Beagle eating freeze-dried dog food from bowl

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When shopping at your local pet store online, you might be surprised at how many dog food options there are. Even the most experienced pet parents can get overwhelmed in the pet food aisle. However, it's essential to understand the different types of dog foods, including their benefits and potential safety risks, before giving them to your dog. 

One type of dog food many people are using is freeze-dried dog food. Ultimately, this is dog food that's raw and freeze-dried to make it shelf-stable. The benefits and drawbacks of freeze-dried food are the same as raw food. For example, like the raw diet for dogs, freeze-dried food comes from raw meat, and the freeze-drying process doesn't remove all the pathogens or bacteria in raw meats. 

So is freeze-dried dog food good for dogs? This article will discuss everything you need to know about freeze-dried food, including its benefits and risks.

What is freeze-dried dog food?

What Is Freeze-Dried Dog Food?

Freeze-dried dog food is raw food that's frozen and dried to create a kibble-like dog food or treat. Pet food manufacturers freeze-dry raw ingredients using a combination of pressure and cold temperature to turn frozen liquids into gas before raising the temperature.1 This process increases the shelf-life of a product, making it more convenient for pet parents than feeding their pups frozen raw food. 

What's most important to understand is that freeze-dried dog food is raw. Raw dog food can be frozen, packed fresh, or freeze-dried and delivered to pet stores or your home if your dog is on a raw diet. However, serious misconceptions about this diet exist, and pet parents should educate themselves on the possible health implications of feeding their dogs a raw diet in any form.

Benefits And Drawbacks Of Freeze-Dried Dog Food

Is freeze-dried food good for dogs? Many pet parents believe the raw food diet is much healthier for their pets because it's more natural and lets them eat how their wolf ancestors did in the wild. Many dogs regularly eat raw meat, but that doesn't mean the diet is safe. Pet food manufacturers can easily mislead customers into believing this diet is superior to others, offering improved skin, better digestion, and more energy, but that isn't true. 

Unfortunately, no studies show increased health benefits for dogs on a raw diet.2 Therefore, freeze-dried raw dog food doesn't offer superior nutrition for dogs. Instead, there are more risks associated with this diet.  

While freeze-dried dog food is convenient, feeding it to your dog can increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies and gastrointestinal upset

Uncooked meat can cause food poisoning in dogs and humans, especially when not handled correctly. Raw food also contains pathogens that can cause bacterial infections in dogs and their owners.3 While the freeze-drying process leaves several nutrients available in raw foods, most microorganisms are not removed during freeze-drying, so this food can still harm people and pets.4 Freeze-drying meat can also increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies. 

Although there aren't any proven health benefits of freeze-dried dog food compared to traditional kibble, it can offer pet parents a few advantages over completely raw foods and some kibbles, including the following:

  • Longer shelf life: Pet parents can choose to feed their dogs raw food at home or buy commercial raw meat for dogs. Freeze drying will keep the food fresher for longer, so there's no risk of the meat going bad unless it's past the expiration date. 
  • Convenient: Freeze-dried dog food is more convenient than raw food because there's no need to purchase meat every few days or keep it frozen. Pet parents don't have to prepare their dog's meals; instead, they can use them like they'd feed their dog kibble. Freeze-dried dog food is also better for traveling and provides a no-mess solution for pet parents who want to feed their dogs the raw diet. 
  • No exposed bones: Raw food diets give dogs easy access to raw bones, which can cause fractured teeth, blockages, and injuries. Freeze-dried raw dog food doesn't contain large pieces of bones, so it's less of an immediate health hazard for your pet. 
  • Grain-free: Freeze-dried raw dog food is naturally grain-free, ideal for dogs on a grain-free diet. However, it's important to note that grain-free dog food isn't necessarily bad for dogs, even though they're high in starch. Additionally, there have been links between heart disease and this diet, so there's no reason to put your dog on a grain-free diet without consulting your vet.5 

Even with these benefits in mind, freeze-dried dog food is still part of the raw dog food diet. Therefore, it's not the safest option for your pet. Additionally, suddenly changing your pet's food can result in GI disturbances, such as vomiting and canine diarrhea

Should I Feed My Dog Freeze-Dried Food?

Is freeze-dried dog food healthy? It contains various nutrients, such as protein and essential vitamins. However, most experts and organizations, like the American Veterinary Medical Association, discourage pet parents from feeding their dogs raw food because it contains pathogens.6 

The American Veterinary Medical Association discourages the consumption of raw food

The freeze-drying process eliminates some pathogens, but since not all are removed during the process, there's no reason to risk your dog's health and safety. Additionally, bacterial infections can be passed from dogs to their owners. Feeding your dog raw food in any form, even freeze-dried, can be dangerous to your entire household. 

Raw food can be contaminated with various pathogens, including Salmonella and Listeria.6 Like humans, dogs can develop foodborne illnesses from raw food, and the risks don't outweigh the rewards because there's no scientific evidence that a raw diet is more nutritious or beneficial for dogs. 

Of course, only you can decide which diet is right for your pet. You should always consult your vet before feeding them something new or switching their diet. Freeze-dried dog food might be a good option for picky eaters, but most pet parents should avoid it because of the potential risks.

Many dog diets exist, making it even more challenging for pet parents to make the best choice for their pets. Commercial pet foods are safe in most cases and will provide your dog with the right amount of nutrients based on their life stage. However, if your dog has an underlying health condition, you can work with your vet to find the right specialty diet. 

Freeze-Dried Food For Dogs: FAQs

Is freeze-dried food safe for dogs?

As a pet parent, you must know what dogs can't eat and avoid feeding them anything that could harm their health. Freeze-dried food is not considered safe for dogs, and many vets discourage pet parents from feeding their dogs raw foods in any form because of the risk of contamination and sickness. In addition, the freeze-drying process may eliminate some harmful pathogens, but it doesn't eliminate all of them. Therefore, freeze-dried dog food is unsafe compared to food that goes through a heating process to eliminate pathogens. 

Raw food is a breeding ground for bacteria like Salmonella and Listeria, and infections can be fatal for people and pets. The freeze-drying process doesn't kill these pathogens, and there's no reason to feed raw meat to your dog knowingly. You wouldn't handle raw meat and let your dog lick your hands or touch them afterward, so why feed them a diet that could be potentially fatal?

Since infections can be passed from pets to people, it's crucial to keep raw foods away from your dog, even if they are freeze-dried, especially if you have young children and other pets in the home. In addition, dogs with underlying health conditions should never eat raw food because their immune systems won't be able to fight off infection as easily. 

Small dog eating traditional kibble from dog bowl

Should I give my dog freeze-dried or traditional kibble?

We recommend feeding your dog kibble over freeze-dried dog food because it's processed with heat to eliminate bacteria completely. Freeze-dried dog food may not look like meat once it's gone through the freeze-drying process, but it still contains the same pathogens as raw meat, so it's unsafe for your dog. 

While many pet parents believe in the benefits of raw food, there's no scientific evidence to support their claims. Therefore, feeding your pet freeze-dried food over traditional kibble can be dangerous, with no potential health benefits for your dog. 

If you're worried about your dog's health and want to feed them premium dog food, it's always best to consult your vet. They can tell you which foods are best for your dog based on age, health, and preferences to ensure your dog's diet supports their health. 

How nutritious is freeze-dried dog food?

Freeze-drying dog food allows it to preserve the nutritional content of raw meat. However, that doesn't mean it's more nutritious than your pet's kibble. While pet food manufacturers must adhere to certain standards, not all pet food is safe for your dog, especially because the raw dog food diet isn't as nutritionally complete as kibble and other foods.

To determine how nutritious dog food is, look at the label. Always feed your dog a complete and balanced diet with the proper nutrients they need for optimum health. If you need assistance reading dog food labels, consult your vet. They can help you understand whether a particular food is safe and healthy for your pet.

Final Notes

Freeze-dried dog food is a component of the raw dog food diet. However, it goes through light processing to turn it from its original form into dry food. That said, the freeze-drying process doesn't eliminate all the potential pathogens in raw meat, and this diet isn't safe for dogs. Feeding your dog a raw diet is dangerous, especially for other animals and people in your household. 

The raw dog food diet is just one of many dog diets available. Consult a Dutch vet if you're unsure what to feed your dog. Our knowledgeable vets can provide advice about dog nutrition and tips for choosing the best dog food based on your pet's health and age. Try Dutch today.
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References

  1. Maharaj, Nandini. "Dry Dog Food Options That Aren't Kibble." American Kennel Club, 20 Dec. 2022, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/dry-dog-food-options-arent-kibble/. 

  2. "Raw Meat Diets ." Cavalier Health, https://cavalierhealth.org/images/cummings_raw_meat_diets_memo.pdf.

  3. Van Bree, Freek PJ, et al. Zoonotic Bacteria and Parasites Found in Raw Meat-Based Diets for Cats and Dogs. https://bvajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1136/vr.104535

  4. Stogdale, Lea. "One Veterinarian's Experience with Owners Who Are Feeding Raw Meat to Their Pets." The Canadian Veterinary Journal = La Revue Veterinaire Canadienne, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6515799/

  5. Burke, Anna. "FDA Grain-Free Diet Alert: What Dog Owners Need to Know." American Kennel Club, 28 Apr. 2020, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/fda-grain-free-diet-alert-dcm/

  6. "Raw or Undercooked Animal-Source Protein in Cat and Dog Diets." American Veterinary Medical Association, https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/avma-policies/raw-or-undercooked-animal-source-protein-cat-and-dog-diets.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

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The Dutch membership starts at $7/mo for unlimited access to the vet. No more long waits for appointments or surprise bills.

In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.