Discerning pet parents are always on the lookout for healthier, better tasting food options for their dogs. Dehydrated and freeze-dried dog foods have been rising in popularity, but why? What makes them different from the other options?

Lightly Processed Ingredients

So many “healthy” choices these days – home prepared cooked or raw diets; commercial raw, frozen, dehydrated or freeze-dried diets; and advanced nutritional canned and bagged kibble. It’s difficult for nutritionists to agree on the “best” but they do agree on the general idea that a complete and balanced diet made up of lightly processed or unprocessed ingredients is healthier than one with highly processed ingredients.

There are a lot of variations in the grouping of dehydrated and freeze-dried dog foods in terms of ingredients, their level of rawness, manufacturing process, finished form and protein and fat levels. The thing in common is their method of preservation – drying to remove the moisture from the food so the nutrients remain unspoiled and available to you and your dog for a longer time.

The Difference in Drying Methods

The temperature at which foods are dried makes a big difference. Below 30° F, the food freezes. Between 32° F and 140° F, the food can dry at low temperatures but it takes longer and leaves meats and fats vulnerable to rotting and spoilage. Above 180° F, the food will start to cook. Dehydrators actually lightly cook the food as it dries. This method alters the cellular structure of meats, fruits and vegetables. In contrast, freeze-drying doesn’t affect the appearance or taste of foods as much.

Freeze-dryers expose food to very low temperatures, freezing them relatively quickly, and then to high air pressure in a tank. When the pressure inside the tank is high enough, small heating units are turned on which causes the frozen water in the food, a solid at that point, to turn into a gas (water vapor). Pumps then pull the vapor out of the chamber while keeping the air pressure high.

The Benefits of Freeze-Dried Foods

Freeze-drying leaves foods less damaged than dehydration. It doesn’t shrink or toughen most food ingredients, and it leaves most aromas, textures and flavors in the food intact. Some dog owners will seek out these diets, specifically because the meats will rehydrate very close to fresh meat in appearance and taste and because freeze-dried foods have a very long shelf life. Rehydration is a simple process of introducing hot or boiling water to the product. Watch for labels that also indicate the meats are human-grade, meaning they are freeze-dried at a USDA inspected facility.

Only the best for your four-legged family member! Bon Appetit!

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