Have you ever had astronaut ice cream? That dry, room-temperature treat offered at science centers and space camp?
Although little more than a novelty, these snacks are made with the same technology used to prepare food for space travel – by removing the water, the food weighs less and takes up less space.
Called freeze-drying, the process used to create these treats is also used to create freeze-dried dog food.
Many dog owners are curious about these foods, and are considering making the switch to them. Read on to learn about the ins and outs of freeze-dried foods; we’ll even recommend five great options for those who decide to make the switch.
In a hurry? Just check out our quick picks!
Quick Picks: Best Freeze-Dried Dog Food
- TruDog Freeze-Dried Raw Superfood [Best Overall Choice] — Made with 100% USA born, raised and harvested, cage free turkey, TruDog is a high-quality freeze-dried food with a taste most dogs love.
- Buckley Liberty Freeze-Dried Dog Food [Best Freeze-Dried Topper] — You can use this recipe as a tasty and nutritious kibble topper or as a complete replacement for your dog’s current food.
- Instinct Freeze-Dried Raw Meals [Most Affordable Option] — Despite being made with three times the meat in most kibbles and non-GMO produce, this food will be easier on your wallet than most other freeze-dried recipes.
- Heed Foods [Best Kibble + Freeze-Dried Option] Heed Foods is a boutique dog food company offering a combination of healthy prebiotic kibble for better digestion, along with your choice of several freeze-dried mix-ins that can top your dog’s dinner and add a splash of novelty!
Freeze-Dried Dog Food Benefits: Why Do Pups Love It?
There are several benefits to feeding your pooch freeze-dried dog food, including:
- High Quality Ingredients. Freeze dried diets are typically comprised of an extremely impressive slate of ingredients, including muscle meat, organs and ground bones (some also include freeze-dried fruits and vegetables). Most are also made without artificial additives.
- Raw Diet Alternative. Many freeze-dried feeders begin doing so as an alternative to providing a raw diet. Raw diets can be difficult and laborious to assemble and prepare, but freeze-dried foods are often as easy to serve as kibble.
- Long Shelf Life. Additionally, freeze-dried foods often have ridiculously long shelf-lives, which makes them handy to keep around for emergencies. For example, you don’t want to run out of dog food if you find yourself snowed in for a week or if you live in a hurricane-prone region, in which the grocery store shelves completely empty every time a storm threatens.
- Dogs Simply Adore Freeze-Dried Food. Aside from everything else, most dogs find freeze-dried foods to be drool-inducingly delicious. In fact, some people use them as healthy (if somewhat high-calorie) treats.
Note that some dogs will produce much less waste after switching to a freeze-dried diet, as they often contain less fiber than typical kibble. Much more of the food is converted into new tissue and energy.
What Are the Downsides to Freeze-Dried Dog Food?
There are two primary downsides to freeze-dried dog foods. They may be deal-breakers for some owners, while others are willing to overlook these downsides. We’ll discuss both below.
Freeze-Dried Dog Foods Are Expensive
The single greatest problem with freeze-dried dog foods (and dehydrated foods to a lesser extent) is their expense – every product on the market is very pricey when compared to dry (cooked) kibble.
However, it is important to remember that most dehydrated dog foods swell to 3 to 5 times their original size once rehydrated — so don’t be thrown off by their small packaging.
Since freeze-dried dog food can get quite pricey, a lot of owners end up using freeze-dried foods as “toppers,” by serving them with other, more affordable foods. Do note that some manufacturers discourage this kind of use, so be sure to consult the feeding instructions before using a food in this manner.
Freeze-Dried (Raw) Dog Foods May Be Contaminated with Bacteria
Raw meats are often contaminated with bacteria that can make you or your pooch sick. That’s part of the reason humans cook our food — doing so keeps us healthy.
Broadly speaking, dogs don’t appear to be quite as susceptible to illness-causing bacteria as humans are. But they still can and do get sick from time to time after consuming raw meat.
Accordingly, the raw meat included in some freeze-dried dog foods may cause some dogs to fall ill.
It is true that freeze-drying removes the bulk of the moisture from a piece of meat, and therefore reduces the rate that bacteria can reproduce. This may make some freeze-dried foods slightly safer than completely unprocessed, raw foods. However, once you pour some water on your dog’s freeze-dried dinner, the bacteria can begin reproducing again.
Ultimately, we’d encourage you to discuss freeze-dried dog food with your vet before making the switch. The risks they present may be acceptable for some dogs, while they may be too dangerous for others.
What’s the Difference Between Dehydrated and Freeze-Dried Dog Food?
Although freeze-dried and dehydrated dog foods are broadly similar products and are both comprised of raw foods that have had the bulk of their water removed, they do differ in several key ways.
Dehydrated Dog Food
With dehydrated dog food, the water is removed from food by simply placing the food in a low-heat environment for an extended period of time.
This is the same drying process that many people use at home to make jerkies and dehydrated fruit treats. In this process, the water begins as a liquid, turns into a gas, and then slowly evaporates from the food.
The use of heat is noteworthy, as it tends to cause the food to undergo a few structural changes. Whether or not this has a negative impact on the nutritional content of the food is not yet known, but raw food devotees often consider this an important distinction.
Freeze-Dried Dog Food
By contrast, freeze-dried dog foods are not heated at any point in the manufacturing process.
The freeze-drying process begins with already-frozen foods, which are then placed in large machines that lower the atmospheric pressure around the food. This causes the water to sublimate (transition from ice directly to gas) and diffuse out of the food.
This means that freeze-dried dog food has not been cooked at all – a fact many raw-food feeders greatly appreciate.
Additionally, because the food’s structure remains largely intact (aside from shrinkage), the ingredients still resemble their original shape. This makes it easy to look at a pea, for example, and know exactly what it is.
Freeze-Dried Dog Food vs Totally Raw Dog Food
Owners may also find themselves wondering about the difference between freeze-dried dog food and raw dog food.
Most freeze-dried and dehydrated dog foods are made with raw meat (technically, the meat used in dehydrated foods is exposed to heat, so it becomes “cooked” during the manufacturing process).
However, the removal of water as part of the freeze-drying and dehydration process makes it possible to store these dog foods safely without refrigeration. Bacteria require moisture, so by removing the bulk of the water from the foods, they aren’t as likely to spoil.
So, while freeze-dried raw and dehydrated raw dog foods often resemble typical dog foods (some are a bit more like a bag of uncooked oatmeal), completely raw dog foods require packaging like the raw meats you buy at the grocery store – they’re essentially the same thing.
All of this means that you can’t store completely raw dog food without refrigeration, and even with refrigeration, these types of raw foods are only going to remain safe for a finite period of time. So, there aren’t very many commercially produced raw (with moisture) foods on the market, and those that are available will be sold in the refrigerated section of your local pet store.
Note that you’ll need to practice very sound hygiene whenever you are handling raw meats. Be careful to avoid cross-contamination and always wash your hands with soap and water once you’re finished.
What to Look for in a Good Freeze-Dried Dog Food
There are a number of characteristics to look for in any nutritious dog food, be it freeze-dried or otherwise. Additionally, there are a few additional considerations to keep in mind when contemplating making a switch.
- The best freeze-dried foods feature ingredients that contain plenty of omega fatty acids. Some of the most common ingredients used in this capacity include salmon and flaxseed, as well as assorted vegetable fats, fish oils, and fish meals.
- Most freeze-dried foods are comprised primarily of meats and minerals, but many of the very best recipes also include antioxidant- and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Some of the most common examples include cranberries, blackberries, blueberries, spinach, parsley and carrots.
- Although it is rarely a problem when seeking out freeze-dried foods, make sure that you avoid any that contain artificial colors, flavors or additives. These types of ingredients not only invalidate much of the reasoning behind feeding raw food, they are simply unnecessary.
- Whenever possible, select foods made in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia or Western Europe. These countries maintain stricter quality control standards and regulations, which helps ensure your dog’s food will arrive untainted by dangerous or unhealthy pollutants or unidentified ingredients.
- Avoid low-quality, economy products just in order to save a few bucks. Price is always an important consideration when buying expensive, high-quality dog food, and it makes perfect sense to save a few bucks when you can. However, going cheap can be dangerous with freeze-fried foods; one way manufacturers can try to lower costs is through cheaper packaging – if the packaging does not remain airtight, moisture can seep in, leading to bacterial growth.
The 5 Best Freeze-Dried Dog Foods: Reviews & Ratings
If you think you are ready to try out freeze-dried dog foods for your pup, consider going with one of the following five recipes.
1. TruDog Freeze-Dried Crunchy Munchy
Premium 5-ingredient hypoallergenic recipe
A limited-ingredient recipe made with turkey meat, turkey hearts, and turkey liver, herring oil, and that’s basically it!
About: TruDog Freeze-Dried Superfood is a straight-forward freeze-dried dog food that provides maximum nutrition from a rather limited number of ingredients. Thanks to the inclusion of organ meats and tasty fat, most dogs find TruDog Freeze-Dried Superfood very palatable.
- Made with free-range, grass-fed beef, raised in Wisconsin
- Organic dog food with an all-natural and hypoallergenic formula providing the nutrition your dog needs and nothing else
- Contains no grains, fillers, preservatives or artificial flavors or colors
- Made in the USA
Most dogs simply loved TruDog Freeze-Dried Raw Superfood, and most appeared to transition to the food without suffering any type of digestive upset. Some owners reported that their dog’s coat condition improved after making the switch.
As with every other freeze-dried food in this survey, most owners complained about the product’s high price. Additionally, some owners were disappointed that the recipe doesn’t include any fruits or vegetables.
Ground turkey with bone, turkey heart, turkey liver, herring oil, mixed tocopherols...,
2. Buckley Liberty Freeze-Dried Topper
80% freeze-dried lamb, organs and bone
Made from lamb meat and organs, this is a great freeze-dried food topper to add extra protein and taste to your dog’s normal eats.
About: Buckley Liberty Freeze-Dried Dog Food is an affordably priced freeze-dried dog food that is made from an impressively nutritious slate of ingredients.
In addition to vitamin-rich organ meats, Buckley Liberty is made with an array of colorful fruits and vegetables to provide top-notch nutritional value.
- Can be fed as-is as a treat, or rehydrated and served as a meal
- Contains no corn, soy, wheat or fillers
- Made in the USA, with only ingredients sourced from America
Most owners reported that their dog absolutely loved the taste of Buckley Liberty, regardless of how picky they normally were. While some owners use this product as their dog’s primary food, most use it as a topper for their dog’s normal food. Additionally, this food features not only antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, but it is made with multiple supplemental sources of omega fatty acids (salmon oil and flaxseed).
The only downside to Buckley Liberty most owners cited was the cost, but this is a common complaint among most freeze-dried diets. In point of fact, Buckley Liberty is one of the more affordable choices, and given its impressive ingredient list, it provides exceptional value for the category.
Lamb Heart, Lamb Liver, Ground Lamb Bone, Squash, Apples...,
Carrots, Broccoli, Eggs, Ground Flaxseed, Inulin, Blueberries, Cranberries, Apple Cider Vinegar, Dried Kelp, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Chloride, Salmon Oil, Fish Oil, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Mixed Tocopherols (a preservative).
3. Instinct Freeze-Dried Raw Meals
Crafted from raw freeze-dried ingredients
This freeze-dried food boasts 85% chicken meat and 15% non-GMO fruits and veggies. Plus it’s made in the USA!
About: Instinct’s Freeze-Dried Raw Meals are chock full of nutritious ingredients that taste great and provide the vitamins, minerals, and calories that your dog needs. This is also one of the most affordable freeze-dried kibble options on the market, making it a great choice for owners who want to try out these types of foods.
- High-protein content to help your dog stay healthy
- Comprised of 85% chicken and organs, with the remaining 15% being comprised of fruits, vegetables and vitamins
- Made entirely in the USA
- All chickens used in the recipe were raised on cage-free farms
Most dogs love the taste of Instinct’s Freeze-Dried Meals, and owners love the idea of feeding their dog a food made with such great ingredients. Many owners even noticed improvements in their dog’s health, including better coat and skin condition and a small amount of weight loss.
The biggest flaw in Instinct’s Freeze-Dried Meals is the high cost. In fact, this is one of the priciest options in an already expensive category. However, the individual ingredients and collective recipe more than offset this high price point.
Chicken (including Ground Chicken Bone), Chicken Liver, Chicken Heart, Apples, Carrots...,
Sweet Potatoes, Butternut Squash, Montmorillonite Clay, Tricalcium Phosphate, Ground Flaxseed, Salmon Oil, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Yeast Culture, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Calcium Iodate), DL Methionine, Mixed Tocopherols (for freshness), Blueberries, Spinach, Rosemary Extract.
4. BIXBI Rawbble
Features hormone-free duck
This freeze-dried, meat-rich recipe is packed with tasty duck and duck organs with no by-products in a limited-ingredient formula.
About: BIXBI Rawbble is a very affordable option when compared with most other freeze-dried dog foods. Even at such a low price, BIXBI Rawbble is packed full of nutritious ingredients and formulated to have a taste and texture that most dogs love.
- Made in small batches with only USDA-certified animal proteins to ensure freshness and quality
- All ingredients made and sourced in the USA
- 98% of the recipe is comprised of muscle meat and organs; the other 2% contains healthy oils, pumpkin, vitamins and minerals
Most dogs found Rawbble delicious, whether they are fed it as a treat, topper of primary food. Owners love the inclusion of omega-fatty-acid-rich herring oil, and several noted improvements in their dog’s coat and skin condition.
The primary complaint most owners had about BIXBI Rawbble was the high price, but this is actually one of the most affordable products in the freeze-dried food category. Additionally, although BIXBI Rawbble is formulated to be used as a meal, it should not be used for large breed puppies.
Duck, Duck Heart, Duck Liver, Duck Gizzard, Pumpkin...,
Coconut Oil, Herring Oil, Vitamin E Supplement, Liver Extract, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Selenium Yeast, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Calcium Iodate, Mixed Tocopherols (a preservative)
5. Orijen Freeze-Dried Adult Dog Food
Packed with freeze-dried meats, fruits, and veggies with no corn, soy, gluten, or nasty additives.
About: Like the rest of their stellar products, Orijen’s Freeze-Dried Recipe is a great-tasting dog food that most dogs simply love.
Owners tend to appreciate the excellent ingredient list, which not only includes nutritious proteins, but several antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables as well.
This recipe’s first five ingredients are all meat, which is quite impressive for any dog food and is a solid sign of quality.
- Made without corn, soy, wheat or any other glutens or grains
- Manufactured solely in Orijen’s Alberta, Canada kitchens
- Protein-heavy recipe means that this food has a low glycemic index
By and large, dogs appear to love the taste of Orijen Freeze-Dried Food, and owners loved the ingredients. In fact, many dogs who had previously rejected grain-free foods found Orijen to be perfectly palatable, whether used as a stand-alone food or as a food topper.
Most owners who tried Orijen Freeze-Dried Food were quite pleased, but a few noted palatability problems with their pup. Additionally, as with most other freeze-dried foods, many owners complained about the high price of the product.
Chicken (ground with bone), turkey (ground with bone), whole herring, chicken liver, chicken heart...,
whole eggs, spinach greens, pea fiber, turkey liver, turkey heart, whole flounder, ground whole sunflower seeds, whole pumpkin, butternut squash, whole carrots, whole cranberries, whole blackberries, whole blueberries, apples, pears, plums, apricots, brown kelp, mixed tocopherols (preservative), chicory root, dandelion root, summer savory, peppermint leaf, ginger root, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate.
6. Heed Foods
Prebiotic kibble + freeze-dried mix-ins
Heed offers microbiome-friendly dry kibble along with protein-packed freeze-dried toppers that can be added to any meal.
About: Heed Foods isn’t a 100% freeze-dried dog food, but instead offers a combo pack of healthy, prebiotic kibble along with custom freeze-dried mix-ins that can be added to your dog’s food to give it an extra pop of protein!
Heed kibble formulas are crafted by a canine microbiome expert, designed to be super easy to digest with a mix of prebiotics for gut-friendly eating!
Heed offers two recipes – a salmon & quinoa recipe and a chicken & ancient grains recipe that includes healthy grains like brown rice, pearled barley, and oat groats.
Freeze-Dried Dog Food FAQs
Still not sure if a freeze-dried food is right for your pet? Still have questions that remain unanswered? Don’t worry!
We’ve answered some of the most common questions about freeze-dried dog foods below.
Are freeze-dried dog foods healthy for dogs?
As long as they’re made with nutritious ingredients, freeze-dried foods can be very healthy options for dogs.
What are the benefits of freeze-dried dog food?
While it isn’t yet clear if the freeze-drying process itself makes these foods healthier than typical kibble, most freeze-dried foods are made with very high-quality ingredients, they rarely contain artificial additives, they are easy to store for a long time, and dogs tend to love the taste.
Are freeze-dried dog foods safe?
Provided that they’re made by an upstanding manufacturer, freeze-dried foods are safe for dogs.
Are freeze-dried dog foods raw?
True freeze-dried foods do contain raw ingredients, and their water is removed without the use of heat. This distinguishes them from dehydrated foods, which are exposed to gentle heat during the manufacturing process.
Can you freeze dry your own dog food?
It is possible to freeze dry your own food, but — realistically speaking — most owners will not be willing to invest the time or money necessary to do so. You’ll either need to purchase expensive equipment or allow the food to dry out in your freezer over the course of several weeks.
Is freeze-dried dog food better than normal dog food?
Nutritionally speaking, it isn’t clear that freeze-dried foods are healthier than normal kibbles (assuming products of similar quality). However, most freeze-dried foods are made with top-notch ingredients, and they often include organ meats. Additionally, they’re great for picky pups who aren’t fond of kibble.
How long do freeze-dried dog foods last?
While all freeze-dried dog foods last quite a while, the exact length of time they’ll remain safe to feed varies from one product to the next. Just consult the manufacturer’s guidelines on the product packaging to be sure.
Do you feed your dog a freeze-dried diet? Do you use it as a treat, topper or primary food? What types of changes in your dog’s health or behavior have you noticed since making the switch? Tell us all about it in the comments below!