to figure the dry matter basis (DMB) of this freeze dried food, it’s necessary to use the following formula:
- Calculate the dry matter of the food by deducting the moisture percentage (72%) from 100, i.e., 100 – 72 = 28%.
- Now, using this dry matter figure of 28%, apply the formula to each of the components, as follows:
- Protein: 12 divided by 28 x 100 = 42.86%
- Fat: 10 divided by 28 x 100 = 35.71%
- Fiber: 2 divided by 28 x 100 = 7.14%
So, on a dry matter basis, the food has about 43 percent protein, 36 percent fat, and 7 percent fiber. It’s not unusual to find higher amounts of protein and fat in raw and freeze dried foods. The higher fiber is also not unusual here because the company states that 6 percent of the food is made up of ground bone and the fiber is probably necessary for better digestion.
That’s the kind of thing you would need to look for on the label when you compare freeze dried (and raw) foods.
Which Companies Make Freeze Dried Foods?
The same companies that make raw food diets sometimes make freeze dried foods if they have the equipment to do so, but it takes special equipment to freeze dry food. In general, the formulas for freeze dried foods are very similar or identical to the formulas for the raw food diets.
Some of the companies which make freeze dried diets include:
- Nature’s Variety
- Northwest Naturals
- Steve’s Real Food for Dogs
Again, when you are selecting a freeze dried product for your dog, make sure that you choose a food that is complete and balanced for your dog’s life stage and not a product that is intended to be used as a supplement — unless you wish to add other foods to your dog’s diet and try to balance it yourself.
Freeze dried foods are often a good alternative for people who like to feed a raw diet. Your dog gets the same nutritional benefits of eating raw without the mess. The foods are nutritionally balanced, easy to handle and store, plus they keep a long time. Freeze dried foods can be a good gateway product if you are thinking of feeding a raw diet.