Traditional kibble is not always the top choice for our canine companions. The ingredients used to make kibble are processed using intense heat, which can reduce both the flavor and nutrient quality present in the final product. To counteract this, dog food manufacturers frequently include additional ingredients to add flavor and nutritional value back into the food, which may or may not come from natural sources. This can lead kibble and other highly processed diets to be problematic for dogs with allergies or sensitive digestive systems.
Because of this, many pet parents have looked to a freeze-dried, raw diet to provide the food that a dog’s system may better respond to. If you’re in the market for freeze-dried dog food, we’ve provided a list of options as well as a comprehensive buying guide to help you through the process. We reviewed hundreds of products and tens of thousands of verified reviews to choose these 7 best freeze-dried dog foods.
Our Picks for the Best Freeze Dried Dog Food
1. K9 Natural Freeze Dried Dog Food
K9 Natural is a freeze-dried, raw dog food made with high quality meats, fruits, and vegetables. The ingredient list is short and easily understood, meaning it’s suitable for dogs that require a limited diet, or are gluten-free or dairy-free. This particular option is made with ethically sourced New Zealand lamb, though K9 Natural also comes in beef, chicken, and salmon varieties.
- Freeze-dried, raw dog food
- Made with ethically sourced New Zealand lamb
- Grain-free and non-GMO
- Contains no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
- No fillers: no potatoes, rice, wheat, or gluten products
- Also comes in beef, chicken, and beef & salmon
- Simple ingredients: 90% lamb (meat, organs, bones), 5% egg and green lipped mussel, 5% fruits/vegetables/vitamins & minerals
- Can be used as a complete meal or as a topper on kibble for additional taste
- Can be served dry or rehydrated
- 100% money back guarantee
- Grain-free product may not work for some pet parents
2. Vital Essentials Freeze Dried Dog Food – Duck
Vital Essentials Duck Mini Nibs is an all natural freeze-dried dog food made without fillers, artificial colors, or preservatives. The ingredient list is limited: USDA certified duck, herring oil, and natural vitamin E. It can be also used as a topper or as a standalone complete meal.
- Freeze-dried, raw dog food made with duck
- Made without grains, gluten, or fillers
- All natural; made without artificial flavors or colors, and meat raised without hormones or antibiotics
- Limited ingredient formula suitable for dogs on specific diets (ingredients are: duck, herring oil, natural vitamin E)
- Made in the USA, with strictly American sourced ingredients
- Single source protein
- Can be fed as a kibble topper, complete meal, or as a treat
- Meets AAFCO nutritional standards for every life stage
- Grain-free product may not work for some pet parents
- Pricier compared to other freeze-dried options
3. Stella & Chewy’s Freeze Dried Beef Meal Mixers
This Stella & Chewy’s freeze-dried meal topper is a solid choice made with farm raised, grass fed beef. It’s also completely all natural, and does not contain hormones, artificial ingredients, or fillers.
- All natural freeze-dried, raw dog food
- Made with grass fed beef
- Intended to be a meal topper, but also meets the nutritional guidelines to be used as a complete and balanced food source
- Also comes in chicken, turkey, and seafood options
- Made in the USA
- All natural; made without added fillers, grains, hormones, or antibiotics
- 95% meat based, 5% organic fruits & vegetables and vitamins
- Contains more ingredients compared with other options, so pet parents should specifically read the list if their dog is on a limited diet
4. Sojos Complete Freeze Dried Dog Food – Turkey Recipe
Sojos Complete is a freeze-dried, raw dog food that acts as complete and balanced meal once rehydrated. All you have to do is add water, and the food will plump up to a stew with chunks of meat. Sojos is made in the USA (in Minnesota), and includes only natural ingredients.
- Complete and balanced meal that’s freeze-dried — just add water
- Human grade ingredients, including meat, fruits, and vegetables
- 1.75 pound bag makes 10 pounds of food after hydration; 7 pound bag makes 40 pounds of food
- Also available in turkey, beef, and lamb options
- Made in the USA in small batches
- Meets all AAFCO nutrient profiles for adult dogs
- Grain free, non-GMO, and made without fillers
- Includes zinc, vitamin E, vitamin D3, folic acid, and other vitamins
- All natural with no preservatives or additives
- Food has chunks of meat in it, so may be difficult to eat for smaller breed dogs
- Expensive compared to regular kibble
5. Nulo Freeze Dried Raw Dog Food
Nulo Freestyle is a freeze-dried dog food that combines all-natural meat, produce, and vitamins with a probiotic for improved digestion.
- Freeze-dried, grain free, raw dog food
- Comes in beef, duck, lamb, salmon, and turkey varieties
- Meets all AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles for all life stages, including puppies
- Available in 5 and 13 ounce bags
- Can be served as a topper, treat, or complete meal
- Made in the USA in a USDA inspected facility
- Includes probiotics to aid in healthy digestion
- Grain free, which may not work for some pet parents
- On the pricier side of options
6. Primal Freeze Dried Chicken Dog Food
Primal Freeze-Dried Nuggets is one of the highest rated freeze-dried foods available. It’s made with all natural chicken, certified organic produce, salmon oil, and a number of essential vitamins and minerals.
- All natural freeze-dried, raw dog food
- Ingredients are 78% natural chicken, 22% certified organic produce and vitamins
- Made without grains, gluten, or fillers
- One 14 ounce bag makes 3 pounds of food once rehydrated
- Made in the USA with only ingredients sourced from US and New Zealand
- All natural chicken raised without antibiotics, steroids, or hormones
- Can be used as a complete and balanced meal, or just as a topper for improved taste
- A pricey option, especially if you have a bigger dog that eats a large quantity of food
- Grain free which may not work for some pet parents
7. Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Boost Toppers
Instinct Raw Boost Toppers is a top choice for freeze-dried food to add to your dog’s existing kibble diet. In addition to pieces of beef or free range chicken, the blend includes freeze-dried apples, sweet potatoes, peas, and blueberries. Similar to other options, this is fully grain-free and completely all-natural.
- Intended to be a kibble topper for enhanced taste, or as a treat
- Made without grains, filler, or any artificial flavors or preservatives
- Available in beef and chicken
- Made in the USA
- Made with beef or chicken, as well as freeze dried apples, sweet potatoes, peas, and blueberries
- Affordable option for those looking to test a raw food diet
- Grain free which may not work for some pet parents
Freeze Dried Dog Food Buying Guide
Unlike dehydrated and processed foods, freeze-dried foods are not treated with heat and require no preservatives. The vitamins, minerals, and enzymes present in the original ingredients undergo fewer changes than if they were cooked or pasteurized. Freeze-dried dog food is a useful alternative to explore for pet parents who aren’t satisfied with traditional kibble for their canine companion.
The Freeze Drying Process
Freeze drying is an effective way to preserve foods for long term storage without using harsh chemical preservatives. Although the process was widely used during WWII as a way to preserve heat-sensitive biological materials, such as blood plasma and bone marrow, it wasn’t until the 1950s and 60s that it was applied to food products for humans. Freeze-dried dog foods are a relative newcomer on the scene, first becoming commercially available within the last few decades.
It is achieved by first thoroughly freezing the food, then subjecting it to a low-pressure vacuum. When the frozen food is subjected to the low-pressure vacuum, the ice crystals go straight from a solid state to a gaseous state, bypassing the liquid state altogether. The process typically removes 96% to 99% of the liquid and takes between 24-48 hours to complete.
Pros and Cons of a Freeze Dried Diet
Because they are not treated with heat, freeze-dried foods are considered to be a form of raw diet. Raw diets for dogs are ideally comprised of muscle meat, organs, and bones, and may include fruits and vegetables as well. They have moderate levels of fat, high levels of protein, and very low levels of carbohydrates.
Proponents of a raw diet for dogs also state that by cooking the food that we feed our pets, we change its structure and nutritional value. By avoiding heat during processing, these foods are believed to taste better and have more bioavailable nutrients than those that were heat-treated, because they more closely align with the dog’s natural diet.
Several compelling benefits to feeding your canine companion a more natural diet are cited, including:
- Healthier skin and coat
- Fewer allergic reactions
- Fresher breath
- Whiter teeth
- Increased energy
- Improved digestion
- Smaller stools with less odor
As an added benefit, freeze-dried raw foods are easy to store, don’t require refrigeration, aren’t subject to mold, and are lightweight. This makes them ideal for situations like vacations and camping or hunting trips, where carrying regular dog food might become cumbersome.
However, there are some cons to consider. This is because raw, uncooked animal proteins, such as the proteins found in freeze-dried dog food, can harbor bacteria that a pasteurized or cooked product won’t have.
Salmonella, in particular, has been the basis of several recalls of freeze-dried dog food. Dogs themselves are fairly resistant to Salmonella bacteria and unless your canine companion is very young, very old, or immunocompromised, they are unlikely to show symptoms.
Unfortunately, even without symptoms, our precious pooches are fully capable of shedding salmonella in both their stool and their saliva, possibly passing it on to other pets and people in the household. Although humans are more susceptible to the bacteria than canines, some dogs may develop the illness as well.
If you’re unsure as to which diet to choose, it’s always a great idea to speak with your veterinarian to fully understand the pros and cons of each.
Selecting a Freeze Dried Food
There are several varieties of freeze-dried dog foods available on the market, and which specific one is best for your dog will depend on your preferences, your reason for choosing freeze-dried foods, and your dog’s tastes.
Many people chose to switch to their dog to freeze-dried foods in order to reduce allergen exposure, ensure that they have a fully natural diet, and to completely avoid the preservatives used in other commercial foods. These individuals are likely to choose a diet made up completely of freeze-dried and raw foods, and remove kibble from their canine’s menu entirely.
On the other hand, pet parents who are just looking to add a little extra nutrition and flavor into their canine companion’s otherwise satisfactory diet may not require a complete dietary overhaul. There are several varieties of food that combine more traditional kibbles with freeze-dried components. You can easily find kibble with freeze-dried bits mixed in as well as kibble coated in powdered, freeze-dried food both online and at many brick and mortar pet-specialty stores.
Dog owners in both camps have several options when it comes to the ingredients, shape, and preparation requirements for their dog’s food.
Dogs, unlike cats, are not strict carnivores. While the majority of their diet should be comprised of meat products, they can also benefit from the addition of fruits and vegetables to their diet. While dog foods that have fillers like soy and corn at the top of the ingredient list should be strictly avoided, a complete food that incorporates essential vitamins and minerals into the recipe in the form of fruits and vegetables is ideal.
Look for the phrases “complete and balanced” or “100% nutritious” on the label if you are using freeze-dried food as a complete diet. These are an FDA regulated claims that can only be included on the label if the food meets one of the Food Nutrient Profiles established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), or if it passes a feeding trial using the procedures set by AAFCO.
This nutritional adequacy statement will also clarify which life stages the product is complete and balanced for, whether that be for maintenance, for growth, or for all life stages. Dog food products that do meet these requirements are obliged to include the phrase “this product is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only” somewhere on the package.
If your pooch is sensitive to certain ingredients or is prone to allergies, dog foods that are made with fewer ingredients or hypoallergenic formulas may help to prevent painful or itchy reactions.
Shape and Preparation
Freeze-dried dog foods come in many different sizes from tiny flakes to the size of a hamburger patty, and can be fed to your canine companion either just as they are, or rehydrated into an appetizing stew, making them endlessly adaptable.
Flakes of freeze-dried foods can be sprinkled over regular kibble as a flavor enhancer. Crunchy, kibble-sized bites can be used to replace traditional kibble, be mixed into a kibble dog food as an additive, or even be used as high-value training treats. Larger formed patties can be broken up and used much the same way as the kibble-sized bites, or given to your dog all in one go.
Rehydrated, these foods provide a source of complete nutrition for dogs that prefer soft food or have medical conditions that make it difficult or impossible to eat foods that require chewing.
Freeze-dried food is light, portable, and requires no refrigeration unless it is rehydrated. This makes it the ideal form of nutrition when packing light for a vacation or camping trip, in any configuration. It is important to remember that it has almost no liquid content at all unless it is rehydrated. It is crucial to provide plenty of clean, fresh water for dogs who are fed a freeze-dried diet in its dehydrated form.
Safe Handling of Raw Dog Foods
Pet-parents that choose a raw food diet for their dogs, whether it be homemade, frozen, or freeze-dried, need to be sensible and attentive when handling these products, just as they would for other raw meats and animal products.
- Keep raw foods separate from other foods, especially ready to eat foods such as salad and deli meat.
- Use separate dishes to prepare raw foods
- Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds both before and after handling raw dog foods.
- Use hot, soapy water to wash any utensils, surfaces, or dishes that come into contact with raw food. This includes the dog’s food bowl and water bowl.
- Refrigerate or freeze rehydrated food within 1-2 hours. Promptly dispose of any rehydrated food that is left out more than an hour or two.
How Often and How Much to Feed Your Dog
The amount of food that your specific pet needs will depend somewhat on their individual metabolism and activity level, but there are some basic guidelines you can use to get a good idea of how much they will need.
Adult dogs should be fed an amount equal to approximately 2-3% of their body weight each day, preferably split into two meals for optimum nutrition and digestion. This would mean that a healthy 100-pound mastiff or Rottweiler would require around a pound to a pound and a half of food per meal, while a smaller dog like a Beagle or Corgi that weighs just 25 pounds may only need a quarter of a pound per serving.
To ensure that your dog is getting the optimal amount of food, watch their figure. From above, a healthy weight dog should have a rounded hourglass-like shape. An underweight dog has a straight outline from this angle, often with hips that jut out, and an overweight dog will have a waist that is as wide or wider than their ribcage. Another way to check is to feel your dog’s ribs. You should be able to easily feel their ribs under their coat, but they should not be so prominent that they are clearly visible.
Puppies tend to need additional nutrition to support their growth and should be offered an amount of food equal to 5% of their body weight, or about a quarter of a pound per 10 pounds of body weight. This should split into at least two meals, and ideally three. Puppies tend to fluctuate quite a bit more in weight than adult dogs and may even appear downright pudgy on occasion, especially right before a growth spurt. It is usually of very little concern, but if you feel like something is off with your pup, it is always best to consult with your veterinarian.
Giant Breed Puppies
Giant breed puppies grow differently than smaller dogs, and foods that are appropriate for most puppies may be detrimental for their development and growth. It is vital that you contact a veterinary nutritionist before attempting to feed a growing giant breed puppy a raw diet.
Giant breed dogs who have too much fat in their diets tend to grow more quickly during their puppyhood. These dogs are more likely to develop bone and joint disorders such as arthritis, osteochondritis dessicans, and hip dysplasia as they age. Ensuring that your growing giant breed dog has the appropriate ratios of calcium to phosphorous in their diet can also significantly improve the development of their skeletal system.
Freeze-dried foods, like other dog foods, can vary somewhat in their nutritional density, so check the back of the bag for feeding recommendations. Active dogs and dogs with high metabolisms may need more food than average, while slow-moving dogs may need to eat somewhat less in order to prevent problems like obesity from developing.
Transitioning Dog Foods
While there are a few dogs who can change food without any trouble, most canines do not handle an abrupt change of diet particularly well. Many dogs who are transitioned from one food to another too quickly can experience distressing symptoms such as excess gas, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. Most experts recommend taking at least a week to transition your dog from one diet to another, initially replacing about a quarter of their old food with the new food, then gradually increasing the amount over the next few days.
Observe your pup carefully as they are making the transition to their new freeze-dried diet. If your dog starts to show indications of gastrointestinal distress, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive gas, withhold all food and contact your veterinarian right away. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, your veterinarian may recommend slowing down the transition, withholding all food for 12 hours and starting the transition over again, or they may even recommend abandoning the switch altogether.
There are a variety of reasons to utilize freeze-dried foods for your dog and an equally large number of freeze-dried options to choose from. While this guide provides a good baseline to understanding the ins and outs of safely feeding your canine a freeze-dried diet, each animal is an individual, each with their own metabolisms, preferences, and sensitivities.
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