Quick Picks: Best Freeze-Dried Dog Food
- #1 Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Super Beef Meal [Best Overall Freeze-Dried Dog Food]: Made with top-notch proteins, bursting with nutritious produce, and fortified with probiotics, this is the best freeze-dried dog food option for most pooches.
- #2 Instinct Freeze-Dried Raw Meals [Freeze-Dried Dog Food with Most Ethical Proteins]: Packed with meats, organs, healthy fats, and nutritious produce, this tasty freeze-dried recipe is made exclusively from cage-free chickens.
- #3 TruDog Freeze-Dried Superfood [Most Affordable Freeze-Dried Dog Food]: A delicious, limited-ingredient recipe that’s great for dogs with food allergies, as well as pet parents looking to save a few bucks.
- #4 Sundays for Dogs [Best Freeze-Dried Alternative]: Actually air-dried rather than freeze-dried, this is a good alternative for some dogs, and it is (arguably) the only grain-inclusive option around (if you consider quinoa a grain).
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 several great options for those who decide to make the switch.
The 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 recipes.
1. Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Super Beef Meal
Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Super Beef Meal
Chock full of great ingredients and fortified with probiotics, this is a true “next-level” freeze-dried dog food.
About: Perhaps the biggest brand name in the freeze-dried dog food game, Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Super Beef Meal is the best option for most pet and their people — especially those who’re just dipping their toes into the freeze-dried waters!
Made with premium proteins (including tasty and nutritious organ meats) and an array of organic produce, this is one of the few freeze-dried dog foods on the market that comes already fortified with probiotics. This should help prevent stomach upset when making your switch and promote overall digestive health while doing so!
Beef, Beef Liver, Beef Kidney, Beef Heart, Beef Tripe...,
Beef Bone, Pumpkin Seed, Organic Cranberries, Organic Spinach, Organic Broccoli, Organic Beets, Organic Carrots, Organic Squash, Organic Blueberries, Fenugreek Seed, Potassium Chloride, Dried Kelp, Sodium Phosphate, Tocopherols (Preservative), Choline Chloride, Dried Pediococcus Acidilactici Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Longum Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Taurine, Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid.
- We’re huge fans of the organic produce used in this recipe
- The included probiotics are a nice bonus
- This food not only works as a standalone meal; it’ll also work as a topper
- Dogs — even picky eaters — tended to love the taste
- Some owners complained of product consistency issues
- Like most other freeze-dried raw dog foods, it’s pricey
2. Instinct Freeze-Dried Raw Meals
Instinct Freeze-Dried Raw Meals
Protein-packed recipes featuring cage-free chicken, by a brand with more than 15 years experience with freeze-dried foods.
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. And despite being one of the most affordable freeze-dried kibble options on the market, it’s made in the USA with chickens raised on cage-free farms.
- 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 poultry used in this chicken-based dog food recipe were raised on cage-free farms
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.
- We love that it includes several nutritious fruits and veggies
- Several owners reported improvements in their pet’s coat and skin condition
- A few dogs actually lost weight after switching to the food
- Relatively affordable for the quality
- We appreciate the use of cage-free chicken in the recipe
- Some owners may not like the inclusion of montmorillonite clay (despite it being considered safe)
- As occurs with every dog food, some pets simply didn’t like the taste
3. TruDog Freeze-Dried Crunchy Munchy
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.
- Hypoallergenic, limited-ingredient recipe is great for dogs with food allergies
- Contains no artificial flavors, artificial colors, or artificial preservatives
- Made in the USA
- Backed by the manufacturer’s 60-day, money-back guarantee
Ground turkey with bone, turkey heart, turkey liver, and herring oil...,
- Most dogs seem to love the taste of this meaty recipe
- Limited ingredient list makes it a great choice for dogs with food allergies
- Several owners reported improvements in coat condition after making the switch
- It’s the most affordable freeze-dried dog food we’ve encountered
- Like most freeze-dried options, this food is pretty pricey
- Lacks any fruits or vegetables
- We’re not crazy about some of their marketing hype
4. Buckley Liberty Freeze-Dried Topper
Buckley Liberty Lamb Freeze-Dried Topper
A premium, protein-packed, freeze-dried dog food that’s made with an array of vitamin- and antioxidant-rich produce.
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
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).
- Contains a fantastic array of nutritious fruits and veggies
- Includes salmon oil — a great source of omega-3 fatty acids
- Most dogs — even picky ones — love the taste
- Some owners complained it was hard to soften or rehydrate
- It is pretty expensive, bordering on cost-prohibitive for large dogs
5. BIXBI Rawbble
Featuring 98% meat and organ meat content, these freeze-dried dog foods are available in 7 different flavors.
About: BIXBI Rawbble is a meat-heavy freeze-dried dog food recipe that’s chock full of protein and features a meaty taste dogs love. In fact, 98% of the recipe is comprised of muscle and organ meat. But one of the things we love most about BIXBI Rawbble is the array of flavors in which the food is available. This makes it great for owners trying to avoid specific proteins or please a picky pooch’s palate.
- Made in small batches with only USDA-certified animal proteins to ensure freshness and quality
- All ingredients made and sourced in the USA
- 98% meat content; the other 2% contains healthy oils, pumpkin, vitamins, and minerals
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)
- Owners love having so many flavor options available
- Herring oil is a great source of omega fatty acids
- Several owner reported improvements in skin and coat health after feeding this food
- Not suitable for large-breed puppies
- We’d prefer if more produce appeared in the recipe
6. Orijen Freeze-Dried Adult Dog Food
Orijen Freeze-Dried Tundra Dog Food
Made with an assortment of exotic proteins, this freeze-dried dog food offers dogs and owners something different.
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 something that appeals to many owners.
- Made without corn, soy, wheat, glutens, or grains
- Manufactured in the USA
- Protein-heavy recipe made with a variety of protein sources
Venison, Duck (Ground With Bone), Flounder, Lamb Meat, Duck Liver...,
Herring, Lamb Liver, Wild Boar Liver, Wild Boar, Goat Meat, Pea Fiber, Whole Pumpkin, Collard Greens, Carrots, Apples, Wild Boar Bone, Lamb Kidney, Lamb Tripe, Wild Boar Heart, Goat Liver, Goat Tripe, Goat Kidney, Duck Heart, Dried Kelp, Zinc Proteinate, Potassium Chloride, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin E Supplement, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative).
- Great for owners who want to offer their pet exotic proteins
- Most dogs went nuts for the recipe’s meaty taste
- Orijen is a trusted, high-quality brand
- Lots of produce can (rarely) upset some dogs’ stomachs
- The array of proteins included makes it a poor choice for some dogs with food allergies
7. Sundays for Dogs
Sundays for Dogs
A healthy, protein-packed alternative to freeze-dried options, featuring several unusual dog food ingredients.
About: As will discuss below, there are a few subtle differences between freeze-dried and air-dried (or dehydrated) foods. And if you’d feel better sticking with air-dried options for your pet, Sundays for Dogs is a great choice.
Air-dried, full of incredible ingredients, and customized for your pet, Sundays for Dogs is a great choice for many four-footers, including those who’re historically picky. In addition to featuring a stellar ingredient list, this food was designed by a team of animal nutritionist PhD’s, food scientists, and vet nutritionists.
Sundays for Dogs highlights the fact that their food contains no artificial flavors or preservatives, no chemicals, and no ingredients from China.
- Gently dehydrated via an air-drying process
- Made without any artificial additives or preservatives
- Whole meats and organ meats are featured at the top of the ingredient list
USDA Beef, Beef Heart, Beef Liver, Beef Bone, Quinoa...,
Pumpkin, Wild Salmon Oil, Sunflower Oil, Zucchini, Kale, Flaxseed, Sea Salt, Parsley, Kelp, Chicory Root, Turmeric, Mixed Tocopherols, Ginger, Selenium Yeast, Blueberries, Carrots, Apples, Tomatoes, Shiitake Mushrooms, Broccoli, Oranges, Cranberries, Spinach, Beets, Tart Cherries, Strawberries.
- Most pups — even historically picky ones — seem to enjoy the taste
- Organ meets are always a nice and nutritious inclusion
- We love the array of fruits and veggies included
- Only available in one recipe (beef)
- Not technically freeze-dried, though that’s not necessarily a “bad” thing
- Some dogs may not digest some of the more unusual ingredients well
Freeze-Dried Dog Food Benefits: Why Do Pups Love It?
There are several potential benefits to feeding your pooch freeze-dried dog food, including:
- High Quality Ingredients: Freeze dried diets are typically comprised of an impressive slate of ingredients, including muscle meat, organs, and ground bones (some also include freeze-dried fruits and vegetables). Of course, there is nothing inherent in the freeze-drying process that requires manufacturers to use high-quality ingredients, but because freeze-dried dog food brands are typically targeting ingredient-list-reading pet parents, high-quality ingredients are generally part of their overall marketing strategy.
- Raw Diet Alternative: Many freeze-dried feeders begin doing so as an alternative to providing a raw diet. Raw diets can be dangerous for you, your family, and your dog, not to mention difficult and laborious to assemble and prepare. However, freeze-dried foods offer some of the purported benefits that raw diets do, while often being nearly as easy to serve as dry dog food (some must be rehydrated first, but that’s not really difficult).
- Long Shelf Life: 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. For that matter, in a post-2020 world, many of us are eager to be prepared for situations in which we can’t leave the house for weeks at a time.
- Dogs Often Like Freeze-Dried Food: Aside from everything else, most dogs find freeze-dried foods to be drool-inducingly delicious, making them a great dog food for picky eaters. In fact, some people use them as healthy (if somewhat high-calorie) treats. And although taste isn’t as important as nutrition, giving our dogs a food they enjoy is absolutely an important part of their overall wellness and quality of life.
What Are the Downsides to Freeze-Dried Dog Food?
No type of dog food is perfect — otherwise, we’d all just feed whichever one was perfect and call it a day.
In terms of freeze-dried dog food options, there are two primary downsides. 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 freeze-dried dog food on the market is pricey when compared to mainstream (cooked) kibble.
However, it is important to remember that most dehydrated dog foods swell to three to five times their original size once rehydrated — so don’t be thrown off by the small package sizes often used for freeze-dried products.
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 budget-friendly dog foods. Do note that some manufacturers discourage this kind of use, so be sure to consult the feeding instructions (and, as always, your vet) before using a food in this manner.
Freeze-Dried 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 — it 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 your dog 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 — but it does not eliminate the bacteria completely.
This probably makes 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.
The Majority of Freeze-Dried Foods Are Grain-Free
There was a time when grain-free dog foods were considered superior to their grain-inclusive counterparts. Now, the overwhelming majority of dogs digest cooked grains without issue, but some owners decided that’s what they wanted for their pets, and the market obliged.
However, grain-free foods have recently become correlated with heart problems in dogs. A causal relationship between the two have not yet been established, but we typically encourage owners to stick to grain-inclusive foods (except in cases of dogs who have specific intolerances to grains).
But unfortunately, very few — if any — freeze-dried dog foods are grain-inclusive. Does this mean your dog will be at increased risk of heart problems by consuming a grain-free food?
It isn’t clear yet.
So, be sure to discuss the issue with your vet and make the best choice you can on behalf of your dog. Also, be sure to check out our article about grain-free foods and dilated cardiomyopathy before making your choice.
What’s the Difference Between Air-Dried (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.
Air-Dried (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. However, it is important to note that — contrary to conventional wisdom — these structural changes do not always reduce the nutritional value. In fact, some ingredients become more nutritious when cooked, while others do become less so.
As with most things in life, the truth is more complicated than marketing lingo would lead you to believe.
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 high-quality animal protein 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 aren’t necessarily “dangerous,” but they are 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.
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?
On one hand, freeze-dried foods can be as healthy as any other dog food, provided they’re made with nutritious ingredients. Some (though not all) of the ingredients in foods will also retain more nutritional value if left uncooked.
However, there’s also a higher chance that the foods will be contaminated with bacteria, as they’re not cooked. This risk is likely somewhat small (and it is undoubtedly smaller than it would be for raw, non-freeze-dried foods), but it is important for owners to consider.
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?
Safety is best viewed on a continuum.
Freeze dried raw dog foods are probably more likely to harbor bacteria than cooked kibbles (assuming the same ingredients and manufacturing practices are used in both), but they’re almost certainly less likely to harbor bacteria than raw diets containing high moisture levels.
Are freeze-dried dog foods raw?
Usually. Most freeze-dried foods are made with raw ingredients, and their water (actually, ice at this point in the process) is removed without the use of heat — the atmospheric pressure is simply dropped until the ice sublimates (turns directly into gas).
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 could, however, dehydrate your own food, but that’d still be daunting at scale.
Is freeze-dried dog food better than normal dog food?
Nutritionally speaking, it isn’t clear that freeze-dried raw dog foods are healthier than normal kibble (assuming products of similar quality). However, most freeze-dried foods are made with top-notch ingredients, and they often include organ meats.
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 pet food? Do you use it as a treat, a topper on his dry food, or his 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!